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Media Tips for the Next Recall
Now that Californias electorate has rewarded a dramatic recall effort, its a good bet that political operatives in many states will try to learn from this falls Golden State extravaganza.
Media strategists were key to the recall drive that ended in triumph for Arnold Schwarze- neggers corporate backers. As a public service, here are some tips for partisans who want a shot at recall history:
Capitalize on smoldering resentments; use citizen outrage as bait to attract the support of talk-show hosts, pundits, ambitious politicians, and well-heeled contributors
Spark plugs for the California recall were happy to vilify Gray Davis as a crafty charlatan and/or incompetent cold fish. The governor made such caricatures easy. He raked in lots of sizeable checks from vested interests and engaged in budgetary sleight of hand. But instead of confronting his deference to energy firms that functioned as rip-off artistsor denouncing his refusal to back tax hikes for large corporations and wealthy individualsthe recalls conservative boosters preferred to blame Davis for too much spending and not enough solicitude to big business.
- Try to throw a manipulative harness on sincere concerns among voters; keep the media messages simple and simplistic
In California, an anti-tax drumbeatwith lots of media reverb went a long way toward drowning out voices that called for a major shift to progressive taxation. Little news coverage and scant paid advertising explained that such a shift could mean higher taxes for the rich and large companies, but lower taxes for every- one else.
- If a luminary on the campaign team goes off message with a genuinely sensible observation, put a sock in it, pronto
Early in the short campaign, a much-ballyhooed economic adviser for Schwarzenegger, Warren Buffett, pointed out that Proposition 13, Californias venerable property-tax limitation law, doesnt make sense. The financier noted that he was paying $2,264 for a years worth of property taxes on a Southern California home valued at $4 million. But a press secretary for the actor- turned-politician rushed to proclaim, Mr. Buffett doesnt speak for Mr. Schwarzenegger and hastened to add that the candidate has supported Prop. 13 for 25 years.
- Generate a steady stream of media messages that obscure complexities of underlying power relations while providing plenty of buzz phrases and images that serve as triggers for pre-existing assumptions
Platitudes and Schwarze- neggers muscle-bound celebrity candidacy were well-suited to what passed for news on television, where even in depth stories were usually the word-length equivalent of a few paragraphs. While newspapers provided some serious reporting, for the most part the TV news was predictably agog with glitz and sizzle.
- Personalize so as to dodge basic issues
In California, for well over a century, oligopolies of land holdings have throttled the state. Yet when recall promoters claimed to be speaking truth about power, they zeroed in on the corporate front person in the governors office, rather than confront (or even acknowledge) the dominance of real estate interests: from urban concrete labyrinths and suburban developments to the vast tracts of rural acreage owned by multi- millionaires and agribusiness.
- Cloak a candidate eager to serve elites in the garb of a populist champion
Schwarzeneggers plain-speaking cliches supplied media window dressing for an economic mind-set amounting to a dream come true for upper-class combatants in the class wars.
- Whenever possible, conflate entertainment fantasies with social realities, even while claiming to always know the difference
After decades as a media creature of entertainment, Arnold Schwarzenegger easily made the transition to being a media creature of politics. His victory will encourage other mind-numbing celebrities to further blur the distinctions between arrogant stories and rational government policies.
Norman Solomon is co-author of Target Iraq: What the News Media Didnt Tell You.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.