Tag Archives: television is not evil

What Democrats Can Learn From Don Draper

Let’s face it, politics is all about advertising: yourself, your candidate, your party and your ideas.  people buy the product with a vote, campaign contributions and participation.  so what can Deval, Barack, Barney and John learn from Don, Peggy, Pete, Joan and the Rodge?  Turns out, quite a bit. 

“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation”

Re-frame the issue.  This reminds me of getting people in kansas to use alternative energy.  The reason the republicans are so succesful is how they fram the issue, and which values the make it synonymous with.  If you change it to an issue about (in this case) thrift and patriotism, instead of small government and god, you’ve at least got a fighting chance.  Way too often, the democrats are willing to argue their side in the republican conversation, rather than starting a new one within a favorable frame work. 

Tap into emotions and you’ll win

facts are hard to escape, but they’re also easy to forget.  people will stick with an emotional narrative more closely than a logical one.  nostaliga, especially, is popular for don draper.  Clinton is great for this, and Barack is learning how as well.  I remember at the 2008 DNC, that great feeling when bill came out.  “Oh! I forgot what a great speaker he is,” my grandmother nearly cooed, while we all reminiesced about his good fiscal policy and attempts at peace in the Middle East.  Barack, on the other hand, is doing his best to conjure up that great feeling of hope, change and inclusion from 2008, while shooing away the feelings of betrayal and dissapointment.  As Don teaches us: “nostalgia literally means ‘the pain of an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.”

If it’s not working, change the name. 

No one will feed their dog horsemeat.  People don’t eat rat, it’s grass-cutter.  And to bring it back to season 1 episode three again, “It’s not called the wheel. It’s called the carousel.”  Global Warming became climate change.  The war on terror?  We don’t even use those words anymore.  And people are (finally) starting to call Park 51 a cultural center (akin to a YMCA) instead of a mosque, which it is not.  We need to pick good names, get them out early and often, and remain unified in terminology.  That is, until the terms don’t work.  Then we pick better ones.

In Defense of Television When Travelling

I often find myself on the wrong side of a lot of debates.  I dislike hand sanitizer, sunscreen and bugspray, in favor of a boosted immune system and not experiencing the negative ramifications of abstaining.  I think we shampoo our hair too often, shelter our kids too much, and give google too hard of a time about censoring itself in China.

But by far the dirtiest looks roll in when I watch television while on the road.

Everyone is out to separate themselves from the be-fannypacked masses, and flipping on a television is like, as my roommate at the Songhai Centre put it, “Cheating on Africa.”

So am I cheating?  And if so, why?

For one thing, I defend tv in general, in my home life as well.  I get annoyed by the, weeeell, I don’t even own a television” crowd.  (PS–lots of people don’t, but they’re not such jerks about it!)  I also don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with television–The West Wing, Mad Men and Newsradio are all brilliant and entertaining shows.  They’re smart, witty and they make me happy.  So what if they come out of the “Idiot Box”?  If you choose to watch awful reality tv, or things that make your brain turn to goo and slide out of your ears (I’m looking at you, The Hills), then that’s your own darn fault, not television’s.  (Of course when it comes to True B lood, I also have an argument In Defense of Camp, but that’s for another day.)  Those shows only run because they get ratings, and we all have the power to effect those ratings.

But that’s at home.  Travelling is about being a totally different, better person (right?) and taking advantage of each and every day.  Not sitting inside gnoshing on chips in front of the boob tube.

Well, screw that.

Television is a very real part of life in many communities all over the world.  Sure, it’s not considered what the French call “High Culture,” but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile or valid for regular people all over the world.  Telenovelas in Latin America that feature women making progressive, empowered decisions about birth control and divorce increased knowledge, attitudes and positive actions on the subjects.  Hows that for working your medium?

Even when tv isn’t changing the way people think about controversial topics, it’s still important.  Maria, our live-in abuelita in Cuba, watched tv every day.  Sitting with her, trying to figure out what was going on, it was a window into what matters to her.  And where else can you watch Fidel rant on television several times a day?

Watching the Superbowl in Cuba was an eye-opening experience as well.  There were almost no ads, something that in the US is actually more popular than the game itself.  The only ads were for the channel we were already watching, sports in general (like Soccer.  A straight up endorsement for the game of soccer.), and other locations in Cuba that one should visit.

That is a huge daily difference in life for Cubans, and it matters.

In Benin, they show obituaries on tv, around dinner time.  We encountered basically no print outlets, so everyone relies on the television for all their news.  Sometimes, that news included us: the group of 20-odd yovos (white people) running around their country mangling French and trying to eat with our hands like the locals.

Television shows teach us about who we are(Courtesy of UJC).  Our priorities, our sense of humour, what is considered acceptable.  In Egypt, the most scantily-clad women I saw were on tv.  Unless, of course, it was a commercial for something like a cleaning product, and then the woman was heavier, had no or very natural makeup and was sporting a plain, matte, single-colour hijab–the Egyptian version of the Mom Jeans look.

If you’re in a comunity where no one has a television, or only the rich get to watch it, I understand eschewing it for other, more local interactions.  Or if you’re camped out in your air conditioned hotel room watching CNN or Sex and the City all day, yeah you probably wasted your money traveling and need a serious reality check.  But if you’re surrounded by people who watch television, then by all means: dive right into their world.

Pull up a chair and watch what they’re watching, and see what you can learn.