Election Day is still a few weeks away, but the 2010 campaign season has already produced plenty of memorable—or at least unforgettable—political ads. We called a couple of veterans of the campaign advertising wars for their opinions of a few selected ads from earlier this year, plus their thoughts on what makes for a great political spot. Bill Hillsman is the head of North Woods Advertising and the creator of campaign ads for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, and Texas troubadour-turned-gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman. Fred Davis is the head of Strategic Perception Inc. and has filmed ads for the Bush-Cheney campaign and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); he's also the brains behind what may be this season's most famous spot so far, California Republican senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina's "Demon Sheep" ad. Roll tape:
1) "GATHER YOUR ARMIES" - Rick Barber (R, Alabama congressional candidate):
Bill Hillsman: They try to be more Hollywood than they can really pull off. There are some shots that are nice, but most of it is just kind of dark and confusing. I think it is very difficult for people to get what the candidate is really talking about. By the end of the thing I didn't know who he was, I didn't know what he was running for. I just knew that he was in favor of revolution. Voters these days are not going to sit through 60 seconds or more of something to try to figure something out unless it's awfully, awfully, awfully interesting.
What kind of sick mind dreamt up the idea for "Telephone," Lady Gaga's 9-minute video potpourri of prison homoeroticism, shameless product placement, and incisive commentary on cell phone reception? A mind that's been brainwashed by the CIA (Or Freemasons. Or Satanists. Or whatever nefarious organization has the capability to plot world domination and come up with a crazy idea like cigarette sunglasses.)—that's who. Yes, it's time for another installment of Conspiracy Watch, our ongoing collection of wonderfully weird (and totally whack) conspiracy theories.
THE CONSPIRACY: Behind the catchy singles and outrageous getups, Lady Gaga is the pawn in an elaborate Illuminati plot. Looking beyond the surface of her lyrics, videos, and fashion reveals a trove of secret messages and symbols promoting Freemasonry, satanic rituals, and CIA brainwashing. For example, her "Paparazzi" video is a metaphor for how "reeducation by the occult elite" can turn you into a killer robot. Instead of being a savvy image maven, Gaga may be unaware of what she's doing, since her "robotic and slightly degenerate persona embodies all the 'symptoms' of a mind control victim."
THE CONSPIRACY THEORIST: The anonymous keeper of the website Vigilant Citizen, an enthusiastic Canadian symbologist and music producer who has been exposing and analyzing the "transhumanist and police state agenda in pop music," including the work of Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, and Rihanna. He confesses that he likes most of the music he deconstructs: "If people have to go through the trouble of incorporating hidden messages in songs, they will certainly pick sure hits, performed by charismatic artists. If those messages were in crappy songs, they would have no effect at all, rendering them useless."
MEANWHILE, BACK ON EARTH: A superstar clotheshorse who is unwittingly the tool of an evil yet very silly conspiracy...wait, isn't that the plot of Zoolander?
Kookiness Rating: (1=maybe they're on to something, 5=break out the tinfoil hat!)
As "mosque mania" seizes the nation, what's a peaceful Muslim who wants to set up a house of worship or community center to do? Perhaps this handy map can help prevent any future controversies over where you can publicly assert your Islamic identity. Some restrictions may apply. (Full-size image here.)
[For more on the WikiLeaks Afghan document dump, read posts by Kevin Drum here and Adam Weinstein here.]
WikiLeaks is making headlines again with the release of an enormous trove of secret US military documents from Afghanistan. The Afghan War Diary, as WikiLeaks has dubbed it, was first given to the New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, which have vetted, analyzed, and packaged the 92,000 documents into what amounts to the biggest story about the war since Osama bin Laden slipped away. As Kevin Drum explains, the stories don't seem to have many major surprises (besides the Taliban's use of Stinger missiles) for anyone who's been paying attention: "the basic picture is basically the one we've known for a long time: a difficult, chaotic battlefield that's shown little progress since the very beginning of the war." But considering that most Americans—and most American lawmakers—haven't really been paying attention to Afghanistan, this could prove to be the watershed moment after which no one can honestly claim ignorance of what's really happening over there.
If the Afghan leaks become the next Pentagon Papers, it would be a much sought-after feather in the hat of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, its shadowy, image-conscious mastermind. And it could mark the beginning of a new chapter for the organization, which has gone through some strange growing pains since it leaked its "Collateral Murder" video in April. That leak marked the first time that WikiLeaks, and Assange in particular, had assumed an active role in analyzing and promoting its own material—a decision that brought it more attention while opening it up to criticism that it had strayed from its original "just the leaks, ma'am" approach. The subsequent arrest of the alleged leaker of that video spawned a series of hyperbolic rumors about Assange being on the run from American intelligence and claims that WikiLeaks was sitting on thousands of leaked State Department cables, spawning competing volleys of mis- and disinformation that mostly served to burnish WikiLeaks' mystique. In the meantime, WikiLeaks seemed busier tweeting its own horn and swatting down foes than keeping the leaks coming.
In the wake of Rep. Joe Barton's public apology to BP (since walked back), the Sunlight Foundation notes that the Texas Republican is gearing up for his 7th Annual Barton Family Fishing Trip & Florida Flats Fishing Tournament in the Flordia Keys in October. Don't be fooled by the name—the event is a $5,000-a-head fundraiser for Barton's political action committee. The oil spill may or may not ruin the party—it hasn't hit the Keys yet, though the Gulf of Mexico's Loop Current appears to be carrying it that way. But the BP disaster is already having an impact on the islands' economy—impacts that the $20 billion BP fund Barton decried as a "slush fund" are supposed to help offset.
For some perspective from the Keys, MoJo's Josh Harkinson called up Brett Greco, a fishing guide who works there for the first half of the year. "It just seems like a matter of time before [the oil] does get here," he said, adding that the hotel and fishing-trip cancellations are adding up. "We're talking about a tough business to begin with in a really weak economy, and then they get the oil on top of that. You're talking about a lot of captains about to lose their livelihood." Asked about Rep. Barton's comments this morning, he said, "It sounds like an oil man just backing another oil man." And what if Barton and his extended "family" show up in October and want to hire his colleagues for a day on the water? "In their heart, they may want to tell this guy to disappear or take a walk," Greco said. "But when it comes down to dollars and cents, if it’s two or three days of fishing, that’s money they can’t say no to, unfortunately."