A political party (the Canadian Progressive Conservatives in this case) has an agency create an add to start off the campaign before the next elections. This is the result, clearly approved by the party:
The most striking thing about this add is not that the concept is trite and had been used before (as other observers noted), or that it may turn voters away from the PC party (which was discussed in the media), but the fact that it illustrates exactly what “democracy” is not. However “democracy” is defined, the concept assumes well-informed citizenry who can think on their own. What is the information that the ad communicates? In its basic meaning, that the PC’s ideas differ from those expressed by Justin Trudeau. And what exactly are those ideas PC holds? The conclusion from the ad points to a formless void, possibly to be filled by the individual voter’s quest for answers. Three observations can be made about the manner in which this add perceives voters:
1. Voters are stupid and they make their decisions based on superficial criteria. They need a boardroom-like atmosphere to even imagine what elements are required for decision-making. The media agency set up an environment where paternalistic attitudes reign supreme.
2. Voters give their votes to a party based on what the party’s stand is regarding one idea (in this case, “age”, or “marijuana”, or “income-splitting”).
3. Voters cannot think on their own and need someone else to point them in the “right” direction (read: to elect the party in question).
These three observations clearly point to the conclusion that this add is useless as a vehicle for information. Or, to put it another way, its semantic value is zero. But its emotional value is loaded, because its general direction is to demean and put down and poke fun at the “opposition”. It is surprising that its reception did not garner expressions of outrage and anger.
At this point, the “Or…” in the title rears its ugly head: it is not a revelation that the number of voters is steadily decreasing. Voters are not stupid, but they do not have “democratic” options to really express their reactions. They know that it was an agency which created the ad: but how do you respond to an agency? Clearly, there is something really wrong with this system, and voters cannot and do not trust any party which relies on a media agency to communicate semantic values which are zero. So the “Or…” hangs on the balance which is created not between the party and the voters, but the media agency and the voters. “Manufacturing consent” is alive and well, but in this case, it has the opposite effect.