Subliminal (but Friendly) Persuasion

Published on The Smirking Chimp ( (but Friendly) PersuasionBy Bob PattersonCreated Sep 23 2009 – 11:48am


Regular visitors to this site who want accuracy in their political punditry might do well to flip through some travel magazines while keeping in mind the old axiom: accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

Here’s an example: when this columnist first arrived in Sydney Australia, one thing which caught our attention was that country’s biggest bookstore. While chatting with a clerk at the bookstore, we got a surprise because she was enthusiastic about travel and specifically mentioned her hopes for visiting a museum located in the Los Angeles neighborhood we had just left.

If (subjunctive mood) we had any knowledge of factors which might lessen her enthusiasm to visit that tourist attraction should we/must we inform her about that? We had visited that museum on a spur-of-the-moment impulse and had gotten some good material for a column and relayed that information to her. What if our assessment had been that she wouldn’t like it?

Would “throwing cold water” on her intention to go see it for herself have served any worthy journalistic goal? Would it have been sufficient to encourage her to read all she could about it before she spent money for an airplane ticket?

Travel writers have to be like cheerleaders. Spend the money! Go see it!
How often do you see an article in a travel magazine that advises the reader to save some money and skip some exotic destination?

The guys who get assignments from travel publications don’t usually travel incognito so that they can give “fair and balanced” assessments of their impressions gathered at the place they visited. They may get comped meals. Often they get a public relations specialist to personally escort them and make sure they don’t get snarled in such mundane activities as waiting in line. They usually get good seats at the theater and when they give enthusiastic reports about their subjective reaction to the change in geography, they are essentially selling the idea of traveling there and they usually want to, in salesmanship terms, sell the sizzle and not the steak.

With that in mind, try gathering some current political punditry and see if there is any similarities to travel writing in the political journalist’s methodology.

Does one media outlet consistently give reports that favor one political party and denigrate the efforts of the other? Is that what America’s founding fathers had in mind when they extolled the value of a free press?

What harm is done if the Los Angeles and the San Francisco papers show bias and favoritism when the Giants play the Dodgers? Doesn’t a lack of objectivity add some spice to the stories that appear the following morning? Is there any harm in letting that style of favoritism spill over into political punditry?

Let’s say that people who have worked hard to steal a fortune are faced with the prospect of seeing some of it dribble away via a tax increase. If the reality is that rich people often don’t pay any tax and they convince the voters that the government effort to raise taxes amount to them taking “our” money, shouldn’t they get an “attaboy” for their fake-out? Don’t people who get suckered into supporting tax cuts for the very rich deserve to be fooled under the “caveat emptor” principle?

Why should journalists be convinced that professional ethics require that they should give the man in the street a valid heads-up?

If partisanship is supposed to be an integral part of punditry, does that leave any room for items that neither conservatives nor liberals would endorse? Such as? Has any other commentator assessed this columnist’s theory that President Bush let Osama bin Laden escape from the Tora Bora mountains in return for a promise that there would be no terrorist attacks inside the USA during Bush’s term in office?

Ansel Adams worked photographic magic by rendering scenery into various values on a gray scale, but shouldn’t journalism be like a sketch done with pen and ink that gives an accurate picture using only the two extremes of black and white or would they then be accursed of racism?

Would the same number of people have paid their hard earned money to see Houdini perform if he were called “an illusionist” rather than the world’s greatest magician?

If unbridled salesmanship is an acceptable part of punditry, are you as eager as this columnist is to see which journalist will be the first to endorse Jeb as the best qualified contender to seek the Presidency in 2012?

Teddy Roosevelt had this bit of travel advice: “I have always been fond of the West African proverb: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.’ ”

Now, the disk jockey will play Pat Boone’s “Friendly Persuasion.” We gotta fly. Have a “see ya later, alligator” type week.

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