Tuesday, September 08, 2015


Yesterday, while watching a local Baltimore station, I saw an extraordinarily deceptive and bombastic political ad targeting the Iran nuclear deal. Although the commercial tells viewers to contact Maryland's senators, variants are probably being broadcast in other states. I don't know who paid for this thing or who created it, but the end result is as honest as the nanosecond is long.

We see idyllic images of average Americans doing average American stuff in an average American suburban neighborhood, while an ominous narrator recites antifacts about Iran. Iranians (we are told) are terrorists and warmongers and puppy-kicking ghouls who are united in their desperation to kill everyone everywhere, especially Jews. The socko finish comes when that average American suburb suddenly bursts into flames, Iran having just dropped The Bomb.

Where to start...?

Iran has no ICBMs -- and thus no ability to nuke the United States. They also have expressed no desire to do so. And even if Iran had both the ability and the desire, they would never launch an attack, for the same reason that the USSR never did: Such an act would be suicidal. Besides, Iran has not attacked another nation since the 1700s. (Would that we could make such a claim!)

But never mind all of that. Let's focus on the fact that this ad is cleverly designed to give low-information voters the impression that the Iran deal somehow gives American nuclear technology to the Iranians. Actually, the deal is designed to prevent nuclear development in Iran!

This ludicrous political creepypasta will remind many viewers of LBJ's infamous 1964 commercial (embedded above). The "Daisy" ad tried to convey the impression that a vote for Goldwater was a vote to nuke adorable little girls.

Here's the thing: When "Daisy" was broadcast, on September 7, 1964, everyone understood that this piece of televised Doom Porn was a low blow -- an embarrassing eruption of hyperbolic malarkey. The Johnson campaign immediately pulled the ad.

How times have changed! Yesterday's low blow is today's politics-as-usual.

Side note: "Daisy" ran but once, during a broadcast of the 1951 film David and Bathsheba, starring Gregory Peck and directed by Henry King. I saw that movie many years ago and didn't care for it. But King and Peck later teamed up to make a truly great western called The Bravados.

What (you may be wondering) does any of this have to do with politics? Nothing, really. As it happens, I caught up with The Bravados for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and ever since, I've been looking for an excuse to mention it in these cyber-pages. It's a damned fine piece of filmmaking -- perhaps the best classic western not directed by John Ford. For some reason, it doesn't get the attention it deserves.

In sum, here are the three messages you should take away from this post: 1. Iran deal = good. 2. Political fearmongering = bad. 3. The Bravados = under-appreciated classic.


Anonymous said...

But wasn't the Daisy ad accurate? Didn't Goldwater say he'd consider using tactical nuclear weapons to clear foliage in Vietnam? Or was he taken out of context? I read that his excuse for the nuclear remark was that he had been quoting military experts who thought it a viable option.

Joseph Cannon said...

I kind of agree, Anon. Let's put it this way: Though considered over-the-top and unfair in its day, the Daisy ad was more reasonable, more justifiable, than was that outrageous piece of manipulative hogwash I saw on TV yesterday.

Alessandro Machi said...

Yes, a variation of this ad ran in California as well. I still don't understand why Iran doesn't go in on solar and why the U.S. and Iran can't trade petro for solar or do some kind of scholarship program so Iran students can come to the U.S. to learn how to manufacture solar.
Who started the Iran / Iraq war in the 80's?

Alessandro Machi said...

hey Joseph, might be fun to compare Las Vegas to the Middle East and point out why there is less overall violence in Las Vegas (well, there are mafia's I suppose). I would suggest it has to do with how much skin people show when it is hot, more skin equals less violence, more sex.
It just seems there are counterproductive forces at work in the middle east that overly clothe women, not much sports activity overall, and its hot. Seems like a powderkeg to me.