Daisy, for those of you who either weren't around 42 years ago or who haven't studied political campaigns, was a 60 second ad for Lyndon B. Johnson that ran once in September 1964. The ad shows a little girl pulling petals off of a daisy… and as she "counts down"… the screen morphs into the image of a nuclear explosion.
I think a comparison with Daisy is only superficially correct. First, this isn't a presidential election. Second, the 2006 GOP ad will run more than one time. (Daisy ran only once, kinda like Apple's 1984 ad.) Furthermore, it's on the GOP website, which means continuous runs. Third, in 1964, the President "owned" the ad — it's LBJ's voice you hear. This new ad closes with a disclaimer that no elected person endorsed it.
Sadly, the stakes Johnson outlines 42 years ago are real ones still facing us:
These are the stakes:
to make a world in which all of God's children can live
or to go into the dark.
We must either love each other,
or we must die.
Focus On Fear
Where the ad is comparable to Daisy – and all too many political ads – is its attempt to generate bone-numbing fear. Of course, concurrently, the purpose of the fear is to "fire up" the base or move undecideds off the fence, to your side.
Will this ad work for a more heterogenous group of Congressmen? I don't know. Many Republicans have tried to distance themselves from the President this season, given lagging polls; this ad suggests the election is a referendum on the President.
Whereas Daisy rested solely on the deep-seated (and persistent) American fear of possible nuclear war, this new ad cooks up its fear in a stew based on three foreign-looking boogeymen … seasoned with a bit of faux-nuclear imagery (from fire/explosion comes a screen-filling visual "boom").
Warning From A British Philosopher
Fear can be an effective tool. Advertisers – the commercial kind – rely on it. In the technology world, it even has an acronym: FUD — fear, uncertainty and doubt.
The level and type of fear-mongering in this political ad brings to mind this passage from George Orwell's 1984:
The consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival.
The Peking Duck quotes another relevant passage:
In accordance with the principles of double-think it does not matter if the war is not real. For when it is, victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won, but it is meant to be continuous… In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation.
In the end, both LBJ and the GOP are correct in one respect. As the announcer intones at the end of Daisy, "The stakes are too high for you to stay home."
Vote on 7 November.