Friday, September 5, 2008

Political stories

It's that time again. You know what I mean. Our media is saturated with ads telling us why we should vote one way or another, why we should believe this candidate or the other and in general full of short, powerful stories. All these stories are masterfully crafted to persuade and manipulate. They tell us what we want to believe.

Advertising in general is full of short, powerful stories (this product saved my marriage, that service made my kid happy and therefore they aren't on drugs) but during a political season the ads are particularly intense. They are full of recrimination and promise all at once. They are honest lies; none are completely true but they are presented as truth.

I certainly have my own, strong opinions, but right now I'm interested in the ways the various storytellers are crafting their tales. What the stories they tell assume about their audience, we the American people. It will be interesting seeing whose story grabs a larger audience, persuades more people and thus wins the election. That will be highly informative about what kind of story this audience wants to tell about itself.

I fear that none of these stories lead to happily ever after, even if the ads would have you believe it to be so (vote for me, I'll fix everything!). Like all complicated stories, like life, happiness isn't really in the moral of the story but in how you tell it, in the journey, in the language you choose to wrap around yourself and ingest.

I'm purposely not analyzing the different stories being told right now, because I couldn't avoid doing so with bias. I'll leave that to you to do for yourself. But just remember as you hear the speeches, watch the ads, listen to analysis; these are stories. They are constructed to persuade you. They are designed by master manipulators and persuaders. They are all telling one version of the truth that may not be what you would consider True. Our media will tell you the stories as many times as you want to hear them, will take otherwise inconsequential pieces of the story and blow it out of proportion, and will do whatever it takes to make you consume more media. The media, as well as the storytellers, have their own interests at heart.

I certainly prefer one story over the other. I know which storyteller I'd rather listen to, which one is telling a version of the truth I prefer. But I also know it is a carefully crafted truth. I recognize the tricks, the pauses in delivery and the micro-stories that I use when I perform. That doesn't mean I don't choose to believe anyway; I'm doing so out of hope, not necessarily out of real faith. I know the parts of his story that touch me, move me, make me believe more than the other guy's.

All that being said, enjoy the storytelling, even as you listen with careful ears. It's grand theater. And I hope the good guy wins.

(c) 2008 Laura S. Packer
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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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