Republican candidate for President Rick Perry released a new ad recently, titled “Strong”, and it’s getting tons of attention.
The key line is this: “there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”
Contrasting military service by openly homosexual individuals with the (false) statement that, essentially, kids can’t openly be Christian (at least in school, which is what he’s implying), certainly indicates that he thinks there’s something wrong with being homosexual.
Once you’re done being outraged, we take a deeper look at what’s going on here.
If politics were swimming, Rick Perry would be the guy thrashing about at the deep end of the pool, desperate for someone to toss him a life preserver. As political propaganda, this ad is very effective, but mostly for a reason you haven’t considered.
These ads as released get almost no publicity. Politicians, especially, when they’re losing, are desperate to get their name in the media. The video is getting a lot of criticism, and that’s normally not the kind of attention that politicians want.
But this is an ad for a primary campaign. And the target audience isn’t Christians. The target audience is exactly those people who are now expressing their outrage over this ad.
Here’s how it works: The vast majority of Republican primary voters would probably never see this ad. However, there is a large group of people who are seeing it: center-left internet junkies. People who spend more time on the internet tend to be more polarized and partisan. It’s not moderates complaining; it’s people on the far left. This ad gets the “right” people to criticize Rick Perry. The Republican primary voter is going to hear her boyfriend’s hippie stepsister complaining virulently about this ad, and she’s going to remember that since they disagree about everything politically, this must mean that Rick Perry is doing something good. Because the people who are criticizing the ad are already, in the minds of Republican primary voters, associated with “bad” things (socialism, secularism, etc.), the criticism is translated into praise for the ad, in the same way that an endorsement from someone you dislike makes you like the endorsed less.
Critics of the ad are doing Rick Perry’s work for him, just like he planned.
And the ad is just vague enough to allow someone so inclined to rationalize it as not being an attack on homosexuals, but a defense of Christianity.
If you’re watching it, it’s for you, one way or another.