Archive - Mar 2008

March 4th

Superliminal Stupidity

« March 2008 »

Memo to Ann Althouse: YOU ARE DUMB.

Also, me calling you dumb does not thus prove that you are smart. That's not how it works. I can understand, certainly, why you interpret people calling you stupid and crazy as vindication, because dear sweet merciful fuck, it must happen every 45 seconds. If I got kicked in the shins every forty five seconds, I'd probably convince myself that I enjoyed it after a day or two.

But I'd still be getting kicked in the shins. Similarly, it is not true that, as you claim, "The vicious attack on the messenger bespeaks fear of the message and lack of a substantive argument against it". Also, please stop using the word "bespeak". Thank you.

The reason people may not be crafting substantive arguments against the message is that this is the message. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"The intense scrutiny of the "RATS" ad heightens the assumption that presidential candidates these days pay close attention to any incidental lettering that appears in their ads. "RATS" as part of the word "bureaucrats" in an ad criticizing Gore's prescription plan is nothing compared to "NIG" isolated on a sleeping child's shoulder in an ad intended to create doubts about a black man's ability to take an urgent phone call at 3 a.m., an ad authorized by a candidate who has already heard accusations that her campaign is slipping racial material into its attacks on her opponent. This is either a revolting outrage or shocking incompetence."

Oh, it's both. Just, you know. My revolted outrage at Ann Althouse's shocking incompetence. In case you can't parse the whole thing from the closing paragraph above, what Althouse is saying is that the Hillary Clinton campaign dressed a small child up in "Good Night" pajamas, then positioned that child so that, for a second and a half, in the lower-left corner of the frame, the letters "NIG" could be seen. And since NIG are the first three letters of "nigger", Hillary Clinton is a racist.

Lest we forget, the last time Ann Althouse graced these hallowed pixels, it was for analyzing a Hillary Clinton campaign video so strenuously that she thought an onion ring was a vagina. When it comes to cynicism about marketing and politics, you have to look long and hard to find people who surpass me, but come the fuck on.

Set aside, for a second, that Ann Althouse is as equipped to ferret out subliminal Democratic racism as I am to give birth to a hideous giant ant-baby. The biggest part of her argument, after pausing, enlarging, and adjusting the contrast on the video so that the "NIG" is visible, is that this is no different from the "RATS" ad from 2000.

If you don't remember the "RATS" ad, I wouldn't be surprised. One of the ads from the Bush/Gore campaign, there was a bit of a to-do when people noticed that whoever was doing the animated on-screen digital text filled the frame with the word "RATS" before pulling back and showing the whole word, "Bureaucrats". If you look carefully, you can see the biggest flaw in Althouse's analysis.

Digital text on a screen is, to borrow a phrase from our brethren in the intelligent design movement, much too complicated to have possibly arisen through a series of accidents. Digital text is placed on the screen by a graphic artist. Of course, something can be put on the screen intentionally, and STILL not be an example of a plot to insert subliminal messages into advertising to influence voters.

By contrast, a child, fabric, and a bed is what we call a "complex system", out of which any number of accidents could arise. And while, as Althouse claims, I'm sure that that the editors of the ad did look at pretty much every single frame of the ad, to spot the subliminal racism and leave it in, they'd have to be as batshit crazy as Ann Althouse. In which case they wouldn't be producing campaign videos, they'd be on the Internet, ranting about onion vaginas and racist pajamas.

And the whole thing is moot anyway, because everybody remembers the 1996 scientific study out of Yale that, while searching for evidence that Kevin Nealon is funny, also definitively proved that subliminal messages don't affect behavior.

So, you know. Let Althouse believe all she wants that her vindication lies in our collective inability to take her seriously when she freeze-frames on N, I, and half a G and thinks she's found the last hidden bastion of racism in American society. You'll never disavow the stinky guy on the bus of the notion that he shouldn't have to pay full fare because he's Abraham Lincoln, either.