Strange but True: Rick Santorum Channels Steve Jobs

More

(Please see updates below.) Arguably the most influential TV commercial ever is the minute-long "1984" video that introduced the Macintosh computer during the third quarter of the Raiders-Redskins Superbowl on January 22, 1984. On the remote chance that you haven't seen it, it's the second video embedded below. (And, yes, I say "arguably" because people can make the case for some others, but let's forget that for now.)

Through the years that ad has spawned countless imitations, parodies, homages, and adaptations. I do have to wonder what Steve Jobs would have thought if he had lived long enough to see the latest of them: the video below, which is Rick Santorum's application of the 1984 motif in his campaign.



I am not about to vote for Santorum, but you have to say that he knows something about campaigning and issue/emotion-framing that still eludes the Romney team. I am struggling to think of a national-level candidate who has blundered more frequently, and more self-destructively, than Romney continues to do. [Update. Thanks to Christopher Orr for help with my struggles: Rick Perry. How quickly we forget.]

For your amusement and reference, here is the original.



Thanks to SB for the tip and the Atlantic's politics team for vetting.
___
UPDATES: The creator of Santorum's recent ads is John Brabender, whom the Atlantic's own Joshua Green (now of Bloomberg BusinessWeek) profiled for us eight years ago. Ben Jacobs has a new story about him here.

Also, I have received a bunch of emails making a point similar to the one below -- all starting from the fact that the Santorum ad appears doesn't even pretend to be interested in "diversity." This message comes from a reader in Illinois:

I appreciate your reference to the Santorum 'homage' video.  Obviously, it also harkens back to Citizen Kane.  

Like you, I would never vote for Santorum.  But I think it is worth unpacking just how noxious this video really is and what is says about the state of our country. It seems to me that is the kind of 'text' with which an academic could have a field day, for all of the sublimated tendencies it reveals among those who made it and consume it.

First off, I don't think that I saw a single non-white face in the crowd of lemmings being led off the cliff.  Maybe there is one buried in there somewhere.  I suppose it goes without saying that Santorum does not expect to get votes from other ethnic groups, but does his team they really need to be that overt in their play for white votes? Couldn't they at least throw in a few minorities out of a recognition that other groups, exist, even if they were doing so cynically?  Or perhaps they couldn't find one to sign up after the 'yellowgirl' incident. 

Secondly, and let's be honest here, the crowd that is represented there is the typical Ailes/Limbaugh/Hannity media consumer.  I know that those outlets are hardly friends of Romney, but I think any impartial observer would have to admit that each of those outfits are pushing propaganda much more actively than the 'Republican Establishment,' bogeyman, whatever that may consist of.  Is this just another case of inventing an alternate reality, or is some deeper psychological issue at work here--specifically the need to the self assert against the truly pernicious influence of the conservative media, which is displaced onto the vague 'Republican Establishment'? 

Perhaps the Fox New crowd will eventually catch on to the deeply insulting way that all of their candidates try to manipulate them. At least I hope that is the case.  But by any measure, this video presents a deeply disturbing look at the people we have become as a result of propaganda. (Maybe it is time I picked my Marshall MacLuhan and Richard Hofstadter books up off the shelf).
Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

In a series of candid video interviews, women talk about self-image, self-judgment, and what it means to love their bodies


Elsewhere on the web

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In