Pages Menu
TwitterRssFacebook
Categories Menu

Posted by on Feb 3, 2008 in Politics | 25 comments

The Obama “Join” Ad

I know some people are just going to want to rip into me for saying this, but after reading this piece in The Caucus about the Barack Obama ad being shown during the Super Bowl this evening (the link has the video there), I know why the Obama phenomena just isn’t appealing to me (sadly for Hillary Clinton, there isn’t much she’s doing that’s appealing to me either).

It actually is the underlying message Obama has been touting from the beginning that is the name of this ad, a word which isn’t in the ad itself but you can see on the screen before the ad runs (online) and The Caucus piece refers to: Join. (You can view the ad under the jump..)

I don’t like that. I don’t like the message that says, “Join.” I never have, ever. I am not a Democratic party girl – because I don’t like the idea of “join.” I’m certainly not going to be persuaded to vote for someone because they suggest that I need to join.

And yet, that is exactly the message and the pressure I hear from people I know and people I don’t know who support Obama. There are so many other reasons to support him – is “Join” the best they can do in these last crucial hours before Super Tuesday? That just seems very manipulative to me, and if there’s one thing that turns me off, it’s an attempt to be manipulated.

So – what exactly is wrong with the notion of “Join”?

Here’s the Merriam Webster definition of “join.” And it’s not as evil as maybe I’ve come to regard it, which is with the notion that you are giving up something of your own when you join. That you are becoming one with a mass, and that requires relinquishing something in exchange for what you’ve joined.

I suppose Obama isn’t suggesting that, but still – does anyone else get the same wrinkly crinkly feeling I get when I think that someone is asking me to do something because they want me to “join”?

If you haven’t seen the video, watch:

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2008 The Moderate Voice
  • Holly_in_Cincinnati

    I missed the ad and am not sorry. Must not have been shown here.

  • You are right, Holly! Ohio was one of the states where they didn’t buy the time.

    I feel badly about this, but I’ve been feeling this way for a while – I get the power of telling people to “join” – maybe it’s my legal education or my fear of joining and then being disappointed or rejected or something odd like that. I don’t deny the power of the message but as a concrete reason to do something? As a parent, isn’t that exactly what we tell our kids not to do??

    There’s just something bothersome about it to me.

  • Holly_in_Cincinnati

    Yeah, something about following the crowd to do evil.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    If you find the word “join” oddly bothersome, you can always vote for the guy who wants to double Gitmo.

  • Hunh. I guess I’ve not been paying attention as well as I thought I was, but I don’t recognize the word “join” as a theme from Obama’s campaign.

  • StockBoySF

    Hey, Jill. Interesting point and observation. I take it you weren’t a cheerleader in high school or college (unlike our current president who as you recall was a college cheerleader). 🙂

    I don’t see “Join” as inherently evil. Rather it seems more about wrapping oneself up around labels (and what you’re supposed to do) rather than acting as an individual. We all follow society’s rules (at least I’m assuming that neither you nor Holly are sociopaths) so we are part of something. The question to me is this: What causes people to “join” groups and follow the pack? Is it because of insecurity? Or is it for security (protection)? Is it a need to feel part of something larger?

    SInce I don’t identify myself with any single group (some people identify themselves by their profession- doctor, banker, teacher, etc. whereas I do not) the question for me is this: Why do I not feel the need to “join” and identify with groups or movements as much as some other people I know? Is it because my brain is wired differently? Do I need to follow my own beliefs and be independent, rather than lose control and follow blindly?

    I think there is a continuum and we all fall somewhere on that line. Some of us (like me) don’t “follow the crowd”, others will fall into line and spout the prevailing philosophy, then there are others who fall elsewhere.

    For me the danger of “join” is sort of what Holly mentions about following the crowd to do do evil. It’s easy for otherwise intelligent people to “join” a group and get misled (or pressured) into doing something wrong they may not otherwise do. Call it peer pressure (which can work both ways). But peer pressure is only one aspect. I think it’s also about (or can be about) the individual being subsumed by the group and giving up (t varying degrees) individual freedom and thought.

    I don’t have a problem with “specialized” groups that we can join, whether it’s TMV, a political campaign, etc. These are limited groups with stated goals. Though election campaigns can become dangerous if the candidate abuses his status as a leader and then manipulates and abuses his followers. Just like religious movements (Jim Jones comes to mind). So I think joining any political campaign in this country is fine (Dem. or Rep.) but would be evil in some other places.

    BTW: I was skimming your post to see if I wanted to cover another point and thought I’d comment on this…

    I’m not sure why you think some people are going to rip you for it. If you think that Obama supporters take your posting personally and will object, I’m not sure why. Obama is not asking you to do anything that any other politician has asked- which is to vote for him. But what is interesting is that he couches this particular appeal as a movement, “We can end this war… we can create jobs.. we want something new.”

    Personally I think it is great because he is trying to bring America together and heal the “us versus them” and the “You’re either with us or against us” mantras of the Bush years both of which are very “join” and harmful for the country. I don’t think Obama expects anyone to follow him blindly, he’s not a Bush looking for yes men. I think Obama capitalizes on the strengths of each of us as individuals, rather than looking for groupies. Anyway, Jill, it’s a very interesting observation and I thank you for it.

  • elrod

    I’m no classically a “joiner” but I think the word “join” is quite common and harmless in political advertising. Like, “Join me as we fight for blah blah blah.” Hillary said to Obama in debate once: “Join me in pushing legislation banning permanent bases in Iraq.” Her campaign often says, “Join us in a national conversation about health care.” It’s quite innocuous actually and almost entirely metaphorical.

    Moreover, “Join” is not the essence of the Obama (or Clinton) campaign. If you want a single word, use “Hope” or “Change.” Those appear everywhere in Obama ads. They might be fluff “hope without a plan…” or misleading “change to what???” but those are the larger messages of the Obama campaign.

  • Regardless of what we say or think, we have joined something whether by force, by convenience, by choice. I joined my collegiate football team. I joined a fraternity. I joined Junior Achievement. I joined my wife in stopping our kids from driving us crazy. So on and so forth.

    I agree with elrod’s statement that the word join in political advertising is “…quite innocuous actually and almost entirely metaphorical”.

    And when it come to telling our kids not to join, I look at it differently. I say join something if you want to and doesn’t cause harm to yourself and others. Humans are social creatures. We join. We coalesce. We organize. Human nature.

  • Okay – great points and a lot to think about. I appreciate it – very much.

    Let me add this re: what I think of – maybe it’s a generational thing, but I’m not sure.

    Remember the 1984 ad that got spoofed re: Hillary Clinton – the IBM one with the hammer being thrown at the screen?

    See – I read or hear “join” and I do think of that kind of mass grouping – of everyone in that room.

    I tend to shun the big box blogs – why? Because they started out as oh-so different but then it became a joining thing.

    I’m always willing to say it’s just me – and it may be just me. Hopefully there aren’t too many like me, lol, no wants to join me! Wah – maybe THAT’s the problem! (I’m kidding, kidding here).

    Anyway – I agree re: no evil intent. What I’ve written about is my reaction to the idea that obviously was behind it at some level, or they wouldn’t have used the word.

    Wasn’t a cheerleader, didn’t go to prom, voted for McGovern in 4th grade.

    Stockboy wrote:

    “I’m not sure why you think some people are going to rip you for it. If you think that Obama supporters take your posting personally and will object, I’m not sure why. Obama is not asking you to do anything that any other politician has asked- which is to vote for him. But what is interesting is that he couches this particular appeal as a movement, “We can end this war… we can create jobs.. we want something new.”

    Personally I think it is great because he is trying to bring America together and heal the “us versus them” and the “You’re either with us or against us” mantras of the Bush years both of which are very “join” and harmful for the country. I don’t think Obama expects anyone to follow him blindly, he’s not a Bush looking for yes men. I think Obama capitalizes on the strengths of each of us as individuals, rather than looking for groupies.”

    Responding:

    1. Actually, I’m getting serious lobbying/flack from close Ohio blogger friends. And it’s actually their virulent enthusiasm and a couple of them constantly twisting and demonizing Clinton that makes me dislike the “join the movement” stuff. One has written that I must not understand or know enough, otherwise I would join. That’s just ridiculous – like saying, if you only knew why people are gay, you wouldn’t like them – I hate when homophobes use that tactic.

    2. The movement thing – I don’t know – again – me – “movements” per se don’t flip my lid. Not the women’s movement, not the breastfeeding movement, no movement I can think of that I’ve ever heard of or learned about. It’s kind of the same reason I wouldn’t vote for Clinton – just because she’s a woman.

    Maybe I resent the fact that politicians, to be elected, NEED these catch phrases – the phrases obscure things. To me, a movement is more organic.

    3. Your last two sentences are excellent thoughts – I agree with them, I believe that Obama isn’t asking for people to follow in blind faith and that he wants to galvinize change this way. I just prefer that I be appealed to from that perspective.

    Did I ever mention that I’m often told that I over think things? 🙂

  • nhorning

    Let me address a more specific issue. The purpose of that individual add is to get young people to “text” the word “Hope” to a particular number. When they do that Obama gets their cell number and a potential volunteer that isn’t going to be on the standard registered voter calling lists.

    On the more wider issue, Nations only go through dramatic change as a result of movements behind individuals, not as a result of individuals themselves. There are countless examples throughout history to verify the claim, but look up Mustafa Ataturk for one that isn’t referenced frequently. This is a difference between him and Clinton that Obama has spoken about directly. He believes he will be able to make change because he will bring millions of people to demand it from their leaders.

    Is it possible your feelings about the “Join” message reflect on your underlying feelings about dramatic change?

  • Nhorning – another great comment -thanks.

    My underlying feelings about dramatic change are so underlying: my concern revolves around expectations and setting realistic expectations. Seeking change, wanting change, making change – those are all things I’ve had an active hand in albeit mostly on a small scale but it’s the focus of the work I’ve done over the years.

    What I’ve learned as a result of that work is that the biggest enemy of change, IMO, is setting up unrealistic expectations of change.

    Dramatic change is often pursued and accomplished only when truly dire straits have been reached. But not being in dire straits doesn’t mean that change in general shouldn’t be pursued.

    It’s just making dramatic change a goal that frightens me – not because of the change itself, but because of the near impossibility of making it happen in the timeframe that the notion of “dramatic change” tends to represent.

    I’m saying that this concern of mine revolves around my experience. I’m not saying that it’s a wholly rational concern. 🙂

  • Oops – that first sentence should be “are not so underlying.”

  • DLS

    Replace “PROGRESS” with “JOIN”:

    http://obeygiant.com/post/obama

  • Okay – now what do I do about that word, “Obey”? Obey? How about – Explain.

  • DLS

    “Obey” comes after you “Join.” We must all obey commands from elites in DC.

  • DLS

    “How about – ”

    Fuhrerprinzip.

  • Now – are you throwing that in here to be flip, incendiary, attention-seeking or serious? Come on. Don’t take advantage of people who are expressing what they think by going there – all this “we must all obey” – pahleeze. I’m going to give you a negative for that if you don’t stop (of course, I don’t actually know how to do that but I thought I’d threaten it just in case).

  • DLS

    You wanted to know how “obey” would reasonably be used in the context of a collectivist appeal, and I explained it. For your information, “fuhrerprinzip” in this case means top-down, highly-organized and centralized control. The decisions as well as commands flow downward. From “join” comes the urge to conform.

  • DLS

    And if there’s dissent or a lack of urge to conform? We in DC will tell you to conform. (The same is true among PC activists, who love to suppress dissent.)

  • Okay – thank you – that’s helpful. One-dimension here and all.

    Well – maybe that urge of join to become conform is what bothers me. Bottom line: I didn’t react positively to the ad – but I suppose so long as enough of the young folks, many of whom were men, who saw the ad did as suggested, that’s all that matters for the campaign. They weren’t shooting for my demo and for sure, they wouldn’t have gotten me.

  • ‘We in DC will tell you to conform. (The same is true among PC activists, who love to suppress dissent.)”

    Well – see -this is one reason I didn’t settle in D.C. when I had the chance. I just cannot be a part of that, at least on so obvious and conscious a level. I’m not against wearing a seatbelt because it saves lives, but I’m sure doing it more because of that than because there’s a law.

  • DLS

    Related to seat belts — don’t forget how highway funds are misused to make the states do all kinds of things. The same will happen eventually once Medicare is extended to everybody.

    * * *

    As to “obey” versus “join,” the word “obey” was simply in the Web site where there was that personality-cultish Obama poster (actually, a good piece of work, retro-style and all). “Join” insofar as the Obama campaign actually is concerned has a youth-oriented and contemporary theme, if anything (he’s a Boomer but many who are ignorant state he is a post-Boomer), and “join” here would mean something like “hop aboard TODAY’S train [movement].”

  • Yes –

    people all over the world
    join me,
    start a love train, love train

    – that kind of join.
    LOL – that’s still not what I got when I saw it but i see it, yes.

    As for boomer – I know all too well – since I was born in 1962 – yes – he is a boomer so am I by almost all measures – up through 1964. I don’t think we have much in common with the other end of the boom but that’s what most of whomever “they” is say the baby boom is – through ’64.

  • DLS

    Actually, his face really is a change … from Che Guevara’s. (Though naturally when I visited the local Obama campaign office one of the kids was wearing a Guevara T-shirt.)

    As to head vs. middle vs. tail end of the Baby Boom — those at the head have benefited the most from the demographic changes while those at the end have benefited and will continue to benefit the least.

  • StockBoySF

    Jill- quite some good comments/dialogue on here and your mind is certainly humming along! By the way, I over think things, too. 🙂

Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com