When I was a boy I watched on the CBS evening news, with Walter Cronkite, the carpet bombing campaigns in Cambodia. The color footage from the bomber’s aerial perspective was not just amazing but frightening. Huge swaths of jungle were torn asunder with trees being thrown high from the blast. Blooming fireballs appeared with each explosion as the aircraft made its way over the landscape, leaving only craters and death in its wake. I was mesmerized by the sheer power of this act and as the bombs walked along through the jungle in perfect two step form, the subdued “Thud” sound from impact beat their way into my mind along with the images of havoc. To this day I see it still, and though I have become more callous and cold with age, the thought of those images still brings me a mixture of both fascination and dread like fear.
For even as a young lad, I understood that far below the plane, on the earth’s surface, life was being destroyed. In an effort to reach as many targets as possible, the military decided to blanket areas with bombs in the hopes of weakening and destroying the enemy. This indiscriminate strategy, though terrible in its execution does have its merits, as proved by the bombing campaigns of the Allies of WWII.
So, why the History lesson and recollections of a young boy?
Well, the term Carpet Bombing came up today while I was researching what someone called “Political Marketing”.
As I am sure all of you are aware the Big Three automakers are asking for a financial bailout from the federal government. It seems that through mismanagement, poor planning and lack of ingenuity, the automobile makers are in a bit of a fix. Not that this situation is new or novel. They have been losing millions of dollars in revenue for months, but I suppose now that the precedent has been set by our government through the bailout packages for Wall Street, the time was right to ask. The entire bailout affair is, in the most simple of terms, an “act of villainy of the greatest of proportions”. However, be that as it may, what really caught my attention was not the audacity of this attempt to foist the bill upon the American taxpayer for the automakers failures; no it is the Carpet Bombing campaign of ads and news.
As the decision rests with Congress whether or not to approve thirty four billion dollars in taxpayer funds to help the automobile companies, the matter of public opinion is important. For, though our Representatives like to forget the fact, the Congressmen and women in Washington are hired and fired by the public. The constituents, of their respective states, have been quite vocal in their negative opinion of a bail out plan for Detroit. Thousands of calls and e-mails have flooded the offices of Representatives from across the nation and all those messages cannot be ignored. So to combat the shortsightedness of the foolish uneducated plebeians who dare to stand up and say no, the Political Carpet Bombing campaign is begun.
Using radio, television and the news media, the Big Three have started to inundate us with their message, a message not of inspiration or logic, but one of fear. We are told that millions of people will become unemployed and that the burden on unemployment insurance will destroy the nation. “Thud”, we are informed that one in ten of America’s work force depends on the auto industry (i.e. your neighbor). “Thud”, and we are now fully aware that the next great depression will be upon us by Christmas if the Government doesn’t come through, “Thud”. So, please call your Senators and give us your money.
The fascinating fact about political marketing Carpet Bombing is that in no way does the information need to reflect fact, truth, or reality. Its purpose is to reach as many targets as possible in as short a time as possible, and much like their actual military predecessors, they are quite effective. We as a society have become accustomed to getting what we want very quickly. We demand faster service from already fast food, we microwave hot dogs, use E-Zpass on the highway and download movies from the net.
This proclivity for fast everything, has a definite bearing on the effectiveness of marketing campaigns whether political or not. For, if we are attuned to quick, easy solutions or explanations of every problem, then he who proposes the easiest will garner the most popular support. Regardless as to whether the solution or explanation is correct or factual. A fine example of how this is rings true can be found in the TABOR (Tax Payer Bill of Rights) proposition a couple of years back here in Maine.
When TABOR was on the ballot, the bombs were falling thick and heavy from the opponents of the measure. There were signs up all over the State that read “Save our Schools” and “People will die.” Television ads blasted the populace with horror stories of houses burning down because the fire departments would have no funding, and people wouldn’t be safe in their homes because the police had no money to patrol. Schools would shut down, and bridges would collapse. You would think Armageddon was going to come about if the measure passed. All this came from asking for the State Legislature to be fiscally responsible. When faced with the logical argument that no sane city or town council would sacrifice the three most important needs of the community i.e. schools, safety, and infrastructure, the Bombers had no response and no defense, yet they continued their campaign and were successful. Inundated with messages of fear, many voters made decisions based upon the inflammatory ads placed before them for months. I am sure some really believed that the horrible events portrayed on television would be in their future if they had not voted against the measure. The problem is, the voters who cast their ballots against the measure because of that fear opted for a quick and easy answer, rather than try to work out the logic. I am not saying all did thus, for many folks actually do try to research the facts and merits of the issues they are voting on, this is but a good example of how Carpet Bomb Marketing can be successful.
I believe that, if we as citizens are so easily manipulated by marketing strategies and media campaigns that are designed to influence our opinions, ideas and yes our COUNTRY, then we are soon to fall.
The Bombs of the Big Three campaign will have a much greater impact upon our society than those of TABOR. The message they send is one of fear, of destruction, and chaos. It is a false message designed not for the benefit of you the taxpayer, or the millions of “Workers” who will be affected by the inept handling of the companies; nay it is for their own.
I am asking you as a citizen to “Think” then act, not the other way around.