Saturday, March 28, 2009

Optimistic Correctness, II

Spurred by a discussion at Labradore, I decided to examine the iconography and rhetoric of Dangovt by going to the core source: the official PC Party web site:

However tempting it may be to make specific comparisons to other regimes or to insert links to songs from the seventies, I'll stick to a textual analysis.

Like watching the video of Kennedy's news conference after the budget, interesting things happen when you pay close attention to what's actually being said.

So if you actually read the PC web site, what do you notice?

1) The photo. It's just weird. By jamming an over-sized head into the left-hand corner, the web site not only forces you to look at it first, but it also gives the impression of DW staring down at you. It's also strangely shaped and cropped, with too much focus on the forced smile.

2) MESSAGE FROM THE LEADER. No need to add much here. As funny as it sounds, that's how they've presented DW's message: huge block letters. The message. The leader. No questions.

3) The disconnect between message and language. From the top to the bottom of the page, there is a single, over-riding message: this is his party. He owns it. It's not message from "the team." There are no photos of anyone else. No pictures of the team. It's photo at the top, signature at the bottom. And yet, if you read the address, it uses the royal "we." The rhetoric in the message is entirely collective: it's all we and ours, all the time. The subliminal message is that he literally embodies the collective.

4) The year 2003 is YEAR ONE. Though the rhetoric may appeal to history, it says nothing significant about the real past.

5) Though short, the message lays out a three-act drama:
Prologue: In the beginning, there was darkness, despair, and wilderness.

Act I: Then, in Year One, DW and company appeared. They immediately began to restore confidence to the people and to lead them out of the political wilderness.

Act II: Like all journeys to the promised land, this one requires traveling across the desert and overcoming obstacles. In this case, the obstacle is Harper, who is hell bent on thwarting NL at every turn. Like all dramas, this one has a villain who has no honour. He betrays his promises and can no longer be trusted. So DW alone must confront him. This section is worth quoting: "The lesson in all of this is that we cannot count on others to improve our lot in the federation of Canada. We must take it upon ourselves to control our own future, to become self-reliant." The important word is lesson. Like all lessons, this one has a moral as well as political imperative.

Act III: In the climactic battle, DW must, like all heroes, strike out on his own. He must break from the pack. Dramatic heroism is always individual, not cooperative; it is based on action, not negotiation; and it requires total solution, not half measures. Heroes don't cut deals with the enemy. So it's entirely expected that the next section of the homily states, "We are ready and able to seize the opportunities before us and exercise a greater degree of autonomy to achieve our rightful place in Confederation." Righteousness requires autonomy.

6) The plan. All dystopias have plans. Whether it's a four-year plan, a five-year plan, or a great leap forward, there must be a temporal framework. It's not enough to regulate the task; time itself must be controlled as well. In this case, it's eight years.

7) Final words and phrases are usually revealing, and this is no exception. What's the final word? Deserve. It's all about just deserts. It's all about revenge against the oppressor. This extraordinary challenge demands extraordinary language. The final sentence has no less than three grandiose modifiers: boldly, great, richly.

8) Naming and signaling are always critical to any dystopian regime, and this one is no exception. How does DW sign off? Danny. Just Danny. No need for a surname. Like all stars, he needs only one name. This conveys familiarity and specialness.

This is no ordinary government.

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