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Guest Editorial: A Voice from the Gut

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October 15, 2011 by wcobserver

By George Dean Patterson

Thanks to the Observer’s editor for writing about the universal human susceptibility to being influenced, i.e., manipulated, by carefully crafted, emotionally loaded political propaganda.

Pollsters find the majority of Americans in agreement that America is on the wrong track, but there’s wide difference of opinion for how this derailment should be corrected. Is it possible that a new president will help?

Many people hold strong opinions about this question; many of us have already decided our 2012 presidential vote; we’re in the bag: red bag, blue bag, tea bag, whatever. We’re not going to change our minds.
Consequently, much of the coming onslaught of media slime will be aimed directly for that wild card, the uncommitted coin flipper who could flop unpredictably over to either side of the political fence: the undecided voter.

Paid political advertising, particularly the attack ad with its deliberately distorted information, is very effective in manipulating the behavior of this undecided voter, because the message can be delivered in a purely emotional format. No confusing issue related information to interpret. No need to understand how policy positions are important. Just a direct appeal to the gut.

And it works. A few hundred million dollars in negative television advertising can put a lagging candidate over the top. Elections are won or lost by manipulating the last minute decision of the undecided voter — the voter who just can’t make up his mind.

​I’ll posit this argument: the undecided voter can’t make up his mind because his mind is absent from the process. He will vote with his gut and his gut will be manipulated by paid political advertising. He’ll choose the next president like he chooses which potato chips or beer to bring home.

The gut-based political advertising phenomenon suppresses and neutralizes the influence of the informed voter. By targeting the most gullible and most poorly informed segment of the electorate and by giving them a prominent, potentially decisive electoral voice, we get leaders who have been selected by the most mindless of methods. Is it any wonder that so many thinking Americans feel that America is on the wrong track?

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