The Election, Freely Associated


Props to the New York Times* for today’s semiotic fun-for-all. Submit the word that best describes your emotional state, check a couple of more boxes, and take solace in the fact that you’re not alone out there — a whole mess of Americans are at a similar loss for words. Here they are, organized chronologically and by political party. A fine encore to this graphic, rendered from the rhetorical machinations of September’s presidential debate:


I’ve remained fascinated, if not outright astounded, by the forms of verbal and visual manipulation we’ve seen throughout this election (an inevitability, I suppose, given all of those kids with their iPhones and their YouTubes). However, I’m even more intrigued — heartened, actually — by the real-time pace at which the so-called creative class has processed this incessant stream of words and images. Hindsight is always 20/20: while advertising and politics have always enjoyed an intimate relationship, it seems as though certain tactics have proven clear only in retrospect. (See the “Father of P.R.” Edward Bernays‘ infamous “pancake breakfast” plot designed to smooth over the public perception of Calvin Coolidge’s gruff demeanor prior to the 1924 general election.)

The Mission Impossibles and thumbs-up of yesteryear now seem rather quaint. Marketing-as-politics and politics-as-marketing are one in the same this time around; the results are a visual (and thus, psychological) landscape so transparent that its insidious nature is more opaque than Bernays could have ever hoped for. Did you drink the free Starbucks today? Admit it — we all did.

* or rather, to Gabriel Dance, Andrew Kueneman and Aron Pilhofer, the interactive designers who developed the app for the New York Times.


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