Thursday, April 25, 2013

Airbrushing the Voters Guide

Soviet Censorship

In the old Soviet Union, the men in power had a habit of airbrushing the photographs in each new edition of the history books, removing the images of leaders who had been purged from government since the last edition. Often, Western analysts learned more about changes in the Soviet hierarchy not from any official announcements, but from who disappeared from the photos.

The same kind of analysis is still useful today. After the jump, what's missing from the Richardson Coalition PAC's 2013 Voters Guide?

The Richardson Coalition PAC published two editions of its 2013 Voters Guide. One was a "Senior Citizen Edition," which basically was just the regular Voters Guide with a larger font size. The regular Voters Guide was mailed a week later, allowing the PAC to tweak the wording, if they had a mind to. The changes are really so minor that I don't see how they will make a material difference in the election (or any lawsuit that might result from the mailer). The only significant change is the omission of one whole sentence that appeared in the Senior Citizen Edition but is missing from the later regular voters guide.
If elected mayor, he [Amir Omar] promises to be more "hands on," which we fear would lead to daily micro-management for re-election purposes.
Source: Richardson Coalition PAC.
Here's where the conspiracy theories start. Why was this sentence dropped?

Maybe because the PAC realized it was counter-productive. Do they really want to imply that their own candidate is a "hands off" elected official? Isn't that just a step away from "asleep at the wheel?" Isn't it even worse than someone who "leads from the back?"

Maybe because the PAC realized that if the only thing they can criticize in a behavior is that they fear it's being done for a bad reason ("for re-election purposes"), then maybe they are over-reaching. And, really, is their own candidate promising to do unpopular things that will hurt her own re-election chances? Hardly.

Maybe because the PAC wanted more space to draw a box around their allegations that Omar has "financial missteps" in his background. But with the smaller font, you'd think they could do that without dropping any text.

So, why did the PAC drop the sentence? Maybe the Richardson Coalition PAC had a change of heart and started removing all of the slanted statements putting the worst possible spin on Amir Omar's record. Maybe this is just the start. Maybe the PAC intends to publish yet another voter's guide, one with all the offending statements removed, one with a fair and balanced presentation of the pros and cons of both candidates, one with a reasoned and defensible argument for endorsing one candidate over the other.

In the immortal words of Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber...
Wait a minute. Perhaps I've been wrong to blindly follow the medical traditions and superstitions of past centuries. Maybe we barbers should test these assumptions analytically, through experimentation and a "scientific method". Maybe this scientific method could be extended to other fields of learning: the natural sciences, art, architecture, navigation. Perhaps I could lead the way to a new age, an age of rebirth, a Renaissance!...Naaaaaahhh!


Paul Peck said...

The comparison of the Richardson Coalition to the Soviet regimes strikes very close to home for me. Not long ago, I was visiting with our dear friends from Meiningen, Germany, a town caught behind the iron curtain. With a bit of vodka, they loosened up and told me stories about the huge risks they took in "GDR Days" for opposing the establishment. They feared that they would be deleted from the waiting list for a decent apartment, or a Trabant, or a phone line, or opera & symphony tickets.

I've struggled to connect that kind of fear with politics until recently. Nowadays, I hear Richardson citizens of all sorts telling me they support Mr. Omar, but many of them ask me quietly to not tell anyone lest they be erased from the scene, Soviet style.

Mark Steger said...

I regret any inferences that I was comparing the Richardson Coalition PAC to the leaders of the Soviet Union. I was not.

Paul Peck said...

I saw your tweet about regretting having made "Stalin references" in your blog: I think you're off the hook - that airbrushed photo pre-dates Uncle Joe.

In fairness, you didn't compare the leaders of the Soviet union to the Richardson Coalition. But you did go to a lot of trouble to compared their revisionist methods for modifying propaganda.

And that comparison seemed apropos to me.

Paul Peck