Noam Chomsky on America's Political Corruption: Presidential Campaigns as Marketing Achievements
April 09, 2016
Elections are rigged by many factors. But as Noam Chomsky explains, policy plays only a small role in electing candidates.
“Right after the election, President Obama won an award from the advertising industry for the best marketing campaign and the International Business Press executives were euphoric,” Chomsky recalls in the 2015 documentary Requiem for the American Dream. They said, We’ve been marketing candidates like toothpaste since Reagan. This is the greatest achievement we have.”
The 2008 election marked a turning point in social media strategy and Facebook users bombardment of posts that used the new “I Voted” app was just one aspect of this phenomenon. President Obama, in fact, used Twitter to announce that he won - similarly to how 2016’s candidates engage with voters on Snapchat.
“Regardless of your political affiliation, one can’t help but admire the Obama campaign’s relentless and successful marketing strategy,” said World Wildlife Fund senior strategist Brigid Milligan, after Obama was reelected in 2012.
But to Chomsky, this manipulation is a means of corruption. “I don’t usually agree with Sarah Palin,” Chomsky admitted. “But when she mocks the ‘hope-y, change-y stuff,’ she’s right.”
Since the famouse "Obama: Hope" poster was introduced, it has been parodied around the world thousands of times, including during Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. But throughout the Obama administration, the poster's creator, Shepard Fairey, has remained critical. In 2015, Fairey expressed disappointment not only in Obama, but in the people.
“Obama has had a really tough time, but there have been a lot of things that he's compromised on that I never would have expected” Fairy told Esquire, citing drones and domestic spying as key examples. “I do think the entire system needs an overhaul and taking money out of politics would be a really good first step,” Fairey said, adding, “We also need a public that isn't so uneducated and complacent.”
On the other hand, it’s hard to deliver on promises when the policies conflicting with them aren’t a large part of the discussion to begin with.
“Obama didn’t really promise anything. That’s mostly illusion,” confirmed Chomsky. “You go back to the campaign rhetoric and take a look at it. There’s very little discussion of policy issues and for very good reason. Because public opinion on policy is sharply disconnected, from what the two party leaders and their financial backers want. Policy more and more is focused on the private interest that fund the campaigns with the public being marginialized.”
Watch: Noam Chomsky discusses the many layers of corruption in politics in Requiem for the American Dream: