Figures of speech–High Tech Drifter
By Allen Tullos
Vol. 6, No. 2, 1984, pp. 1-3
There is an unmistakable glint in Dirty Gary’s eye as he takes point blank aim at the man who holds the Democratic Party hostage. “Go ahead Mondale, make my day.”
“Dry up and blow away, Gary, ” snaps the bleary Fritz, his arm tightening around the neck of the Nomination as he backpedals toward San Francisco.
As the Live Eye opens, the hawk-faced Coloradan is taking questions.
“Senator, your rapid rise this primary season brings to this reporter’s mind the recent blockbuster movie ‘Sudden Impact.’ But just how long can you continue to build a presidential campaign out of Clint Eastwood scripts?”
“Just as long,” counters Dirty Gary, “as Eastwood continues to call himself an independent, Western, charismatic, Jeffersonian Democrat, not especially big on gun control.”
“But Eastwood’s not fresh,” argues a columnist. “He’s a dinosaur. Why don’t you get with the team?”
“It’s true,” says Dirty Gary, “Eastwood’s films have roots in the vigilante past, but they respond to the hidden agendas of the new idealism of self-interest. They are for youngsters of any age. They also happen to be the only scenarios which can beat the Death-Valley-warmed-over plot lines of Reagan in November. I offer a choice between the past and the future: government on horseback and by twenty-muleteam or the digital cowboy on the microwave range–the Western Sizzler.”
“Aren’t you getting a bit ahead of yourself? What about Mondale?”
“Mondale is mush. Until after New Hampshire all he did was retreat beyond understatement. He’s part of the complacent, back-scratching, bloated menagerie of Washington insiders who have the look of losers. Their butts have the shape of the chairs behind their desks.
“Eastwood,” continues Dirty Gary, “always has to move against the corrupt, bureacratic organization men–the bosses on the take–at the same time as he pinches
off the heads of the low-life hoodlums who make life hard for young, urban professionals in parking garages and in the elevators of fitness centers.”
“How do you respond,” asks a savvy anchor, “to the often heard criticism that both you and Eastwood are steely, aloof loners with an Irish fatalistic sense of inevitability?”
“Look,” snaps Dirty Gary, “I put on my business suit like everybody else–one Lucchese boot at a time. I’m often called detached and laid back. That’s just the way I am.”
“Senator, what do you mean when you say, ‘People will know about me through what they read or what they see’?”
“I mean television spots, airport fly-ins and full page newspaper ads. As you know, our campaign has set the pace in making democracy safe for television. Iowa and the New England states were our test markets, but I’ve given up more than a year to learn how to appeal to the young and the restless–the voters who can decide the ’84 election.
“Mondale dared to be cautions for too long while we have taken the initiative in making caution look daring. Consider my defense proposals for instance. I call for an increase even beyond Reagan’s military budget and at the same time am able to appear both modern and pragmatic, and to lay claim to the high moral ground of the Nuclear Freeze.
“We’re patching up voter indifferences with a play to the young at heart. Computer graphics give us the look of the future in our video ads. We’ve benefited from my easily communicated maverick astringency and hatred of phoniness. We’ve also gained from Mondale’s own TV appearances with his crime boss’ wet look, banker’s suit and leaden eyelids. And, once the primary votes began to come in, Mondale–despite his fighting phrases–has not yet been able to wipe the chagrin off his face–even after Illinois.
“Then,” continues Dirty Gary, his words coming in an uncharacteristic rush, “you know the advertisement that the New York Times runs for itself? The one that goes, ‘Every message is at the mercy of its environment’? Well, we’ve made our media shots with that ad in mind. First, we’ve concentrated on the main entertainment shows of television–the local newscasts. You’ve seen how in a single hour at an airport I can appear live on the news shows of every station in a local market. Also, we buy commercial time as close to the newscasts as we can get. Our spots look and sound as technically flashy and as newsy as the news appears entertaining.
“Second, we choose key words, dramatic moods and poses in our ads to resemble those in commercials which are popular with the same audience that we are targeting. That way, successful products reinforce our message. Every time Chrysler touts the New Chrysler Technology, or ATT flashes up their futuristic hardware and logo while talking about A New Revolution from ATT Information Systems, we benefit. Think of what happens when Michael Jackson sings and dances for Pepsi: There’s A Whole New Generation Out There. My biggest mistake in the campaign so far is letting Mondale beat me to ‘Where’s the beef?’. It’s a real underdog’s slogan–hype that pays upon the consumer’s current distrust of hype.”
“I don’t understand,” confesses a reporter. “How can you expect to benefit from the New Chrylser when everyone has heard that you voted against the bail-out.”
“Never mind. That’s the past. My image of the new reminds you of other new images, they remind you of me and that generates the character of the emerging environment–which wouldn’t be complete without Michael Jackson and the New Chrysler Corporation and ATT and Gary Hart. Bunkmates with the future.
“We intend to make our place among a fast moving and exciting ensemble of leading-edge imagery,” says Dirty Gary through his rugged good looks. “Many citizens of the electronic village don’t want their lifestyles to get out of phase. We want to be as necessary to their poise and moods of desire as a Pepsi.”
“Senator, it seems more and more likely that the party’s nominee will not be chosen until this summer’s convention. How are you going to keep track of delegates, particularly the uncommitted?”
“That’s simple enough,” answers Dirty Gary. “I’ll do what Eastwood–or, for that matter, what Jack or Buddy Kennedy would do–break down the delegates’ hotel room doors and see if they’re dressed like neo-liberals. If not, I’ll open fire. A final question?”
“Yes. What happens when the Great Communicator hears about this?”
“Reagan puts on his coat and tie just like I do,” Dirty Gary replies, “one shoulder holster at a time. I think it’s clear that the New is not new enough for both of us.”