Thursday, November 3, 2016

The PSYOP of Elections

With the 2016 US Presidential election only 5 days away and media of all sorts bombarding us with exhortations to vote their way, I thought it appropriate to make a few comments about PSYOP in the context of political influence.

Rather than descend into the cesspool like depths of the media barrage in the Presidential race, I felt it more instructive to look at a particular piece. There are 17 Propositions on the California ballot this year – not counting local ones. They range from repealing the death penalty to deciding whether starts in porn flicks should wear condoms.

Behind every proposition there are people with an agenda. While some propositions are clearly worded, others are not. Wording can obfuscate the true purpose of the proposition or can be a legislative hodgepodge of sentences thrown together.

To the right is a typical direct mail piece. The focus is on personalizing the proposition in a way
that the voter identifies the picture with the proposition. In this case we have a likeable enough looking family. Since there is no Dad in the picture we could also jump to the conclusion that this is a single Mom raising three young children. The child on the right is missing her front teeth possibly indicating that she is a second grader or in need of some dental help.

Proposition E is a San Jose Measure that would require businesses with over 35 employees to offer extra hours to part-time workers before hiring new ones.  While the motivation behind the measure might be to give a break to those part time workers who work multiple jobs and don’t have benefits, this is not the case according to the major local newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News which said “Voters are likely to approve this feel-good measure, but it would be a mistake. It adds record-keeping burdens and lawsuit risks no other city in this county places on industry — at a time when San Jose is already is struggling to attract business and build its tax base. Vote no.”  (See:

In addition to personifying the message, the direct mail piece offers some general innuendos at the top right. By agreeing with these oversimplified statements the reader/voter might very well want to ‘help out’ by voting yes, which, according to the facts (or the newspaper) would be a mistake.

Hopefully the election will be over soon to clean up the airwaves.

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