Thursday, September 28, 2006
Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Tabitha Soren
I'm all for trying to get people involved politically, especially young people. I turned 18 in 1992, the first Clinton year and, coincidentally, also the first year of MTV's vaunted "Choose or Lose" campaign. I remember that year, being completely energized by the political process for the first time. When you turn 18, it seems like such a big deal, but really the only things you're newly eligible to do once you turn 18 is vote and get drafted into the military. You get to drive two years earlier and aren't legally able to buy beer for another three years, so that's pretty much it. So you can see why I was excited about voting when you consider the alternative.
Besides the positive comparison to forced conscription, we also had lots of very excitable people running around to every news outlet available to them at the time telling us how important it was. Just to give you an idea of how different the media landscape was, I think there were a total of five news organizations back then: ABC, NBC, CBS, public television and CNN. Looking back it all seems kind of quaint. As with any diachronic comparison, you can only shake your head and wonder how anyone survived witht he primitive technology available to them at the time. I mean, they didn't even have any flat-panel TV monitors to attach to trapezes and swing around studios with fancy digital "swoosh!" sound effects every time they transitioned from one story to another. Might as well have been smoke signals.
There was obviously no Fox News yet with its animated eagles shooting lazers out of their eyes over a backdrop of rippling American flags and sunrises to counterbalance the liberal media hegemony, so naturally I registered Democrat, just as I was told and all my thoughts were conflict-free, doubleplusgood.
Looking back, it's hard to say how politically plugged in I was or if I was just going through the motions in the hope that I could get Kurt Loder to notice me.
The campaign to raise awareness and encourage participation among young people set the stage for every election since then (all three of them!) where a great deal of money and time and media-projected man-hours have been spent trying to convince people under 25 that they should vote.
From what I understand, however, registration and active voting among the lowest age demographic of eligible voters has either remained flat or fallen well within the trends of older voters. Shocking, yes? Yes. Just about as shocking as the time I found out Steven Tyler only had Hepatitis C and not also tetanus, scurvy, rickets and maybe a tapeworm. Despite the results, however, there is this push to single out, to focus on the young in focused marketing campaigns to browbeat them into voting.
Just yesterday an announcement was made that myspace would be promoting a voter registration drive in order to convince young people to register.
If I were a cynic (which I'm NOT! All is benevolence and everyone says what they really mean! Wheee, medication!) I'd be pointing out that this is the same demographic primarily targeted by advertisers. There may or may not have been commercials during those "Choose or Lose" programs, I don't remember. I do remember sort of coming-to in the grocery store in those days saying things to myself like "Funyuns? Why am I buying Funyuns?" And then I would remember, oh yes! Democracy has been brought to me by Funyuns.
Of course the point of marketing to young people is not to separate them from their money directly as they--as a demographic segment--typically have the feeblest spending power of all the segments capable of growing pubic hair. Seriously, most of the people afflicted with alopecia universalis are broke as a joke, with the exception of that Rockefeller guy. But he's an exception as he made all his money in merkins.
The young are targeted because they haven't gotten all hung-up on brand-loyalty as yet. The Funyun people believe if you can get someone started eating Funyuns at 18, they'll be Funyun eaters for life. Of course the only flaw in that plan is the total inedibility of Funyuns, but otherwise the theory is sound. Old people who don't already eat Funyuns sure as fuck aren't going to start.
This myspace thing, then, I don't really get. Advertising and myspace don't really go together. There are banner ads, sure, but I'm so accustomed to automatically tuning them out, I honestly didn't even know they existed on myspace until this article told me they did and I went specifically looking for them.
So what could the motivation be for the myspace people if not to sell people stuff in between building a false sense of civic responsibility that will fade as soon as they click over to YouTube to post videos of themselves lip-synching with sunglasses on?
I can only think of one thing associated with voter registration that would benefit from adding all those names to the rolls and that's jury pools. Somehow the sinister forces of the US Jury Pool Building industry has infiltrated myspace and are using the network to try and steal your teenaged children to fill seats so they can text message their friends while adjudicating life-or-death questions of innocence and guilt in American jurisprudence.
Honestly, what else is voter registration good for? And don't say "voting" because we already know young people don't do that. Unless it's American Idol but the idea of text-messaging for President of the United States is a whole 'nother post.
When I think of all the young people being sucked in to the day-wasting process of jury duty, I can't help but think of how the American vigilante industry has really dropped the ball here. If we were out there randomly killing people we suspect are guilty of crimes, there would be fewer trials and no need to co-opt America's youth into the waiting rooms of America's courthouses. When I think of all the wasted teenager-hours that could be spent chatting in instant messenger or giving homeless old people money to buy them beer, well, I just... it's enough to make me want to break out the bat-suit again, court-order be damned.
Next time you're out, take a minute or two and strangle a criminal. Sure, it's an inconvenience, but you're doing it for the children and the children are America's future.
This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.1