Topic: Election Notes
Advertisements: Never Cry Wolf
Disclaimer: my first wife and I once had a pet rabbit, a Dutch Blue, we named Farley, after Farley Mowat. Who? That's the Canadian biologist who wrote Never Cry Wolf, a 1963 book about Mowat's adventures chronicling his investigation of a wolf pack for the Canadian government - which showed wolves were quite social animals and not much threat to anyone. No need to wipe them all out. The book was adapted into a moderately successful Disney movie of the same name in 1983, directed by Carroll Ballard and starring Charles Martin Smith, Brian Dennehy, and Zachary Ittimangnaq - an engaging Inuit fellow. The book was better than the film. And when I taught English back in the seventies I used the book as a primary text with younger students as it was quite well written, and had a bit to do about thinking carefully, observing and not jumping to conclusions.
But Mowat himself was, to some folks, a pain - one of those angry environmentalists. On April 24, 1985, United States immigration officials denied him entry into the United States. Up to that day Mowat had been blissfully unaware that he appeared as a suspected Communist or anarchist on the so-called Red Scare list, which dated back to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 - and you remember those days of the McCarthy hearings and the red scare. Mowat missed his speaking engagement at a biology conference at some American university or other. Of course outrage over Mowat's case in both the United States and Canada contributed to a major revision of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 - in 1990. Most curious. Naturalist? Communist? Whatever. Think of Mowat as a beta version of Jos? Bov? - and Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, has a photo of that Bov? fellow and some comments on that fellow here.
Mowat and Bov? aside, wolves are interesting critters. And now they have entered the last days of the political campaign. The Bush campaign has a a new television ad running in fourteen swing states, featuring wolves. Mowat wouldn't recognize these.
This television spot is an arty hand-held camera thing - dusk in a deep green forest. A wolf darts across your line of vision, then another, and then we see the whole pack on a grassy knoll, so to speak, and they rise and amble toward the camera. Leave rustle. The minor-key music swells, and a female voice intones these words -
Yeah, yeah. They is a coming for us all if we vote for Kerry.
Matthew Yglesias comments -
And Brad DeLong adds this -
In fact, they are kind of appealing, and most everyone likes big dogs. When I saw the ad I didn't think about the mortal danger we face if we elect John Kerry. I thought of my big, gawky, goofy dog from way back when, Lamar, who always looked sad when he finally figured out Farley-the-Rabbit really didn't want to play with him. Lamar didn't get it.
Do the Bush folks get it? These wolves in the ad look like they need a little love and acceptance, and a good meal followed by a long nap. Snakes would have been better, or a mean-looking overweight housecat like my Harriet. They could have used snakes or cats. No one much likes snakes, and most of my friends out here really don't like sly, sneaky, uncooperative, haughty housecats. Bad choice.
But I hear on the news the Bush ad folks test-marketed this spot and it polled well, so they went with it. I guess no one in the focus groups read Mowat's Never Cry Wolf - or saw the movie. And surely no one in the focus groups read Mowat's A Whale for the Killing. No doubt they were all Republicans - and not "save the whales" liberals.
Perhaps the ad will be effective. But I doubt it. The metaphor must have seemed apt, but the visuals are all wrong - the critters just look too much like the family beast snoozing in the next room. And too, there is a misunderstanding of wolves here, a misunderstanding of animal behaviors and basic the biological science - evidence of many decades.
A misunderstanding of basic science? The Bush folks are famous for that - global warming is not caused by anything we do and no one has really, really proved it's happening, and Bush publicly saying the jury is still out on that there evolution theory. He doesn't buy it.
And now his team gets it wrong about wolves.
It figures. And what does the "W" really stand for?
Note: Fred Kaplan here gives a more conventional analysis of the ad's argument - Kerry really didn't call for the massive cuts the ad says he called for. In fact, at the time, the Republican congressman hack that was just appointed to run the CIA, Porter Goss, called for similar cuts. But no one cares about all that.
Be very afraid...