March 7, 2012

Thrift’s discussion of the role of affect in politics left me questioning what was the role of reality in politics?

Initially, I question specifically, what ‘politics’ means. Politics, most broadly, refers to ‘the science of art of political government’ (Dictionary.com). Which leaves ’politics’ inseparable from government. However, throughout the reading, it appears that Thrift is mainly focused on the role of political representation, the vision, the interaction of a politician, whether current or in opposition. His brief mention of drill theory describes how the management of affect in policy can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a population, does not extend so much to actual examples of governance. We have a separation between the use of affect in what is being sold to the population, through media representation, through speeches and through urban space, as opposed to what role affect has in governing population, as with drilling.

Thrift quotes Nolan to highlight the effectiveness of emotional affect in political campaigning. How “the individual is encouraged to escape from within and refer to the language of emotions” (p.184). Thus, even within the fantasy world of political representation, the most effective strategies reduce the population to emotional beings that respond to affect rather than lift them to logical ones that respond to reason. As we discovered earlier, children better remembered a cartoon which combined imagery with both factual and emotional information. Employing the two-channel approach, an emotional speech could become considerably more useful than simply to garner emotional support by utilising an additional media-based information system that operates in parallel to the emotional speaker.

I am therefore left wondering about the reality or relevance of it in politics. Can politics be considered a constant show? Is there no state of rest where policy making and management overshadow policy selling and revolution? Or is that commonly referred to as a state of obedience, where the leadership and competence of the leader is unquestioned? And of course, what is the difference, when the population are not logically engaged in the process anymore?

I am reminded of the character Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy  (Adams, 1979), The president of the universe, who’s role is purely to distract the population from the true rulers of the Universe. Additionally, he has three arms and has split his personality in to two separate heads, one is hidden and contains all his ‘un-presidential traits’ such as logic and reason, the other is his public head. His outrageous clothes and antics are emotionally engaging and beloved while his policy is non-existent.

-Michael Lyon


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