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    « (Re)Defining America | Main | What Iowa Means... »

    Beware the Robocall....

    Today is Primary day in New Hampshire. I’ve been to the polls already, casting my not-so-secret ballot for Governor Jon Huntsman. On the way out I gave the thumbs up to a small but excited group of Huntsman supporters led by Andrew Provencher, who works aggressively and tirelessly for Huntsman up here. 
    It’s been a tiring—nay, exhausting—primary season. NH, as we all know, is unique that way. And I for one am glad it’s over. But it’s not because I’ll miss the political coffeehouse—far from it. It’s because the robocalls will stop.

    When you think about robocalls, try to picture little Carol Ann Freeling turning towards the camera and saying “They’re heeeerrrreeee…..” And believe me, these robocalls should frighten us more than any poltergeist…

    Though they began in earnest only in the mid-to-late nineties, political robocalls have an insidious history. Subject to very little oversight (much as other political advertising), incredibly cheap and amazingly invasive, these little less-than-a-minute ditties have allowed planted lies to grow quickly and virally in ways second only to the internet. It’s hard not to wonder at the hints about McCain’s Bangladeshi daughter coming the day before South Carolina’s 2008 primary, nor the swift-boating of John Kerry that left messages on every answering machine across the country.
    And there’s no one to talk to. At least if there’s a human being on the other end I can ask a few questions. Who’s sponsoring this poll? Who’s funding this message? With a robocall, that doesn’t happen.

    Robocalls are marketing, and we would do well to remember that fact. They’re not education; they may not even be factual. But they are treacherous in a very special way.  

    Yesterday, the day before the primary, I received twenty-three robocalls, all of them political.  (None, interestingly, were from Huntsman’s campaign.)  I’d like, now, to respond to a few of them: 

    -Yes, Mitt. I get that you’re the front runner. But the fact that you seem to be running against Obama already is a bit presumptuous, don’t you think?

     -Congressman Paul, why are you trying to frighten me? The messages you leave hint at death and destruction unless I vote for you… 

    -Governor Perry, you might sound a little less resigned to defeat. It almost sounds like you’re relying on that Hillary-cried-and-got-more-votes strategy that worked so well four years ago…. 

    -Buddy Roemer, you might want to think about turning the volume down from that Spinal-Tap “eleven” you’ve been using. You make Ron Paul sound like the quiet one.

    -Rick Santorum, I know that robocalls only cost maybe a dime each, but this is NH. You’re wasting your money…

    So note, please. None of you scared me, none of you sounded thoughtful, and none of you changed my mind. Still, I know you won’t stop. It must work somewhere or you wouldn’t do it. But at least I get a break from it now—at least, I guess, until after the conventions….


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