March 1, 2008

"Why are the letters 'NIG' on the child's pajamas?"

Asks a commenter — "Tom" — on my post about the new Hillary Clinton commercial, the one that shows several children sleeping and then Clinton taking a national security phone call in the middle of the night. You can see the commercial at the link, and the pajamas in question are on display during seconds 11 and 12. On pausing, staring, and thinking, I believe these are pajamas that say "good night" all over them, but the letters "NIG" are set apart by a fold in the fabric.





Is the campaign responsible for sending out a subliminal message to stimulate racist thoughts in the unsuspecting viewer? It is either deliberate or terribly incompetent. There is no other writing on screen until the very end of the commercial, and if letters appear in any place in a commercial, they should be carefully selected letters. Certainly, each image is artfully composed and shot and intended to deliver an emotional impact. Could this be a mere lapse?

In 2000, there was a much-discussed commercial for George W. Bush that displayed the letters "RATS":
The announcer starts by lauding George W. Bush's proposal for dealing with prescription drugs, and criticizes the plan being offered by Vice President Al Gore. Fragments of the phrase ''bureaucrats decide'' -- deriding Mr. Gore's proposal -- then dance around the screen.

Then, if the viewer watches very closely, something else happens. The word ''rats,'' a fragment of the word ''bureaucrats,'' pops up in one frame. And though the image lasts only one-thirtieth of a second, it is in huge white capital letters, larger than any other word on the commercial.

The advertisement then declares, ''The Gore prescription plan: bureaucrats decide.''

But as one might be expect in a tightly contested presidential race, the Democrats have given the 30-second advertisement more than a quick glance.

After being alerted by an eagle-eyed Democrat in Seattle, aides to Mr. Gore examined the advertisement frame by frame, spotted the suspicious word and gave a copy of a slowed-down version to The New York Times.

Those aides said they had no comment and preferred that the advertisement, which has appeared in 33 markets nationwide since August, speak for itself.

Alex Castellanos, who produced the commercial for the Republican National Committee, insisted that the use of the word was ''purely accidental,'' saying, ''We don't play ball that way. I'm not that clever.''

Asked when he had first noticed the word in the commercial, Mr. Castellanos said, ''That's all I want to say.''

But several Republican and Democratic advertising consultants who were told of the commercial, as well as many independent academics, said they were startled that such a word would appear and said it appeared to be a subliminal attempt to discredit Mr. Gore.

Mr. Bush's chief media consultant, Mark McKinnon, said he had not noticed the word ''rats'' when he reviewed the advertisement before it was broadcast. Most people probably have not noticed either, although some people who watched a tape of the commercial at normal speed today -- albeit very carefully -- said it was visible.

After being told of the word, Mr. McKinnon said the commercial should be corrected because it ''certainly might give reporters or anybody else who looked at it'' a reason to stir up attention.

But after taking another look at the advertisement, he amended his comment.

'' 'Rats' is not a message,'' Mr. McKinnon said. '' 'Bad plan' or 'seniors lose' might be. But 'rats?' We're just not that clever. I just watched it five times in a row. Hard as I looked, couldn't see 'rats.' ''

Almost every advertising professional interviewed said that given the technology by which commercials are assembled frame by frame, it was virtually impossible for a producer not to know the word was there.

''There is no way that anything Alex Castellanos does is an accident,'' said Greg Stevens, a veteran Republican advertising consultant here.
The intense scrutiny of the "RATS" ad heightens the assumption that presidential candidates these days pay close attention to any incidental lettering that appears in their ads. "RATS" as part of the word "bureaucrats" in an ad criticizing Gore's prescription plan is nothing compared to "NIG" isolated on a sleeping child's shoulder in an ad intended to create doubts about a black man's ability to take an urgent phone call at 3 a.m., an ad authorized by a candidate who has already heard accusations that her campaign is slipping racial material into its attacks on her opponent.

This is either a revolting outrage or shocking incompetence.

IN THE COMMENTS: Some controversy, of course. I know this is hard to take. But let me front page this one, from Mortimer Brezny, who is responding to a commenter who said: "[F]or subliminal messaging to be effective, I think it has to be intelligible. In this case, you really have to fill in the dots (reconstruct the right-half of the G) to make it so. If it had said NIC, would there be an issue, because you could imagine C => G?"
Oh, that is incorrect. The way the mind makes closure is by filling in the blanks. You don't need to see an entire face to envision what the other half of it looks like. That is not a conscious activity of the brain, it is neurological, like seeing the color red.

Certainly, Ann is correct that you activate associational networks in the brain. NIG is quite obviously in the same area of the brain as NIGGER, just as both words are nearby in the dictionary. And the commercial is about Obama. Associating those two neural pathways (Obama, Nig__) at the same time may create the subliminal message Ann is talking about. In that case the real fear being exploited here is "Do you really want a nigger in the White House?"

This is not bunk. Drew Westen has done a good amount of empirical work on it. And political hacks use such research in crafting their ads.

You may disagree with Ann's conclusion. But her analysis explains why the commercial -- incoherently -- focuses on kids in bed. No one is scared that terrorists will break into their home late at night and harm their children. The threat depicted does not correspond to the threat described by the narrator. But the threat depicted does prey on fears of criminals breaking into your home. And it is a persistent stereotype that black people are the source of crime. Indeed, being tough on crime has been a GOP code word for being tough on blacks. Longtime Republican strategist Lee Atwater himself admitted that.

"So if, with our subconscious, we actually notice these 2.5 letters, and our subconscious assumes that this is a G and not a C, then this forms a fragment of a racial slur, which some of us might subconsciously pick up on, and associate, naturally, with Obama."

Yes. The mind does this everyday, as when you see a sign behind Obama's head that reads "CHANG". You don't think Obama has chosen a Chinese running mate. You think Obama's head is obscuring the E because you have seen a "CHANGE" sign before. It does not require conscious thought and it takes less than a second to process.

It's funny that Ann often dithers around for fun to mass appeal, but when she writes a post that clearly demonstrates she's a genius, the claws come out.
Feel free to observe the claws out on many other websites, where personal attacks on me take the place of any serious effort to engage on the merits. For example, the usually serious blogger Kevin Drum calls me harebrained and a glue sniffer. The vicious attack on the messenger bespeaks fear of the message and lack of a substantive argument against it.

NOTE: I've added a link to the video in the first paragraph of the post and two screen captures from the video, taken at 0:11. The first capture is the full screen, with no digital editing. The second capture is a closeup of the lettering, and I've turned up the contrast, saturation, and sharpness. There's no question that there are letters on the pajamas. The letters N and I are very clear. The third letter, G, appears only partially, but it is definitely a G. You can see the center line slightly, and the other letters in the area make it likely that the words "good night" appear as a pattern on the pajamas.

MORE IN THE COMMENTS: Pastafarian wrote:
You must be kidding, right? The G is partially obscured, on the side of the screen and slightly out of focus, written sideways, and present for a second or so; I wouldn't even have guessed that it was a G, had I not been told. I would have assumed a C, had I even noticed this.
Amba aptly responds:
That's exactly how a subliminal-advertising genius would do it. With deniability, with doubt, right on the edge of intelligibility. If it was even a little more obvious, it wouldn't work. This way, anyone who brings it up can be called paranoid and crazy; it can be reflected back on the hypersensitive Obama campaign. We'll never know for sure if it's real, but one way to check would be to find out who made the ad and check out some of that person's other work.
By the way, the sleeping child appears to be black. Mere coincidence?

MORE: In this new post.

AND: If you've mocked me for this post, read this and then send me your apology.

322 comments:

1 – 200 of 322   Newer›   Newest»
rhhardin said...

It's a silent g.

Pastafarian said...

You must be kidding, right? The G is partially obscured, on the side of the screen and slightly out of focus, written sideways, and present for a second or so; I wouldn't even have guessed that it was a G, had I not been told. I would have assumed a C, had I even noticed this.

So if, with our subconscious, we actually notice these 2.5 letters, and our subconscious assumes that this is a G and not a C, then this forms a fragment of a racial slur, which some of us might subconsciously pick up on, and associate, naturally, with Obama. Give me a break.

I take it that this sort of paranoid hypersensitivity is what we have in store for the next several months, and probably for the next 4 years after that. We'll all be walking on eggshells lest we be accused of racism.

As this is the first comment I've made here in some months, and the topic of Obama has come up: I'd like to express my disappointment with you, Althouse, at your announcement that you would vote for Obama in the primary. He's stated that he'll pull out of Iraq just as soon as he can, consequences be damned. Clinton may be grating, but at least she's not a crazy irresponsible leftist supported by Che fans and Weathermen.

But the real disappointment is what appeared to sway your opinion. I read your explanation for your vote, and the pivotal moment came when you watched that hideous cornball "Yes we can" propaganda video. Having read this blog for a little over a year now, I've come to expect more logical decision-making from you.

EnigmatiCore said...

I think it was mind-numbingly stupid when people got all atwitter over 'rats'.

It is equally so now. But at least some of the people having to deal with the nonsense this time were the ones pushing the nonsense last time.

Eric Muller said...

The pajamas say "Good night." You can see part of the word "good" above.

Seems to me that the only potential outrage or incompetence here is in your decision to elevate a commenter's absurd transposition of the first three letters of the word "night" into the first three letters of a hateful racist epithet, at the top of your blog.

Honestly, Ann, I would pull the plug on this post and thread right now. As a deconstructionist move, this does not even rise to the level of onion rings and the carrot slices.

(But I know it's not.)

Eric Muller said...

Omit the "but I know it's not" from the preceding comment. It was left over from an earlier version that I edited.

Ann Althouse said...

Eric, this is a carefully written post that does not say anything incorrect. I state at the outset that I think the pajamas have the words "good night." But the 3 letters are isolated on the shoulder in a series of otherwise wordless images that are intended to create an intense emotional reaction in the viewer (and to imply that Obama wouldn't be able to get up at night to take a call). I say it is either deliberate or incompetent, and I say it absolutely deliberately and after much careful thought. This post is no accident, but I can see why it disturbs you and you wish it would go away. But consider that a politician is seeking the greatest power in the word and is doing it in this ad by manipulating deep emotions in millions of people. If we aren't to look closely at that with a critical eye, we don't deserve democracy.

Paul Zrimsek said...

It's a silent g.

So the real message is that Hillary Clinton will say "Ni" to our enemies if they do not appease us?

Eric Muller said...

Ann, I'm not suggesting that you kill the thread and post because I "wish it would go away." I'm suggesting it because I admire your work and your blog, and don't think this worthy of you or it.

Gerard said...

"It is either deliberate or terribly incompetent. There is no other writing on screen until the very end of the commercial, and if letters appear in anyplace in a commercial, they should be carefully selected letters."

Well, we'll file that under "It's easy for you to say, Anne."

The presumption here is that two, four, eight pairs of eyes will see more than one hundred thousand plus pairs of eyes. Simply isn't the case in the real world of production or even life itself. Especially when many of the one hundred thousand pairs of eyes all have an agenda behind them.

I watched the commercial three times looking for it and, while I could see what you're getting at, I couldn't have begun to pull it out of the image unless someone has told me to look for it.

The seeing of this borders on delusion and the realm of delicate suggestibility. Let's try, try, to stay rational.

The Drill SGT said...

Ann said...Is the campaign responsible for sending out a subliminal message to stimulate racist thoughts in the unsuspecting viewer? It is either deliberate or terribly incompetent.

What I see is a really disgusting attempt by Obama and his supporters (including you I guess) to make every potential negative comment about Obama or his policies off limits because it is racist, either purposely or acidentally.

How can anyone fail to see how destructive this will be to the political and racial climate in the country is beyond me.

THESE WERE PJ's. Not some secret coded message to racist angry white males.

only somebody looking to create a fake incident can see anything more. It is just an attempt to divert attention from the question. Is Barak the guy you want with his finger on the button. That is the ultimate competency question since at least Goldwater. Remember: "In your heart you know he's right, in your gut, you know he's nuts?" or of course for you visual folks the daisy and the mushroom cloud.

Richard Fagin said...

Let's assume for the sake of discussion that the ad placement of "NIG" was deliberate and its intent was racial. Is that really any worse as a matter of dirty campaign tricks than Sen. Obama ginning up doubts about Sen. McCain's constituional qualification to be President? Some would say yes if only because race is involved. I wouldn't give Sen. Obama a pass on the latter issue any more than Sen. Clinton on the former. Scum is scum, no matter what color it is. Go ahead pick your favorite Democrat candidate. It seems they're both modern versions of Boss Tweed.

hdhouse said...

i thought i'd google some and get hillary off the hook...ooops...

http://www.fibre2fashion.com/nigexporters/clients.asp

ps. i'm in advertising. there are no accidents. detail is detail. but i would find something else to relate NIG to...beats me though.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

This piece anyone?

AllenS said...

Where were these pajamas made? In the Orient?

DMan said...

I'm a long time reader and this is my first comment on this blog. I just wanted to point out that this is perhaps the most ridiculous blog post I have ever seen. It's going to take me a long time to take any posts on this blog seriously after this.

PS: drill sgt, I'm an Obama supporter and I'm having a hard time figuring out how a hysterically stupid post by Althouse suggests its a conspired attempt by Obama and his supporters to frame everything as a racial attack. It isn't, it's just a simple case of a blogger going off the deep end.

Balfegor said...

You must be kidding, right? The G is partially obscured, on the side of the screen and slightly out of focus, written sideways, and present for a second or so; I wouldn't even have guessed that it was a G, had I not been told. I would have assumed a C, had I even noticed this.

I think Pastafarian has it right here -- for subliminal messaging to be effective, I think it has to be intelligible. In this case, you really have to fill in the dots (reconstruct the right-half of the G) to make it so. If it had said NIC, would there be an issue, because you could imagine C => G?

George said...

I also noticed that outside the house of the all-white family it is "black." You know, black outside the house. Outside. Not inside.

And couldn't that family at least have children of different races or one child in a wheelchair? Why couldn't there be two fathers or two mothers?

T J Sawyer said...

Or a possible third explanation:

It was deliberate to create a controversy which would then gain sympathy for Hillary. "Oh, you people are just imagining things..."

Paranoid hypersensitivity, etc.

Mr. Forward said...

"It's a silent g."

"So the real message is that Hillary Clinton will say "Ni" to our enemies if they do not appease us?"

And what appeases the Knights that say Ni? A shrubbery! In other words, A Bush!

The Plot thickens.

Tim said...

I'm with EnigmatiCore; it's hardly a wonder we can't deal with the real issues when we allow ourselves to be distracted by minutia. I'm certainly not a fan of Hillary!, but I'm very disinclined to believe she/they would engage in racial politics this absurdly.

Zeb Quinn said...

As far as Obama running for president goes, race has always been his strong suit, indeed the alpha and omega of him. You, Ann, even basically admitted as much yourself when you said that you were voting for him because of his potential in healing all the racial wounds of the country. Take away his blackness and he isn't there anymore, on the precipice of winning the nomination. So, with that being the case, anyone taking issue with his candidacy is ipso facto taking issue with his race, and is a racist. Secret and coded racist messages become ubiquitous. They are opposed to Obama? They're racist. That's where we're at.

Henry said...

Nothing is by accident?

So if we assume that the word "Nig" was intentional, my question is this: How did the Clinton campaign let an Obama-supporting director subvert an otherwise effective commercial?

Jason said...

This is just silly. There's no 'there' there.

They probably got these pajamas because they didn't want to bother with Disney licensing or NFL licensing or Star Wars licensing or anything like that, and these were the only pajamas on the shelf at Walmart that day.

Otherwise, they would have been KIDS' pajamas, with YODAS and shit all over them!

By the way, it's still business as usual at Nathan's Unpainted Arizona.

betsybounds said...

Oh, please. Can we not just stop this stuff? Nig, Ni, rats, and all the rest--maybe if the ad showed "goo" from good night, we could suspect that Clinton's people were trying to make us think of the messes Obama will get us in. Maybe they were and maybe they weren't but why we should spend our time looking for subliminal slurs when there are so many overt issues is beyond me to tell. I'm so sick of over-interpretations like this, and I don't think I'm alone. It caters to over-sensitivity we see all over the place, and pretty soon good-night will take its place alongside niggardly as being banned from polite discourse. We need to grow up.

vet66 said...

I don't believe in coincidences. This was deliberate, both brilliant and stupid at the same time.

Since we refer to the word in questions as th "N" word, the I and the G were unnecessary.

This was a subliminal message. They went through this video frame by frame more than once before they released it. Photoshop CS3 anyone?

Sheriff Cobb said...

You people should realize that Ms. Althouse is hypersensitive regarding racial matters. In Starbucks last week when the barista asked her if she wanted her latte light or a darkie, she hit him over the head with her handbag.

garage mahal said...

What I see is a really disgusting attempt by Obama and his supporters (including you I guess) to make every potential negative comment about Obama or his policies off limits because it is racist, either purposely or acidentally.

Word. And then refer to them as "those tactics", without naming the tactic, or the guilty party. It's bullshit, and I wish Hillary would just come out and say it. On top of it in his camp Jesse Jackson Jr is shaking down down Hillary superdelegates, threatening their careers if they get in the way of the black candidate. Tavis Smiley tells the truth and his family gets threatened. And here we are reading letters on pajamas.

George said...

Meanwhile, in the real world, Sen. Obama, despite not taking contributions from lobbyists, relies heavily on their advice...

"Daniel Shapiro, who advises Sen. Obama on foreign policy issues, is registered to lobby on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute and other corporate clients. Broderick Johnson, a friend and informal political adviser, heads up the lobbying arm in Washington of the Bryan Cave LLP law firm, where he represents Verizon and Shell Oil, among other clients....

There is no full list of lobbyists advising Sen. Obama, and a campaign spokesman declined to release the campaign's list of outside advisers....

They include Judith Gold, a Chicago lawyer who advises the campaign on women's issues, and is registered to lobby at the state level in Illinois for a number of corporations, including a casino operator....

betsybounds said...

It occurs to me that if people are going to decide against Obama because of a subliminal "nig" in an ad, they probably weren't going to vote for him anyway.

P. Rich said...

I have no idea whether the frames in question are there because of any deliberate intent. I do know this:

The brain continually pattern-matches and will try to fit a partial image to a stored image. This is a purely unconscious process. One famous experiment along these lines, aimed at discovering how much "information" is enough to cause a match, involved a limited dot-pattern outline of Lincoln's head.

Advertising in general is designed to work after-the-fact and outside of awareness. It isn't generally intended to rationally persuade, and some very bright people are involved in the theory behind that silly commercial you just watched, or the choice of words and delivery of that bit of oratory.

Truth is, we are all easily manipulated by certain techniques about which most of us are ignorant. Scare yourself and read up on Neuro Linguistic Programming.

Reno Sepulveda said...

Incredible, I think Instapundit needs to start using a warning label every time he links to one of your posts.

ALTHOUSE ADVISORY: Following this link may lead to frivolous, self absorbed....frivolity

Middle Class Guy said...

Almost every advertising professional interviewed said that given the technology by which commercials are assembled frame by frame...

If that was true then, it is more so now, as the technology we have today is beyond what was available then.

So the theory that this was either purposeful or an incompetent oversight holds. Whether the candidate knew or saw it is another matter.

dbp said...

I think both the Rats and Nig were accidents. Nonetheless, anyone who gave credence to the rats commercial should be made to own the nig commercial. You cannot rationally believe that rats was an accident and nig wasn't.

In fact, this is a perfect acid test: If any commenter or pundit made a big deal out of rats, but ignores nig, we will know for sure that they are political hacks--unworthy of future attention.

titusarabesque said...

Racists are too dumb to even find subliminal messages.

Gahrie said...

Let us not be niggardly in our condemnation of this subtle attempt to interject the dark shadow of racism in this race. We can hardly be accused of attempting to blacken Hillary's reputation by calling a spade a spade....she does play hardball politics.

The jig should have been up on the Clintons long ago, but it's spooky how they continue to dominate Democratic politics.

Middle Class Guy said...

The theory behind all political campaigns is the eleventh commandment; thou shat not get caught. John F. Kennedy’s campaign was probably on of the most criminal is history up to that point. He was never caught. Lyndon Baines Johnson was notorious throughout his political career for extreme dirty politics and vote manipulation and stealing. He was never caught. Richard Nixon who did not do eve half of what Kennedy and Johnson did was unfortunate, in that he was caught.

All campaigns do things that are reprehensible or even criminal. The Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry, Reagan, Bush I and II; all have stooped low to get the election. It is always the other guy who is dirty. At the end of the day, after all is said and done, it will all be forgotten until someone writes a book in about ten years.

Trooper York said...

Eddie: You're gonna give all this up? Eight Track Stereo, color T.V. in every room, and can snort a half a piece of dope everyday?! That's the American Dream, ni**g!
Youngblood Priest: That’s what it sez on my pajamas man. Can you dig it?
(Superfly, 1972)

dbp said...

Kudos Gahrie!

I like how Ann writes and what she chooses for subjects, but the wit of her commentariet is what makes this place a masterpiece.

titusarabesque said...

Currently, fellow republicans, I am not horny, but I anticipate to be horny around midnight tonight.

Mateo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mateo said...

I'm with Eric and DMan on this one. As a 20+ year marketing/design guy, I think you're giving the ad folks waaay to much credit here.

Gerard said...

The more I reflect on the lack of real visible evidence to support this post, and the more I think about Ann's rejoinder to early doubters in the comments'

"I say it is either deliberate or incompetent, and I say it absolutely deliberately and after much careful thought. This post is no accident, but I can see why it disturbs you and you wish it would go away."

The more I am reminded of this classic Monty Python routine:

Arthur: Who are you?
Knight of Ni: We are the Knights who say..... "Ni"!
Arthur: (horrified) No! Not the Knights who say "Ni"!
Knight of Ni: The same.
Other Knight of Ni: Who are we?
Knight of Ni: We are the keepers of the sacred words: Ni, Ping, and Nee-womm!
Other Knight of Ni: Nee-womm!
Arthur: (to Bedevere) Those who hear them seldom live to tell the tale!
Knight of Ni: The knights who say "Ni" demand..... a sacrifice!


How is it that the politics of race emit such a powerful reality distortion field?

Mortimer Brezny said...

I think Pastafarian has it right here -- for subliminal messaging to be effective, I think it has to be intelligible. In this case, you really have to fill in the dots (reconstruct the right-half of the G) to make it so. If it had said NIC, would there be an issue, because you could imagine C => G?

Oh, that is incorrect. The way the mind makes closure is by filling in the blanks. You don't need to see an entire face to envision what the other half of it looks like. That is not a conscious activity of the brain, it is neurological, like seeing the color red.

Certainly, Ann is correct that you activate associational networks in the brain. NIG is quite obviously in the same area of the brain as NIGGER, just as both words are nearby in the dictionary. And the commercial is about Obama. Associating those two neural pathways (Obama, Nig__) at the same time may create the subliminal message Ann is talking about. In that case the real fear being exploited here is "Do you really want a nigger in the White House?"

This is not bunk. Drew Westin has done a good amount of empirical work on it. And political hacks use such research in crafting their ads.

http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=12242

You may disagree with Ann's conclusion. But her analysis explains why the commercial -- incoherently -- focuses on kids in bed. No one is scared that terrorists will break into their home late at night and harm their children. The threat depicted does not correspond to the threat described by the narrator. But the threat depicted does prey on fears of criminals breaking into your home. And it is a persistent stereotype that black people are the source of crime. Indeed, being tough on crime has been a GOP code word for being tough on blacks. Longtime Republican strategist Lee Atwater himself admitted that.

"So if, with our subconscious, we actually notice these 2.5 letters, and our subconscious assumes that this is a G and not a C, then this forms a fragment of a racial slur, which some of us might subconsciously pick up on, and associate, naturally, with Obama."

Yes. The mind does this everyday, as when you see a sign behind Obama's head that reads "CHANG". You don't think Obama has chosen a Chinese running mate. You think Obama's head is obscuring the E because you have seen a "CHANGE" sign before. It does not require conscious thought and it takes less than a second to process.

It's funny that Ann often dithers around for fun to mass appeal, but when she writes a post that clearly demonstrates she's a genius, the claws come out.

titusarabesque said...

When I become horny at approximately 12:00 tonight it will not be subliminal.

Paul Zrimsek said...

More evidence: NIG RATS is an anagram of TAR SIGN! Coincidence, you say? Ah, that's what they said about all those Jews who just happened to stay home on 9/11!

At least NIG is three whole letters away from the fatal slur. If Hillary really wanted to play hardball, those pajamas would have had pictures of Tigger on them.

Gerard said...

"It's funny that Ann often dithers around for fun to mass appeal, but when she writes a post that clearly demonstrates she's a genius, the claws come out."

The genius part may or may not be true. I haven't seen the IQ tests. But on this one, it doesn't apply. She's simply wrong.

And she'll be the last person to admit that.

Gerard said...

But it is at least clever how she lets a commenter's question set up the whole thing.

Nixon or someone like that termed it "Plausible deniability."

Mortimer Brezny said...

At least NIG is three whole letters away from the fatal slur.

I forgot to address this. Nig is not three whole letters away from the slur. Nig has three common meanings:

1. A little nigger, e.g., a nigger child.
2. An abbreviation for Nigeria. (It requires a period, e.g., "Nig.")
3. A little bit of money. (This fell out of use in the early 19th Century.)

Nig is not a fragment of nigger. It is no different from nigger, and it is still in common usage in the Midwest and the South.

The ad is running in Texas and Ohio.

AJ Lynch said...

My 2 cents is Althouse is most proud of her keen ability to notice stuff. In this case, she noticed something that just ain't there.

Mort:
You are really going out on a limb to claim it is a Willie Hortonish ad.

Further, Obama won't lose because he is black; he will lose because of his name and his international upbringing and his far-left platform. These things are not mainstream enough to make voters feel comfortable. Someday and soon these things won't matter. This may not be fair but that is life.

If his name was more like Colin Powell or Ron Brown and he was raised in a place like Milwaukee or Madison, he'd probably be the favorite.

titusarabesque said...

My pajamas have the letters HOG on them.

titusarabesque said...

I am going to spoon with the rare clumbers right now.

Sometimes I get a woody when I spoon them.

Mortimer Brezny said...

You are really going out on a limb to claim it is a Willie Hortonish ad.

You're really going out on a limb to claim that I claimed it's a Willie Hortonish ad.

Balfegor said...

Oh, that is incorrect. The way the mind makes closure is by filling in the blanks. You don't need to see an entire face to envision what the other half of it looks like. That is not a conscious activity of the brain, it is neurological, like seeing the color red.

Certainly, Ann is correct that you activate associational networks in the brain. NIG is quite obviously in the same area of the brain as NIGGER, just as both words are nearby in the dictionary. And the commercial is about Obama.


Okay -- I don't know the research in this area. The only things I could find online were tests with complete words (picnic or U BUY or whatever. Or RATS). Here, though, I stress -- we don't actually have NIG, graphically, we have NIC. We know it is, in fact, NIG, because we can figure out that the text there is probably "Good Night," and we're seeing "NiG" out of "night." But does our associational network really run NIC => NIG? There's a possibility that the G on the upper line above NIC would "prime" us to read NIC as NIG, but I'm dubious.

Re: the children in bed, I don't think the threat is directly that terrorists will sneak in and kill your children. But neither is it that wolves will chase you down and eat you. Or that bears will maul you to death. Children are an image of vulnerability, and play on the maternal/feminine image that Clinton has tried to project (with mixed success). The archetypal fear of Black people used to be that they would rape your wife or daughter (not your prepubescent children). Now, it might be that they'll mug you in a dark alley (not your prepubescent children). I don't think there's any widespread stereotype about Black people that involves Blacks preying on children of ages 1-5.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I don't think there's any widespread stereotype about Black people that involves Blacks preying on children of ages 1-5.

That is too specific. The images are basically lifted from home invasion/burglary commercials; it's just general fear of potentially violent property crime that is being triggered by recycling familiar "crime fear" imagery.

The archetypal fear of Black people used to be that they would rape your wife or daughter (not your prepubescent children).

Yes, used to be. You're ignoring that we have mandatory minimums for crack cocaine because of widespread bunk in the mass media involving images of crazy blacks breaking into people's homes for money and items to pawn to buy more crack. You're thinking of Native Son. I'm talking about the reality of the media narratives in 80s and early 90s. Rape is not a part of this discussion. In particular the target of these commercials is downscale white women, not white men.

Okay -- I don't know the research in this area.

I gave you a link to an article by Drew Westen, who is a cognitive scientist at Emory. You can also look for a C-SPAN segment involving him and Frank Luntz and George Lakoff about how political campaigns use the neuroscience to activate associational networks exactly as Ann has described. It is not outlandish at all. It is standard operating procedure.

AJ Lynch said...

Mortimer- this is what you wrote:

"But the threat depicted does prey on fears of criminals breaking into your home. And it is a persistent stereotype that black people are the source of crime. Indeed, being tough on crime has been a GOP code word for being tough on blacks. "

If you were not comparing the ad to the Willie Horton ads, then wtf were you trying to say?

Sheepman said...

This is absurd and trivializes the real instances of race baiting. The only way you get the "NIG" is by realizing that the fragmented letters are part of "Good night". Hardly something that can be done subliminally.

If I were very cynical about HRC's team, I would say that they put this in hoping that someone overly paranoid would see it and accuse them of being racist. The absurdity of that accusation would give them some slack for more serious transgressions.

Mortimer Brezny said...

If you were not comparing the ad to the Willie Horton ads, then wtf were you trying to say?

Where do you see a comparison to the Willie Horton ad in what I wrote?

Mortimer Brezny said...

The absurdity of that accusation would give them some slack for more serious transgressions.

I don't really care to discuss whether the ad is "racist".

I think Ann's analysis of the ad is valid and plausibly sound. I think the summary dismissal of her analysis by those unware of how skilled and sophisticated political campaigns are at applying the latest findings of cognitive science is wholly unwarranted.

AJ Lynch said...

Mortimer:

You will note I wrote "Willie Hortonish ad" in my first comment. I did not claim you used that term.

You are splittling hairs because you must be unwilling or incapable of defending what you wrote.

Mortimer Brezny said...

You are splittling hairs because you must be unwilling or incapable of defending what you wrote.

No. I simply am not comparing this particular ad to the Willie Horton ad. I am talking about the validity and plausible soundness of Ann's analysis of this ad. Ann doesn't compare this ad to the Willie Horton ad, either. If you fail to understand how one can talk about this ad without talking about the Willie Horton ad, then you apparently don't understand Ann's post, either.

downtownlad said...

Now Ann believes in conspiracy theories.

And what would be the point of having a subliminal message? They have been scientifically proven to NOT work. Those images of popcorn and soda that used to show up for 1/10th of a second in movie ads in the 60's did not make people buy move soda and popcorn.

Pity you don't get as excited about the incompetence of the Bush Administration when they failed to find WMD's. Or that they deliberately lied. That is something to get truly riled up about.

Trooper York said...

I never understood why a Willie Horton ad would be such a bad thing. I mean I would rather be endorsed by Al Kaline or Norm Cash or even Mickey Lolich but what the hell if you want votes in Detroit you might as get one of those guys.
(PS you can have Isiah Thomas too if you want).

SGT Ted said...

So, Hillary thinks the Democrat Party is so chock full of racists that this ad would be effective on the primary?

Is that what you are saying Ann?

The reaction to the three letters of nig and Ann's post are what is very wrong about the modern Democrat party that see's crypto racism in every little criticism of m inorities and Obama is leading the way by having surrogates impugn its racist to say his MIDDLE FREAKIN NAME.

Even the normally level headed Ann iscaught up in this stupidity.

Barak HUSSEIN Obama. OMG I'm a racist! I needz hectoring by teh speech police. SOmeone call Al Sharpton!

Gerard said...

Screen caps and blow-ups of the "offending" portions of the ad are available now at my place:

Ann Althouse Jumps High Over Shark, Straight Up Into Reality Distortion Field

link:
http://americandigest.org/mt-archives/tinfoil_brigade/ann_althouse_ju.php#007347

garage mahal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheepman said...

Mortimer:...sophisticated political campaigns are at applying the latest findings of cognitive science
What are these "latest findings"? Anything in published papers? Sounds to me like the hype of advertising hacks trying to justify their fees. But you seem to more than the rest of us, so please inform about the latest findings in cognitive science and how this ad employs them.

Trooper York said...

Maybe Hillary can do a Bert Campaneris ad where someone throws a bat at Barack Obama.

downtownlad said...

There comes a point in blogging, where you get consumed by having more hits and that killer post that will get you lots of links.

So you do your best to find something new to write about.

So Ann thinks she found something new. I think she's incorrect. But it will probably result in a Drudge link and oodles and oodles of hits. In that case, it might prove to be one of her best posts yet. The wingnuts will eat this one up.

Trooper York said...

Of course Barack would have to be on the mound for the ad to work.

See the whole problem for Hillary is I don't think anyone has been on the mound for quite some time. But it would make a great commercial.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Up until now the latest findings of cognitive science were that you can make most people believe anything if you show them a picture of a brain scan. The very latest finding of cognitive science is that invoking the name "cognitive science" can substitute for the picture of the brain scan at a pinch.

Balfegor said...

You're ignoring that we have mandatory minimums for crack cocaine because of widespread bunk in the mass media involving images of crazy blacks breaking into people's homes for money and items to pawn to buy more crack.

Look, Charlie Rangel was a prime mover behind the push against crack cocaine. I'm pretty sure he didn't vote for mandatory minimums because he thought crazy Blacks were breaking into White homes to steal money to buy crack. See here, for example, esp. Rangel's statement at pg. 94 on. See also here for the record of the bill's cosponsors in the House (this is HR 5484 and S 2878, in case the Thomas links don't work). I don't have a handy cite, but I recall reading that Jesse Jackson was also in favour of harsh penalties for crack at the time. Crazy Black people committing crimes were not their narrative. I'm not denying that there were media narratives pushing the image of crazy Black people. But your causal link -- that "because of" -- is just incorrect. Many of the people pushing for heightened penalties were concerned primarily about the impact of crack cocaine on Black communities.

I gave you a link to an article by Drew Westen, who is a cognitive scientist at Emory.

Yes, thank you. And I'm familiar with Lakoff's writings on metaphor and political campaigning and so on, as well as his linguistics research (at least as it stood four or five years ago).

garage mahal said...

[edited]

What would be the point of suggesting "Good Nig"?

Balfegor said...

Re: Downtownlad

In that case, it might prove to be one of her best posts yet. The wingnuts will eat this one up.

I think so far, we wingnuts are responding with extreme skepticism.

hdhouse said...

it could be the kid's initials....a monogram...

NIG

....geeze no one would plant a middle name of Ignatz on their kid.

downtownlad said...

I can't wait til Barack Obama has an ad against John McCain where he criticizes the Republicans, and "can" in Republican is momentarilly shown on the screen, obviously alluding to the skin CANcer that McCain had, and subliminally making the point that McCain is too old for the job.

Trooper York said...

Hillary could also do a Roger Clemins ad. She could have Roger's personal trainer inject her in the ass with steroids like he did Roger's wife. That will let everyone know who has the testosterone in this race. Along with the human growth hormone.

downtownlad said...

Why didn't Ann get upset when George Bush had push phone calls about John McCain during the 2000 South Carolina primary that said that McCain had a black child?

Mortimer Brezny said...

What are these "latest findings"? Anything in published papers?

Sure. See the work of Geoffrey Nunberg (UC Berkeley), George Lakoff (Stanford), and Drew Westen (Emory). All three professors have been employed as Democratic strategists.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Nunberg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lakoff

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drew_Westen

The Language of Political Candidates Lecture on C-SPAN is here:

http://www.c-spanarchives.org/library/index.php?main_page=product_video_info&products_id=202168-2

AJ Lynch said...

Some claim George Lakoff is a linguistics expert. His main claim to fame is that Dems pay him big bucks to make them feel good.

How does he do that? He advise the Dems that:

"don't worry - the Republicans only won in 2000 and 2004 because they tricked the voters with sneaky code-words."

Balfegor said...

Some claim George Lakoff is a linguistics expert. His main claim to fame is that Dems pay him big bucks to make them feel good.

Well, he is, actually, a respected linguistics expert. Just not a particularly good political consultant.

downtownlad said...

I think I'm leaning towards Hilary now. I'm worried about what will happen to the crime rate if Obama wins.

titusarabesque said...

I just finished my spooning session with the rare clumbers and would like to report that I did not get a woody.

Now off to the gym.

Palladian said...

"Oh, that is incorrect. The way the mind makes closure is by filling in the blanks. You don't need to see an entire face to envision what the other half of it looks like. That is not a conscious activity of the brain, it is neurological, like seeing the color red."

This is not analogous. You can envision the other hidden half of a face because faces are (more or less) symmetrical. The word fragment "nig" is not symmetrical. I'd be more interested in this theory if the third letter were discernible, but it isn't.

This is a bit like listening to Twin Peaks fans in the old days, trying to discern the subtle meaning conveyed by the angle that Audrey's dress hangs in relation to the "Golden Ratio".

AJ Lynch said...

Paul:

Picture of brain scan or repeat the words "cognitive science".

LOL.

PatCA said...

I don't think the NIG means anything.

However, this picture of Hillary has got to be purposeful.

http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/US-PRESIDENTIAL-ELECTION-St-Clairsville2C-Ohio-Senator-Hillary-Clinton/photo//080228/ids_photos_ts/r315812455.jpg/

titusarabesque said...

Today at the gym is back and biceps and of course the required abs for days.

Then a protein shake-whey, with bananas and strawberries.

Next, perhaps picking up a little blouse.

And then, this is going to blow your mind fellow republicans, I am going to a museum.

titusarabesque said...

I cant wait until the first robin appears. It means darkness and cold will be leaving us and sun and light is here.

Thank you.

Meade said...

Trooper York: Barack would have to be on the mound and have Hillary injected in the ass with steroids just like Roger Clemens' wife.

Baron Titus von Hogmore: Racist anti-clumber homophobic lesbian!

Middle Class Guy said...

Trooper York said...
Maybe Hillary can do a Bert Campaneris ad where someone throws a bat at Barack Obama.

Barack likes to shoot hoops. Soooo, an ad with Hillary as Bobby Knight, throwing a chair at Barack, then grabbing him and shaking him while screaming and spattering spittle wildly.

Sheepman said...

Mortimer: Thanks for posting the links. Interesting stuff and I don't don't doubt that a lot of thought goes into the effect that words and images have in a political ad.

The question here is whether or not "NIG" would register at all by someone viewing this ad. If it doesn't register then it can't be used to manipulate. I'm not an expert in this field, but from a quick look at the links you provided, I didn't see any dealing with subliminal words or images.

Unlike the "RAT" ad, this doesn't jump out at the viewer even when you stop the frame and look closely.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I'm not denying that there were media narratives pushing the image of crazy Black people. But your causal link -- that "because of" -- is just incorrect. Many of the people pushing for heightened penalties were concerned primarily about the impact of crack cocaine on Black communities.

I'm not sure this is really a criticism of what I wrote unless you interpret "because of" to mean "only because of," which I didn't write. I was also answering your misconception of what the ad was playing on. I do not reject the fact that the movement for harsh crack penalties had many proponents, but the point of my comment was not to describe in fine granularity the movement for harsh crack penalties (including its non-dominant but alternate voices), but rather to counter your suggestion that the images in this ad are not essentially stock copy rolls of the 80s and 90s media narratives concerning crazy cracked-up blacks.

So, touche, I suppose. But it's really rather irrelevant. I would take issue with your "many of" and reduce it to "a minority that was neither sufficient nor predominant". I also reject your analysis by looking to the bill's sponsors. It should be clear that the Clinton ad targets an audience other than Charlie Rangel, or even the whole of Congress. My implication is that crazy media narratives push ordinary citizens to bother their representatives about things and that representatives who want to be re-elected respond. Whether the motives of Charlie Rangel were pure or not, many now acknowledge that Congress overreacted to the crack epidemic and that overreaction was fueled by the media narratives, which stoked fear in many communities. For any bill that later proved unwise, I can plumb the legislative history and find multiple plausible rationales for it and pick out one that supports the argument I want to make. That does not prove what the impetus for the collective of the legislative body was to come together to pass the bill because it ignores what various pressures were exerted on different legislators that are left unexpressed on the legislative floor.

If you agree that the media overhyping was rampant, then your quibble serves no purpose. The ad refers back to that narrative by using similar images. And that narrative significantly contributed (if you don't like the word "caused") to the Congressional overreaction. But I don't really care for semantical games about the word "cause," which are as old as philosophy itself and wholly unilluminating.

The word fragment "nig" is not symmetrical. I'd be more interested in this theory if the third letter were discernible, but it isn't.

CHANGE with a missing E is not symmetrical.

We simply disagree as to what can be seen in a screenshot. The G does not look like a C. The hook or bar of the G is clearly visible. There is no other letter in the English alphabet that it could possibly be. There is just enough information for closure.

Bluto said...

I'm sorry, Ann, you're pretty rational for a lefty, but I have no choice but to mock this post mercilessly.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I didn't see any dealing with subliminal words or images

That's just incorrect. Lakoff, Nunberg, and Westen all do work concerning associational networks in the context of political rhetoric. Westen even uses a Power Point presentation and demonstrated priming in the C-SPAN video link I provided. Westen also analyzes the subliminal use of words, images, and sounds in the link to the American Prospect article I provided upstream.

titusarabesque said...

Ann, you are a great American for bringing this sensitive topic on your post.

As a republican, I believe that this should be investigated and put in the news of every major media outlet in the country.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If the partially seen letter on the right is a capital G, the presence of a lower-case i between it and the capital N is inexplicable. I can only conclude that the letter on the right is a capital O, and the ad is making a subliminal allusion to the difference between gree nickel oxide, NiO, and black nickel oxide, Ni2O3, to convince the suggestible watcher that the candidate he thinks of as "black" as actually green when it comes to foreign policy.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I can only conclude that the letter on the right is a capital O, and the ad is making a subliminal allusion to the difference between gree nickel oxide, NiO, and black nickel oxide, Ni2O3, to convince the suggestible watcher that the candidate he thinks of as "black" as actually green when it comes to foreign policy.

This might make sense if most people knew anything about chemistry. I imagine the percentage of the population that is faimiliar with chemistry is smaller than the percentage that uses or has heard nig used as a slur.

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palladian said...

NIG GIN

RATS STAR

Which reminds me:

"My friend, my friend, I was born
doing reference work in sin, and born
confessing it. This is what poems are:
with mercy
for the greedy,
they are the tongue's wrangle,
the world's pottage, the rat's star."

From "With Mercy For The Greedy" by Anne Sexton

IOpian said...

Well let's not miss the subtle impression of the white guy's hard work at the beginning while the blacks lay around.

This whole assertion is absolutely ridiculous. We have become a nation of gullible paranoid idiots.

This is the same type of moronic thinking of people that see the Virgin Mary in a grease spot on a potato chip or grain pattern in a piece of wood.

titusarabesque said...

I have wrote to Fox News in hopes that they will be covering this incredibly important relevation.

This is the type of critical news the drive by media ignores.

Palladian said...

"This is the same type of moronic thinking of people that see the Virgin Mary in a grease spot on a potato chip or grain pattern in a piece of wood."

At least the appearance of the Virgin is something hopeful.

Paul Zrimsek said...

We have arrived at a state that transcends mere comedy. Never have Sir Archy's services been needed more.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Anne Sexton! Sex-ton!

SEX-ton

SEX

Palladian wants to screw Ann.

Palladian said...

"Palladian wants to screw Ann."

You're projecting, Mort. But you're an Obama fan, so projecting is what you guys do best.

titusarabesque said...

I love Anne Sexton.

Mortimer Brezny said...

You're projecting, Mort. But you're an Obama fan, so projecting is what you guys do best.

If you mean Obama inspires others to project the promise of restoring America's greatness and moral authority in the world, I would say that you are certainly entitled to your view, but I would hesitate to share it until I know what the results of Tuesday are.

George said...

He has his own response ad up now. Notice that he is clearly in the..white...house.

Here's an earlier rather eerie Obama ad. Notice that he says "in 20 years of public service I've brought Republicans and Democrats together."

He was only elected to the Illinois legislature in 1996.

His talking points are as tangled as Ann Sexton's legs.

rhhardin said...

NIG is quite obviously in the same area of the brain as NIGGER, just as both words are nearby in the dictionary.

Poets organize their brains with spelling reversed.

That's how they think of rhymes.

--Blue Girl said...

Oh good grief - "nig" are the first three letters of "night" - you know, when we put on our jammies and go to bed?

I usually ignore the silliness of AA, but this is as stupid as the onion ring post.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Like Pastafarian says: we are in for a very bumpy ride. Everything is going to be filtered through the lense of outraged, hypersensitive racism. Even the most innocent of remarks or the most legitimate criticism will not be allowed because we will be branded as racists.

Here are some questions for y'all. Obama is 1/2 Kenyan and 1/2 Kansas. Equal genetic pool (supposedly) of white and black. However much of the ethnic makeup of Kenyans and Somalis is Arabic (caucasian) Why isn't doesn't he consider himself 1/2 white? Could it be because it would eliminate his ability to wack us all over the head with the race card.

Why have we become so obsessed with race Not since the pre Civil War days when an Octoroon or Quadroon was determined by the amount of "black" blood have we been this obsessed? There is no such thing as black blood. If we want to parse genetics, Obama is probably 1/4 or less of Negroid genetic contribution and the rest from Caucasian and Asian genes. (These are antropological terms. So look them up before y'all get your nickers in a knot)

This entire issue is rank manipulation and dishonest.

Kathy said...

You people are nuts. I've watched the video half a dozen times, and I don't see any letters at all on that child's pajamas.

You probably were the ones pushing the "Paul is dead" thing, too, right?

Palladian said...

"You people are nuts. I've watched the video half a dozen times, and I don't see any letters at all on that child's pajamas."

Well then you're probably an idiot, Kath. There are letters on the pajamas. But I'd watch it with that "you people". If you'd actually read the comments here you'd find a significant amount of disagreement and differing interpretation. But if you can't see that there are, indeed, letters on the pajamas, then I don't expect you to be able to actually read the comments here, which have lots of letters in them.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Kathy,

RiehlWorldView has a screenshot showing the letters. Again, Ann may not be right, but her analysis is valid and plausibly sound.

http://www.riehlworldview.com/carnivorous_conservative/2008/03/did-hillary-ad.html

James said...

"Certainly, each image is artfully composed and shot and intended to deliver an emotional impact. Could this be a mere lapse?"

You are aware, of course, that the images of the family are stock footage and were not shot specifically for this ad? Anyone making a low-budget commercial can purchase and use them, as indeed the Obama team did in their answer video. The real question is why the Mom is still wearing her office clothes at 3 in the morning.

Mortimer Brezny said...

But if you can't see that there are, indeed, letters on the pajamas, then I don't expect you to be able to actually read the comments here, which have lots of letters in them.

LOL. Great post.

randyh said...

This is a shockingly stupid line of thought. And this comes from someone that thinks Hillary is awful and should never be elected.

You have completely discredited yourself with this post.

Sheepman said...

You probably were the ones pushing the "Paul is dead" thing...
Paul's not dead. He was recently seen having oral sex with Linda in a Beatles song.

Palladian said...

"You are aware, of course, that the images of the family are stock footage and were not shot specifically for this ad?"

You have proof of the accuracy of your assertion, yes?

Palladian said...

Thanks, Mort. Expect hoards of Kathys (You're nuts! I've never been to your blog before, but I had to come to tell you how stupid you are...), as this post has probably been linked by a million nasty weblogs.

Palladian said...

And I say all this as someone who doesn't buy the premise of this post.
But I appreciate sensitivity to visual meaning, so I appreciate this sort of speculation even when I don't personally believe the interpretation.

I really hate unimaginative people who say things like "OMG. Stupidest thing ever! You're nuts! You're crazy! Put down the bong!" whenever someone tries to talk about the subtlety of visual meaning. It's the same boring people who look at a De Kooning and say "My kid could do that!".

But politics is full of boring, unimaginative people so I'm not surprised.

Balfegor said...

It should be clear that the Clinton ad targets an audience other than Charlie Rangel, or even the whole of Congress.

Yes. I'd note that Rangel was, in fact, the point man in Congress on the subject of Crack Cocaine, but that is beside the point. I'm mostly irritated that people always complain about the 100-1 sentencing ratio without ever noticing that Black leaders were the ones pushing for it in Congress, setting up special committees to look into the crack cocaine epidemic and all. Sure, the enforcement they pushed for seems to have failed utterly and wreaked a terrible havoc on their communities. But they pushed for it. Those specific leaders (i.e. Rangel and his fellow CBC members from the 80s), ought to own up to their own poor judgment before they point the finger at White racism.

That aside, nothing you are telling me leads me to believe that you are correct we're supposed to imagine the threat to the innocent little babes to be crazy Black burglars, hopped up on crack or otherwise. Admittedly, I don't watch TV, so maybe there is some kind of tradition of ads all about children menaced by [Black] burglars breaking into your home, but the only ad I've even seen featuring home burglary was, I think, from the NRA, and must have been aired sometime in the 90s.

The NIC => NIGHT => NIG thing I might be able to come around to, although I think it's really reaching. There is a G floating around elsewhere in that image, after all, even if it's in the wrong place. It would probably be possible to test that by cutting off the entire end bit and testing peoples' reactions to (a) Clinton, (b) generic White, (c) Obama, and (d) generic Black, since Clinton doesn't even show up until the end. I could be persuaded.

But "danger to sleeping children => OMFG BLACK PEOPLE WILL BREAK IN YOUR HOME AND VIOLATE YOUR CHILDREN!!!!"

Uh,

No.

When you see a female politician and babies, and the promise to protect them from harm, the first association you get to is not "Black people = danger!", even if she's running against a Black opponent. It's the maternal archetype. I'm pretty sure this is true of lower class women in Texas and Ohio too.

And frankly, if the combination of sleeping children + amorphous danger encodes anti-Black prejudices, Clinton doesn't need to run ads. She just needs parents to go and look at their children when they're sleeping and worry whether they've turned the alarm on. And that's something I'm pretty sure they do already. Even Obama voters.

Palladian said...

"And that's something I'm pretty sure they do already. Even Obama voters."

No, Obama voters have the servants turn on the alarm.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

This is why we should go back to radio.

Balfegor said...

This is why we should go back to radio.

No, then it's menacing background music with drums => African drums => TEH RACISM!

You can't escape it.

AJ Lynch said...

Ann:
You think this oh so subtle racist message was put together by the same Clintonistas who were battling it out a week or so ago???

I.e Mark Penn and Mandy Grunwald were reported to be loudly arguing over which sucked more....his message or her ad.

If that report is true, I doubt they could pull this off if they had tried.

CK MacLeod said...

Even without reference to the other criticisms mentioned by others above, there's no good reason to accept the overarching hypothesis motivating this post - that there exists a pool of voters who could be moved either to change a vote or to vote at all because of such a weak association. There's much better reason to believe that embedding this kind of message intentionally would entail much greater risk than likely return: All it would take is one qualified blabbermouth who was "in" on the conspiracy to slur Obama, and the Clinton campaign, possibly the Clinton career, would be over.

The notion that subliminal messages of this type can be an effective way to sell a candidate - or hot popcorn at a movie theater - remains unproven and highly speculative, even though it's been on the public agenda at least since Vance Packard's seminal piece of pseudo-science THE HIDDEN PERSUADERS. Some X-FILES fans, nutjob conspiracists, self-amazed bloggers, and gullible hacks might want to believe that an electorally meaningful number of automaton-like voters, once infected and re-programmed by this nearly invisible meme, will change their votes, but speculation about neural pathways and linguistics do not bear on the main idea: That voters might be moved.

Again, there's no proof for this theory. The political messages that have appeared to work in the past have often been non-verbal or indirect (wolves, Willie Horton), but that's not the same as "subliminal."

Note: I've embedded certain coded messages in this post, that are currently re-wiring your brains. Despite yourselves, many of you will suddenly turn sane over the coming weeks and months and fight to keep the Democrats out of the White House. Deal with it!

James said...

"You are aware, of course, that the images of the family are stock footage and were not shot specifically for this ad?"

You have proof of the accuracy of your assertion, yes?


If the Clinton team spent money on a director, cinematographer, camera team, lighting crew, wardrobe staff, makeup crew, production designer, child models, adult model, soundstage rental, dolly track, fee to the owners of the house (for the exterior shot) and craft services all for the production of this 11th hour act of advertising desperation, than they're in more trouble than I thought. Okay, maybe they nixed craft services.

rightwingprof said...

You are joking, right? First, I see no G (it could just as easily be a C), second, this would be nearly impossible to pull off deliberately, and third, well, this is just off the rails nuts.

Daryl said...

Althouse is playing with her vortex in public... not a pretty sight.

Everyone can see that she doesn't really believe this, it's just a move for attention and controversy.

Her reliance on the "bureaucRATS" scandal is telling. She's basically saying, "if you don't agree with me, then you think Bush did nothing wrong in 2004." Maybe a few gullible liberals will be guilt-tripped into agreeing with her, but it's a patently artificial ploy.

Trooper York said...

Hillary Clinton: Hello.
Bircham: Yes I would like to apply for a position as a terrorist fighter.
Hillary Clinton: I'm sorry sir, we don't have any openings.
Bircham: You don't have any openings for a guy who can put on a blindfold, dismantle an AK-47, oil it up and reassemble it in under four minutes?
Hillary Clinton: I'm afraid...
Bircham: No openings for someone who can slip in under cover of darkness, garrote his target with piano wire, and escape undetected, you don't have any openings for someone like that?
Hillary Clinton: Sir...
Bircham: A man who put his ass on the line for two tours in Vietnam, so you could go home to your lesbian partner, and live in a judgment-free society. No openings for someone like that?
Hillary Clinton: Bill, John McCain is prank calling us again….(hangs up phone)
(Crank Yankers, 2002)

Seven Machos said...

It's awful for the Clinton campaign that Americans are talking about Obama's blackness when huge primaries in Ohio and Texas are coming up. They never should have run this ad.

somefeller said...

The idea that there was some sort of attempt by Hillary's campaign to make the letters on a child's pajamas appear for a few seconds (via creative folding and angling) to show a racial slur is just absurd. This is the line of thinking that causes people to find swastikas in tile floors.

More importantly, trying trivializes an important issue. Anything involving matters of race and racial slurs is a powderkeg, and you need more than a few seconds (at best) of part of a pajama shot to justify raising this issue. I thought the DemocRATS analysis of that ad a few years back was silly, but in any case, it wasn't dealing with a serious issue, so no real harm was or could be done by indulging in some uninformed speculation. That isn't the case here.

One thing's for sure, though. I see that this has now been linked to from Riehl World View, and presumably now other right-wing bloggers will pick this up as an opportunity to do some Hillary-bashing, complete with opportunistic and cynical claims that her campaign was involved in subliminal racism. Nice work, Ann. I guess that was the goal, right?

Trooper York said...

Hillary Clinton: Hello.
Special Ed: I GOT MAIL. I GOT MAIL. YAY.
Hillary Clinton: Who is this? It’s three o’clock in the morning.
Special Ed: I GOT MAIL. I GOT MAIL. YAY.
Hillary Clinton: How did you get this number? Is that you Richardson? I told you I have to win before I choose a vice-president.
Special Ed: I GOT MAIL. I GOT MAIL. YAY.
Hillary Clinton: Bill, you take this, I can’t deal with this moron.
Bill Clinton: Hello
Special Ed: I GOT MAIL. I GOT MAIL. YAY.
Bill Clinton: Son it sounds to me like you're low-bred.
Special Ed: Bread makes me poop! I GOT MAIL. I GOT MAIL. YAY!
Bill Clinton: I know it’s you Richardson! Get off this phone…and get a shave. (Slams down phone).
(Crank Yankers, 2002)

Meade said...

CK MacLeod said......All it would take is one qualified blabbermouth who was "in" on the conspiracy to slur Obama, and the Clinton campaign, possibly the Clinton career, would be over.

"Qualified," "Blabbermouth," "In on..."

Means, Motive, Opportunity...

But then it still doesn't quite add up does it? I mean, Bill already gave that a try and came up bupkis...

Hmm. Does commenter "Tom" have an IP address?

Kathy said...

Palladian wrote: "Well then you're probably an idiot, Kath. There are letters on the pajamas."

Mortimer wrote: "RiehlWorldView has a screenshot showing the letters."

Yes. *Exactly.* And as I commented at Dan Riehl's blog, who takes a 100% screen cap of a campaign ad to look for letters in menacing combination? *When you look at the video as it's running normally, you cannot see any letters.* Even on the screen cap, the letters are ambiguous and hard to see or interpret clearly.

"But I'd watch it with that "you people". If you'd actually read the comments here you'd find a significant amount of disagreement and differing interpretation."

There you have a point. So allow me to recast that phrase: "Ann, and those of her readers who think, as she does, that the letters NIG can be seen on the sleeping child's pajamas and are meant to subtly convey a racist slur against Obama, are nuts."

Better?

Mortimer Brezny said...

That aside, nothing you are telling me leads me to believe that you are correct we're supposed to imagine the threat to the innocent little babes to be crazy Black burglars, hopped up on crack or otherwise. Admittedly, I don't watch TV

1. You don't watch TV. Surprise, surprise! You have no idea what TV images I am referring to.

2. I am not saying anyone is "supposed to imagine". Using your imagination would be a willful and conscious process. We are discussing subliminal techniques that trigger associational networks in the brain.

Charlie Rangle aside -- I already noted that your crack-cocaine digression was 100% irrelevant -- the images from the 80s media narrative "crazy blackfolk need crack and will break into your house for shit to pawn!" are quite similar to the images in the ad.

The point is that people who witnessed that media coverage and bought it (regardless of what was going on in Congress) are still around today. Assuming the crazy media coverage triggered fear then, you hit the same area of the brain with a similar image and retrigger the same fear. It's really not that complicated.

Logical or not, if everytime I have been punched in the face it was by a dude wearing a yellow shirt, I might get nervous around yellow-shirted dudes.

Very.

Simple.

Now, you could argue that the media overhyping of the crackhead epidemic did not reflect or amplify any fears of blackfolk, but that's an idiosyncratic and implausible view you are fully entitled to discuss with your imaginary friends.

Gerard said...

Somefeller writes: "One thing's for sure, though. I see that this has now been linked to from Riehl World View, and presumably now other right-wing bloggers will pick this up as an opportunity to do some Hillary-bashing, complete with opportunistic and cynical claims that her campaign was involved in subliminal racism."

Actually, I'm tracking that and the tilt seems to be a bit of justified Althouse bashing for playing the "Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes" card.

Judging from the true believer acolytes in this crowd I'd say most of the believers in this bit of blather are all right here and staying here.

somefeller said...

The last comment should have said this in the first sentence of the second paragraph:

More importantly, trying to claim this was a racist slur trivializes an important issue.

I should have read more closely before I hit publish. But actually, restating this sentence is worthwhile.

Ann Althouse said...

Some people here are being willfully unobservant. Let me remind you of several things about this post, which I hope you were able to perceive when initially reading it:

1. I said the pajamas have "good night" printed all over them. (So don't act as if you're pointing that out to me!)

2. I said that because ads like this are or should be examined frame by frame with a critical eye the letters are EITHER deliberate and shockingly hateful OR accidental and shockingly incompetent. One or the other: Take your pick, but don't act like I didn't present alternatives.

3. Whether the subliminal effect will actually work or not is irrelevant to my observations. The letters are there and they shouldn't be there. That is true whether the subliminal effect works or not. If it doesn't work, that's more evidence of incompetence.

Raise your game, people. Your resistance to what I'm saying doesn't absolve you of the responsibility to observe and become a competent consumer of advertising.

somefeller said...

Actually, I'm tracking that and the tilt seems to be a bit of justified Althouse bashing for playing the "Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes" card. Judging from the true believer acolytes in this crowd I'd say most of the believers in this bit of blather are all right here and staying here.

Well, I hope you are right on that score, Gerard. Still, even if that is the response, that doesn't necessarily mean that there wasn't an intent to get another kind of response with this post.

somefeller said...

I said that because ads like this are or should be examined frame by frame with a critical eye the letters are EITHER deliberate and shockingly hateful OR accidental and shockingly incompetent. One or the other: Take your pick, but don't act like I didn't present alternatives.

Your second option presupposes that there is a hateful image that is so obvious that only an incompetent would miss it, and only works if that presupposition is correct. Sorry, that presupposition has been shot down already. There are more than two options on the table, despite your attempts to claim otherwise, and at least one of those options makes you look pretty bad for hyping this issue. And don't claim that posting this item on your blog wasn't an attempt at getting the issue hyped and in the public discourse, at least in the blogosphere.

Meade said...

"Take your pick, but don't act like I didn't present alternatives."

Okay. I pick shockingly incompetent minus the shockingly.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Your second option presupposes that there is a hateful image that is so obvious that only an incompetent would miss it, and only works if that presupposition is correct.

No, it doesn't. The second option presupposes that a professional would be aware of the plausibility of the first interpretation. HRC's staff is comprised of professionals, a few of whom are well aware of Lakoff, Nunberg, and Westen. Mark Penn is a professional pollster just like Frank Luntz. Frank Luntz was on that C-SPAN panel with Lakoff and Westen. Not to mention Westen briefed Senate Democrats and their staffs on "the political brain" in advance of the 2006 elections.

Trooper York said...

I pick "These Boots are Made for Walking" because it's groovy and it has a beat we can dance to and I want to hear it on American Bandstand.

Meade said...

Uh HUH. I see. It's Trooper "Tom" York, isn't it?

josh said...

Ann said:

"Feel free to observe the claws out on many other websites, where personal attacks on me take the place of any serious effort to engage on the merits. For example, the usually serious blogger Kevin Drum calls me harebrained and a glue sniffer. The vicious attack on the messenger bespeaks fear of the message and lack of a substantive argument against it."

That's not what Drum said. He called your POST hairbrained. Don't you get pissed when people misread your posts? Please retract/correct and apologize.

[Actually, do what you like. I just love it when you go on other sites and demand the same when you feel someone misrepresents what you said. Calling you hairbrained is utterly different from calling your post hairbrained. Setting aside the merits, it utterly destroys the last sentence of this post about attacking the messenger rather than the argument]

ethan said...

C'mon, people. Althouse is a fucking hack who makes fun of other woman for having tits.

She deserves 1/1000th of the traffic she gets, if that.

Peter Schledorn said...

Before you make too much of Kevin Drum's remarks, better see the film "Airplane!".

Or at least read its Wikipedia entry.

Gerard said...

Mortimer, the Pecksniffian repetition just isn't making it.

Far, far too complicated an explanation and repeatedly returns to the self same spot. May I introduce you to my razor once owned by Occum in hope it might cut a bit of the conspiracy thinking out of you quicker than a cattle prod.

Bottom line is that you can't see it unless you are told to see it.

The point of this post, as somefeller intuits, was "an intent to get another kind of response" and that response was attention not truth or even accuracy. Viewed in that light it was successful indeed. At the cost of people's estimates of trustworthiness and what shreads of ethical behavior remain. But law school teaches you to ride that out.

Too bad because this sort of touting of trivia and pumping nothing up to something evil only damages blogs and bloggers.

James said...

Now, now, Ethan. If you recall Ann said that Jessica Valenti's top and three-quarter turn were EITHER deliberate and shockingly hateful OR accidental and shockingly incompetent. Don't act like she didn't present alternatives.

josh said...

Peter, I don't care about what Drum said. All I was p[ointing out was how Ann mischaracterized what he said, turning it into an "attack the messenger" defense. Regardless of what you think about Drum, he didn't attack the messenger. he attacked the post.

Revenant said...

I agree with enigmaticore -- I thought the "RATS" controversy was dippy, and this controversy is as well.

In any case, the percentage of Americans who are horrified by the use of the word "nigger" significantly exceeds the tiny percentage of Americans who actually refer to blacks that way. So I don't see how this could be a deliberate stunt by Clinton.

Mortimer Brezny said...

May I introduce you to my razor once owned by Occum in hope it might cut a bit of the conspiracy thinking out of you quicker than a cattle prod.

Actually, I'm the one using Occam's razor. Political advertisers recycling images that have previously triggered certain reactions is not a conspiracy theory. It's what political advertisers are paid to do.

If you cannot see the hook of the G in that screenshot, you don't need Occam's razor, you need to upgrade from Stevie Wonder's eyes.

rhhardin said...

You could yell nigger all day and it would have no effect on me, except to find other company.

Obama has much different problems.

A lot of this strikes me as soap opera worries : pick details and follow them as if they mattered to people.

Nigger itself would be another example, in fact. Its current value is in the taking of offense at it, a posture that somehow isn't laughed off stage.

What other really really awful things are there? Nooses! Swastikas! Bomb threats on test days!

A nation of moron children out there, whose eyes are sold to advertisers.

You have to account for its being there, its legs in the media.

It doesn't turn up in real life as worthy of notice.

Mortimer Brezny said...

In any case, the percentage of Americans who are horrified by the use of the word "nigger" significantly exceeds the tiny percentage of Americans who actually refer to blacks that way.

Hmm. But this is playing in Texas and Ohio.

Jacob said...

I think the NIC is short for nicotine– a sleazy way for Hillary Clinton to remind voters that Obama used to be a smoker.

Chris said...

"I'm not that clever." I think that's what the Turk said not long before Michael killed him.

scotth said...

"Is the campaign responsible for sending out a subliminal message to stimulate racist thoughts in the unsuspecting viewer?"

LOL.

Trooper York said...

Boy, you guys post a lot of comments. Don't you have anything else to do? Get a life. Jeeeez.

publius said...

i've never posted here, and i think you catch some unjustified crap at times.

but this -- by a large margin -- the silliest most ridiculous blog post I've ever read. and i've read a lot of silly blog posts.

Beldar said...

Actually, Obama's history as a smoker would, for some voters now in his camp, be a bigger turn-off than pointing out that, ya know, he's black. (Or more precisely, that with parents from Kansas and Kenya who were racially typical of the majority races of each, he self-identifies now as "black." Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

But what's the evidence for him being an ex-smoker? I've looked for, but have yet to find, anything to confirm that he's been successful in kicking the habit. (Pretty hard, since there's a much more effective information embargo on his smoking than on his being, you know, black.)

dmfoiemjsof said...

Excellent post - I'm surprised how many people think Ann is crazy. I agree this is either an incredibly incompetant slip (highly unlikely) or a racist ad. Either way, Clinton should answer for it.

miked0268 said...

One problem with the idea that this image is a deliberate thing - I assume that Hillary Clinton and her advisers do not whip out camcorders and film their own commercials. They would, I think, have to hire a private company that films TV commercials and work with them to develop the ads they want. Wouldn't that mean that such an image could only be planted with the knowledge of a fairly large number of employees at the ad company, with no way of knowing whether they are Hillary supporters or not? Wouldn't it be too big of a risk to take, any confidentiality agreements notwithstanding? Can anyone with knowledge of the TV advertising industry verify this?

This concept of a deliberate subliminal message seems to have the same problem as most conspiracy theories: Too many people would have to know about it for anyone to be confident that it could be kept secret. Seems to fail the common sense test.

The other option mentioned by the professor here: Is the fact that this image is in the ad really indicative that someone is "incompetent" for not catching it? Is it really standard practice for TV ads to be carefully analyzed frame by frame before release? Again it would be helpful to hear from someone involved in this sort of thing professionally.

MadisonMan said...

Why didn't Ann get upset when George Bush had push phone calls about John McCain during the 2000 South Carolina primary that said that McCain had a black child?

Yeah, why wasn't Ann posting on blogger in 2000?

I've seen the ad once, and the letters did not jump out at me, but they're there on close inspection -- can they be subliminal if they're in plain sight for those who look? I remember seeing kids in bed, but not anything about what they were wearing.

I lean to agreeing that nothing is accidental in an ad -- but this ad was probably put together quickly, and the possibility of incompetence increases as the speed with which the ad is made increases.

Quite a vortex.

Original Mike said...

2. I said that because ads like this are or should be examined frame by frame with a critical eye the letters are EITHER deliberate and shockingly hateful OR accidental and shockingly incompetent. One or the other: Take your pick, but don't act like I didn't present alternatives.

I don't accept either. I don't believe it's deliberate (though I can't prove that), nor do I accept that it's shockingly incompetent. Only the hypersensitive, perpetually outraged crowd would even think to be offended. And they're always going to find something no matter what you do. Mere humans have no defense against such creatures. It's not worth the effort to even try. You will fail.

Jim said...

"The vicious attack on the messenger bespeaks fear of the message and lack of a substantive argument against it."

Careful, Ann. That's what the 9/11 conspiracy nuts say about you!

CK MacLeod said...

Since I've already explained why I don't think the idea that this was intentional makes any sense, the next question is whether what's been described suggests "shocking... incompetence." I'd say that it more likely suggests tiresome over-analysis, the kind of scrutiny that would almost certainly have found SOMETHING racially insensitive in some Clinton ad or statement at just around this point in time: It could have been cloud patterns shaped like the Mark of the Beast, a photo of Obama in which the position of his fingers suggested gangbanger signs, a photo of his wife in a pose that reminded someone of some famous photo of Angela Davis - who knows? The mind boggles at the rich range of possible associations, and sighs resignedly when contemplating the general election to come.

The harder any campaign works to expunge all conceivable counterproductive references to race or other hot-button issues, the more likely that something "shocking" will turn up. It's called the "return of the repressed" in psycho-analysis. It's called why you unintentionally said some risque about your significant other when meeting your future father-in-law.

NOTE: I've implanted another "get sane, vote McCain" coded message in the above post, and there's nothing you can do about it. Just couldn't help myself.

MadisonMan said...

But let me front page this one,

Aaa. Again with the noun verbing. Living on the east coast is New Yorking your writing skills.

former law student said...

Is nig negligible?

Ask Kiwi Camara, Harvard Law grad whose career has been seriously limited by his posting his Real Property outline online. He summarized the case of Shelley v. Kraemer, by writing "Nigs buy land with no nig covenant; Q: Enforceable?"

George said...

Obama is running at the perfect moment in American history, at least with regard to black-white race relations.

Fifty years ago many blacks were afraid to look white people in the eye.

Today?

Many white people are terrified...terrified of doing or saying anything or being perceived as doing or saying anything that might label them as being remotely racist.

Thus, the beauty of poor Hillary's ad.

Not a day now goes by without some perceived slight against Sen. Obama.

How dare we not support him?

(beldar--Jackie Kennedy smoked like a fiend in the White House, as does Laura Bush, or at least she was reported to have still been a smoker during the 2004 campaign.)

Gerard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Meade said...

"Quite a vortex"

I reckon it is.

And not just any old let's-take-a-closer-look-at-breasts vortex. I'd say one has to damn near madisonman up to surf this tar baby.

Gerard said...

Ah, ye olde Paper Chase tone:

"Raise your game, people. Your resistance to what I'm saying doesn't absolve you of the responsibility to observe and become a competent consumer of advertising."

Methinks that Prof. Althouse has yet to learn the difference between a classroom full of kids condemned to please and an internet that harbors minds not so easily colonized by such stern schoolmarmish instruction.

The game has been raised and raised and instead of throwing in a pair of deuces we are supposed to believe that she holds all the aces.

As I said far, far above, Ms. Althouse is simply wrong her perceptions and will be the last person to admit it.

The Vault Dweller said...

I find it hard to characterize the inclusion of the letters NIG in the commercial as a revolting outrage or shocking incompetence.

In order for the inclusion to be a revolting outrage, it must have been a deliberate act by one of the producers to create a negative association with Barack. The fact that the add was seemingly so ineffective at creating that asssociation suggests that the inclusion was not intentional.

Even though the lighting of the add was dark, I felt the overall tone of the add was positive throughout. The musical accompaniment along with the images of sleeping children creates a feeling that something important is going to occur, or some important decision has to be made. However, this was not a feeling of anxiety, but rather a positive sense of expectation which crescendoed with the transition to Hillary working diligently at her desk.

Creating an association between Barack and the feeling evoked by the ad, would seemingly create a positive association, not a negative one. Presumably the producers would not intentionally try to do this.

In order for the inclusion in the ad to be shocking incompetence, the inclusion of NIG must have had a reasonable possibility to create the negative association with Barack, and a reasonable expectation to be noticed during the production of the ad.

For the reasons stated above describing why there was no deliberate action on the producers part, there is also not a reasonable possibility that a negative association would be created. While some have pointed out plausible pathways for which the association could be created, given the number of respondents who do not feel that association would ever be created, suggests these pathways do not rise to the level of a reasonable possibility. It is also worth noting that no one has provided any evidence suggesting any actual negative association has been created. Not even so much as a testimonial of someone saying their opinion of Barack dropped after viewing this ad.

After reviewing the ad several times I must admit that it is more likely than not, that there was a reasonable expectation of noticing the NIG. When I first viewed the ad I did not notice the NIG. While working from my memory of the ad, I was originally going to make a point here citing an article suggesting that most people viewing a picture of a person focus immediately and almost entirely on the face, whereas artists instead take in the entire picture. So most people would never notice the NIG, and because of your background in the arts and photography you have a more discerning and critical eye.

But I'm about as artistic as a diarrheal donkey in a white linen tea party, and even I noticed the NIG on my first reviewing of the ad. Granted I was actively looking for the NIG, but producers should be actively looking at the ad hundreds if not thousands of times before airing it. Of course the producers could not be actively looking for NIG specifically, but they still should have noticed the letters. The NIG appears right after a transition, and even though there is a child's face which should draw the most attention that face is shadowed and every part of that image is dark except the shoulder area which contains the NIG. This is certainly something which drew my eye immediately, and something producers should have noticed.

However, there being a reasonable expectation of noticing the letters is not enough on its own to make this shocking incompetence. There still would have had to been a reasonable possibility that these letters would cause a negative association and that just does not exist. While the inclusion may rise to the level of a minor faux pas, it certainly cannot be fairly termed shocking incompetence.

titusarabesque said...

All of this drama on here is making me really horny.

Meade said...

Oh shit. Did I say RATS backwards?

Meade said...

I just hope when Obama's people put their next commercial out, with intense furtive images of children sleeping in go-go boots and pj's that have "GOOD NITUS TITUS" printed all over them, that their experts aren't stupidly blind to the flash of those inflammatory letters: TIT.

Trooper's right: I gotta get a life.

Beth said...

The really important part of this discussion is that Mortimer B. declared Ann a genius.

That's a first, for this week.

former law student said...

Blogger Gerard said...

A former student of Althouse calls her on her game if not on her choplogic and preening:Subsumed ... resumed.


If I'm not mistaken, this former student "Mary" is the one commenter Ann had to ban.

Is "Gerard" a pseudo for Mary?

Zdenek Kislar said...

Hehe. On the bright side, at least we know Americans are paying very close attention to this election.

:P

Maybe the fact that the shirt says "good night" is a secret warning about an unfolding assassination plot...

Or an AD for that black and white George Clooney movie!

Good luck.

Ann Althouse said...

Gerard, I had to delete your comment because you linked to the blog of a person who has been banned from this blog, an abusive troll. Don't do that again. You probably didn't realize it, but now you know.

Original Mike said...

Ann said: "The vicious attack on the messenger bespeaks fear of the message and lack of a substantive argument against it."

Jim said: Careful, Ann. That's what the 9/11 conspiracy nuts say about you!

As Glenn would say: OUCH

Ann Althouse said...

With the screen capture, one can see that the child in the "good night" pajamas appears to be black.

Those of you who think it's an accident: I'm sorry, but I think you are naive. Those of you who think it's an accident and not even a problem: You are dangerously naive.

Trooper York said...

Beth said...
The really important part of this discussion is that Mortimer B. declared Ann a genius.

That's a first, for this week.

That's not really true Beth. Mort thinks very highly of the professor. I wouldn't go there if I were you.

Original Mike said...

Those of you who think it's an accident: I'm sorry, but I think you are naive. Those of you who think it's an accident and not even a problem: You are dangerously naive.

Well, I'm in the later camp. How is it a problem? Can you define the "problem" for me?

John said...

HAHAHA
I laugh at you.

JackDRipper said...

I see a different word and a different hidden agenda in those "Good Night" pjs.

Why would the Clinton campaign need to subliminally suggest that Obama is a nig or nigger or black. That's the least hidden thing about the guy. Maybe if the Clinton's were running against Warren Harding you'd have a point.

I don't see NIG or an agenda to subliminally suggest Obama is actually black.

I see ZIO and a hidden agenda to convince Jewish voters and campaign contributors to see a vote, and money, for Hillary as Good For The Jews and a vote for Obama as good for Farrakhan, anti-semites and Arabs.

I'm sure Hillary has plenty of Jews working in her campaign who understand that ZIO = ZIONIST = Defending the Jews of Israel.

You would think a woman once married to a man named Cohen would see that first instead of channeling some pathetic black racial paranoia about White folks scheming to lynch the black man. Again.

Actually my evil, White brain/mind/shoulder computer sees the letters in the words Good Night.

But I'm weird that way.

Mortimer Brezny said...

While some have pointed out plausible pathways for which the association could be created, given the number of respondents who do not feel that association would ever be created, suggests these pathways do not rise to the level of a reasonable possibility.

Again, the negative association would be subconscious. Whether you feel the association would be created is totally unrelated to whether the association is created in your brain. You might not feel like you have Alzheimer's, but you have it. You might not feel like you're schizophrenic, but no, Napoleon didn't really just emerge from his scintillating time machine. Indeed, Drew Westen notes in the Language of Political Candidates lecture that aired on C-SPAN that pollsters make a methodological error when they ask respondents for information they do not consciously possess. It would be like asking whether you feel like you have heart disease.

It is also worth noting that no one has provided any evidence suggesting any actual negative association has been created. Not even so much as a testimonial of someone saying their opinion of Barack dropped after viewing this ad.

Again, this is a fallacy. The question is not whether someone consciously adjugdes Obama less favorably, but whether a neural connection has been forged that makes that person less likely to feel positive about making the decision to vote for Obama. The only way to guage that is to take brain scans or to extrapolate from the viewership of the ad and the electoral outcome as it happened versus what was expected. It cannot be determined by asking everyone to get together in a circle and raise their hands if they feel as if the ad made them hate Obama.

The rest of your analysis is equally tendentious and unscientific.

Why would the Clinton campaign need to subliminally suggest that Obama is a nig or nigger or black.

Clearly someone who did not read the Drew Westen article. The tactic is called reinscription.

Pointing out that one had an African father would not be the objective; the objective would be to tap into implicit bias against blacks that would otherwise be consciously suppressed and ignored.

Mortimer Brezny said...

That's a first, for this week.

I have never called Ann a genius before, and I substantively disagree with her quite often and obnoxiously.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Those of you who think it's an accident: I'm sorry, but I think you are naive. Those of you who think it's an accident and not even a problem: You are dangerously naive.

Oh for crying out loud. Is the kind of bullcrap we are going to have to put up with if Obama acutally is elected President? Every eeensy teeensy nuance of every itty bitty thing scrutinized by the thought police? Give me a break.

You can see all kinds of patterns in the clouds, the trees and in the sand. If I see something ominous to my mind's eye.....is this clear evidence that God is trying to give me a message...or is it clear evidence that I need to quit drinking so much and maybe adjust my meds?

Mortimer Brezny said...

If I see something ominous to my mind's eye.....is this clear evidence that God is trying to give me a message...or is it clear evidence that I need to quit drinking so much and maybe adjust my meds?

Interesting, because this comment admits that one's perception can be altered by damage done to the tissues of one's brain. That would suggest that one can act on the brain to change perception without engaging in rational deliberation or conscious persuasion.

JackDRipper said...

Mortimer Brezny said...Clearly someone who did not read the Drew Westen article. The tactic is called reinscription.

I think this interpretation of the pjs in the ad is a reinscription of a racist view of White people that forever represents them as a racist threat to blacks. Forever racist, forever scheming, forever engaged in a need to lynch the black male.

The interpretation itself is racist and plays to racist fears many blacks and their White liberal enablers have about White people.

It's the kind of interpretation I would expect from Farrakhan followers or even the followers of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

I'm not totally sure Ann is serious. She's possibly angling for links to her blog by doing a triple Louganis on this issue.

She's a sneaky one.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I think this interpretation of the pjs in the ad is a reinscription of a racist view of White people that forever represents them as a racist threat to blacks.

I think that is bunk. As Drew Westen explains, reinscription works when it is subtle and subterranean. The way to destroy a reinscription tactic is to expose it to daylight so that its targets may choose consciously to reject it. Ann is not running a commercial that acts on your subconscious, she's criticizing just such a commercial. It is rather obvious she is in the role of the critical exposer, not the role of the reinscriber. Indeed, her operating presumption seems to be that anyone who examines this critically would at least conclude HRC's campaign was careless. That doesn't sound like someone trying to accuse all white people of being devils, or whatever other nonsense you came here to peddle.

SEK said...

If Mortimer Brezny is going to trot out pseudo-neuroscientific explanations, they could at least be minimally informed. For example, he writes:

The way the mind makes closure is by filling in the blanks. You don't need to see an entire face to envision what the other half of it looks like. That is not a conscious activity of the brain, it is neurological, like seeing the color red.

It's neurological? Well, that explains a lot -- no, wait, it doesn't. Anyone who'd actually done a little reading in cog sci would know that the face/word comparison is ludicrous. For one, facial recognition is governed by the fusiform face area, whereas language is controlled by the perisylvan cortex in combination with Broca and Wernicke's areas. So no, Mortimer, your just-so story about symmetry wouldn't hold the water on Ann's brain.

Second, Mortimer claims:

NIG is quite obviously in the same area of the brain as NIGGER, just as both words are nearby in the dictionary.

The "is quite obviously" should've compelled Ann to recognize the thinness of this claim. If that didn't do it, then the explicit comparison of the human brain to a dictionary should've. Neither cut it. I don't have time to outline all the extant models of how language is produced by the brain, but I can say this: you don't access words by flipping the pages of a mental dictionary. Words are stored by association, so "salt" will be stored by "pepper" because they are often used in conjunction. Verbs are stored differently, and in a different location, than nouns and adjectives. Given the context of the commercial, the most any respectable neuroscientific type would say is that the letters "n-i-g-" on the pajamas of a sleeping child would activate the part of the brain associated with the act of sleep, as would "g-o-o-," such that the words your brain would "see" would be "night" and "good," given that they're associated with sleep.

So if Mortimer is correct and the campaigns keep up with the latest in neuroscientific trends, they wouldn't apply the folk-model of human cognition Ann and Mortimer are selling here.

pippa said...

194 comments... looks like the "scandal" angle is working.

I'm a huge Obama supporter and I find this sort of ridiculous nitpicking of Hillary to reflect badly on all of us. It's the same sort of divisive loony rhetoric that allowed the GOP to run right over us in the last two elections while we were busy arguing amongst ourselves over a child's pajamas.

Oh, and with the artful fold arrangement, I actually saw the "GOO" before the letters allegedly arranged for my deep-seated bigot subconscious. I sit here with shovel and flashlight in hand, prepared for the imminent takeover of our pod-people overlords.

Canaan said...

Everytime anyone scrutinizes or criticizes Obama, his supporters cry race.

You know, when you see a vampire bat in an inkblot, it's still just an inkblot. It's possible your interpretation of the ad reveals your own racial anxieties. I'm sorry, but its more likely you are a suppressed racist than Hillary Clinton is -- and I'd bet my life on that.

Mortimer Brezny said...

So no, Mortimer, your just-so story about symmetry

I wasn't making a point about symmetry. Palladian made a critique of my analogy as being about symmetry, and I responded that more than one of my examples were not symmetrical.

If that didn't do it, then the explicit comparison of the human brain to a dictionary should've. Neither cut it. I don't have time to outline all the extant models of how language is produced by the brain, but I can say this: you don't access words by flipping the pages of a mental dictionary. Words are stored by association,

I know that words are stored by association. That is why I have repeated referred to associational networks. I use the word "association" repeatedly here. I know that black and white are stored together, much like salt and pepper and young and old and I know that is why many mental slips occur involving the replacement of binary opposites for each other. Even Freud/Fraud knew this, and 16 common slips resulting from this are detailed on the first page of the first chapter of Interpretation of Dreams.

The brain-as-dictionary analogy was an analogy whose purpose was to show that nig and nigger are stored by association. I did not mean to imply that one accesses his mentally library by flipping through a book. That's just taking the analogy somewhere I never intended it to go, and beyond the limits of the purpose for which the analogy was employed. Why? Because it takes the analogy literally. If you do that, then the analogy is no longer analogical.

Trooper York said...

We are coming up on the 200th post and if this thread doesn't blow up like the American Idol one did, then I call shenanigans and demand a recount.

somefeller said...

Those of you who think it's an accident: I'm sorry, but I think you are naive. Those of you who think it's an accident and not even a problem: You are dangerously naive.

And with this comment, wherein she says that anyone who believes in the accident option is some species of naive, Ann outs herself as believing in the first option she offered (the Clinton campaign deliberately trying to send out a racist message). So, in other words, this whole exercise wasn't an exercise in evenhanded media criticism, wherein Ann was just trying to show that the Clinton campaign was either deliberately racist or incompetent in their messaging, with her being agnostic between the two, but an attempt to spread a meme that the Clinton campaign was in fact deliberately racist. In other words, she what I suspected she was doing, as stated in my comments above.

Fortunately, most people don't seem to be buying it, even among the anti-Hillary crowd, as Gerard (who wrote about this post here) suggested in his comments above.

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