News Center

May 5th, 2010

“Fearmaking” and the latest Branstad Advertisement

fearmakersThe following article was submitted to

Sometimes political advertising can be downright funny, especially when you read between the lines or catch a veiled reference to something, even when unintended.

Someone in charge of layout or printing is either trying to pull a fast one on the Branstad campaign or someone at campaign headquarters is asleep at the switch because a piece of literature didn’t get vetted very well before it was sent out.

Hitting mailboxes this week is an 11×17 tri- fold mailer that includes absentee ballot request forms. In the large format flyer former Governor Branstad expresses concerns about the state of affairs in Iowa and his “ambitious goals to lead Iowa’s Comeback.”

Below a soft-focus photo of the former four-term governor there is a photo of a vintage 1930s mailbox, the type that might hang next to a front door back when the price of a postage stamp was about 2 cents. Sticking out of the little black metal mailbox is an old air mail envelope. Under the mailbox is a wire clip holding a vintage newspaper.

If your eyes are good, you can read the text on the newspaper which is a movie review about The Fearmakers, a 1958 film noir directed by Jacques Tourneur staring Dana Andrews as a former Korean War POW who had been tortured by the Chinese. The film was released during the era of the Red Scare.
In the film, Andrews returns to the USA and is confronted by a country that has grown lax to the threat of Communism. He encounters Communists from the passenger sitting next to him on a plane to his trashy landlords. Even the people now running the public relations firm he founded have Communist sympathies. Before the war the firm was engaged in public opinion polling, but now the firm creates skewed polls with leading questions in order to manipulate public opinion and –oh my–market favored political candidates.

All of the text on the newspaper is not legible due to its positioning in the photo illustration, but some of the text that is easy to make out reads: “Andrews plays a Korean War veteran who experienced brainwashing, returns to his old P.R. firm and finds it totally changed. The firm is now taking on political candidates (and writing) survey questions to favor them. Ultimately, Andrews discovers that the firm is now a front for Communist agents. To some extent The Fearmakers transcends its Cold War plot. Dick Foran, as the smooth talking head of the firm, has little interest in Communist ideology but is just a businessman recognizing ‘a good deal.’ Andrews is appalled to find out the firm is now selling politicians just like a bar of soap, one horror that has now actually come to pass. Aside from Foran, another bit of offbeat casting is that of singer Mel Torme, who plays a tortured introverted member of the firm who has sold his skills to manipulate the truth…..”

The rest of the text on the image of the newspaper is challenging to read, a sentence here, a sentence there, but the fragments are a hoot, unless you’re the political candidate who sent this out: “into a life of crime….find a job….after the criminals are…they are individually…before a prison board…Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary….the best way of rehabilitating…no previous record……reunited with his estranged wife where family ties prod his reform. Even a psycho gunman is restored to health with the help of a caring psychologist played by the usually curmudgeonly Charles (Lane). To balance these success stories the hardened ringleader is depicted being dispatched to Alcatraz to live out his days…While this portrait of a government…was fully engaged in….”

Perhaps the choice of photo illustration was unintended. Perhaps it was a prank on the part of the graphic artist who handled the layout for the Branstad PR firm.

Maybe an anti-Branstad foil at the print shop doctored the illustration with Photoshop in the hopes of sending a subliminal message to Iowa voters: Branstad, retro, vintage, old fashioned, out-of-date, behind the times, quaint, not with the program.

The irony is laugh-out-loud funny when you consider the text on the newspaper in the picture: a review about a 50 year old movie dealing with a PR firm and the buying and selling of political candidates.

Whatever the case, the Branstad campaign needs to fire their PR handlers and more closely scrutinize the message it sends to voters.

TEB Mailer 1

teb mailer 2

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The Iowa Republican

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