Democrats & Liberals Archives

Which is more important? The message or the messenger?

Last weekend my wife and I watched Michael Moore’s Academy Award-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine. My wife is no fan of Michael Moore (by any stretch of the imagination) and her political views tend to lean more towards the Conservative end of the political spectrum but she did find many of his points interesting and, to my surprise, she sat and watched the whole thing with very little commentary against Moore or the film. She even found herself (much to her chagrin) agreeing with the statements of Moore and even Marilyn Manson — although she still refuses to listen to Manson’s music.

This prompted me to start thinking about which is more important to Americans — the message or the messenger who delivers the message to us? If we look at the recent CA recall, I would hazard a guess that the messenger was more important than the message; Arnold's face and Hollywood-stardom triumphed over Gray Davis and the other candidates because of who Arnold is and not what Arnold said (or didn't say). How many realists (whatever their political beliefs) truly feel that Arnold has a snowball's chance in Hell of fixing the budgetary woes of CA? Granted, Arnold is a bit less robotic-acting than Gray Davis but his campaign speeches and promises seemed like so much Silicon Valley vaporware when put into the context of the real-life budget-deficit situation faced by California (and so many other states).

I see a similar situation shaping up with the 2004 Presidential Election (in its simplest terms): on the Democratic side we have Wesley Clark vs. Howard Dean, who are both facing the incumbent George W. Bush. Which one of these candidates has the messages and who will be the perfect messenger for delivering what the voters want to hear? American politics seem to focus less on the relevant issues in favor of touting approval rating numbers and opinion polls, e.g. it matters little what any of the candidates actually say as much as how the public perceives them through their various portrayals in the media. Soundbytes and photo-ops count more for a candidate than telling us what we need to (rather than what we actually want or should) hear. To whit, if Michael Moore or Ann Coulter or Bill O'Reilly or Al Franken were more interested in their message than how their public viewed them, in their role as "The Messenger", it wouldn't be long before they all faced a precipitous drop in sales and ratings. Controversy and their need to stay "The Messenger" have served the aforementioned well, just as the need to be the one-true, all-American Messenger will serve to decide who ends up winning the 2004 election come next November.

What troubles me the most is that few Americans seem to listen to the message in favor of voting for their favorite Messenger. We buy Nike because they are Nike and we like the brand, ignoring the facts about how their products are made. We buy Coke because it is an all-American drink, blind to their abuses in other nations. George W. Bush finds support simply because he is "The President of the United States of America" not questioning the implications for the future of our country, while the Democrats look to almost anyone in the hopes of finding a version of "The Messenger" who can defeat Bush.

Like I said in my comment on Greg's post, Rumors of Bush's Demise, I would like to hear the real messages, the naked truth, stripped of the buzzwords and clichés. I would rather vote for a real human rather than a messenger who is simply a mouthpiece. A messenger who is only worried about getting better ratings in the polls so that he (or she) can earn more money for their campaign. But, being the realist that I am, I must face the truth that such a person would probably never get elected...

Posted by huxley75 at October 22, 2003 1:22 PM