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    Fear Factor; The Telephone Rings in the White House?

    by: Betsy L. Angert

    Tue Mar 04, 2008 at 13:00:00 PM EST

    US Democrats - Walter Mondale 1984 Video 10

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    A telephone fills the screen.  The deep blood red hue warns us war is eminent.  Little light shines on the barely visible instrument.  The tone is ominous and foretells the future.  The audience is aware there is trouble in the world.  Slowly, the table turns.  A yellow bulb in the center of this contrivance communicates doom. It  glows and pulsates.  We concentrate on the orb shaped object squarely in the center.  The dominance of this display is foreboding.  Our future is in the hands of the person who picks up the receiver.  The question reverberates through our mind.  Who will we place in this most powerful position?

    Betsy L. Angert :: Fear Factor; The Telephone Rings in the White House?
    Americans are familiar with the symbol and the stories attached to this crimson contraption.  With a word, the leader of the world's superpower can commit this country to war.  Perchance, the voice on the other end of the line will inform the President of the United States, we have been attacked.  No matter what is said or done, citizens in this country recognize the dire circumstances.

    In cinematography circles, the term is mis-en-scene.  An auteur creates the scene, sets the stage, and decides what is essential to communicate. A desired message is maximized.  The method and manner in which a communiqué is delivered can manipulate a made-up mind.  The choice of lighting is critical.  Textures and colors are telling.  Space can be used to intensify the sensations a spectator will experience.  

    If characters are in view, the make-up they wear must be impeccable, believable, and impressive. Costumes must speak with a voice so subtle as to be unnoticeable.  Prominent persons in the cast must dress in a manner that draws attention to them.  Interiors convey a meaning.  The medium is the message.

    Advertisers understand this and take advantage of the props.  If the product to be sold is luscious to look at, then a director will focus on the appearance.  If the façade is less appetizing, alterations are possible.  When the exterior is less expressive, the experience can be enhanced.  Sex sells.  Food is fine.  Meals fill our minds.  Snacks satiate our stomachs.  Sustenance stuffs the pocketbooks of industrialists who manufacture the provisions.  Profits are plenty with thanks to the primary ingredient, promotional advertisements.

    Product placement, a more discreet statement, can be far more powerful than a blatant cry for attention.  Consider the items purchased by patrons as they wait at a counter or in line.  A magazine title titillates.  A shopper will stop to scan the articles.  Sunglasses positioned at the front of an aisle remind a buyer it is bright outside.  If the weather looks as though it may take a turn for the worse, and umbrellas are near when a patron enters the store, the collapsible canopies will leap into human  hands.  Storeowners understand, it is location, location, location.  Humans hope to be comfortable and comforted.

    Political consultants comprehend the dynamic is true  for the candidate.  Name recognition is the first priority.  Once a person's identity is established, a professional public relations representative will work to solidify a respectable reputation.  Slogans echo throughout the airwaves.  Experience, judgment, the record, and a personal biography that captures the character and imagination are publicized.  

    A Presidential aspirant, desirous of greater exposure, and an opportunity to appear average Joe or Jane, will perform on a popular television program.  Light hearted comedies and self-deprecating humor certainly will sell a figure considered too formal or firm.  A so called "candid" communication will garner more votes, just as a can of Pepsi in the hands of an athlete will stimulate more sales.  

    Public relations persons, campaign coordinators, and advertising consultants such as Roy Spence, creator of the 1984 Red Phone commercial and the 2008, 3 AM advertisement, know what the public wants.  Mister Spence is familiar with what the electorate will buy.  This specialist selects the stage, and sets the scene.  He has a flare for the dramatic.  Just as a knowledgeable film director can gently induce an audience to suspend disbelief, a fine marketeer can persuade the constituency to cast a ballot for the candidate of his or her choice.

    In 1984, Mister Spence convinced Democrats that then Democratic Presidential hopeful Walter Mondale was  preferable.  Mondale would protect them from an unknown enemy.  Democratic Presidential challenger Gary Hart was doing well in the polls.  It seemed the good-looking well-spoken rival had a chance.  Hart might have won the nomination.  However, political commercials warned the public Gary Hart might not experienced enough to hold the office or the red telephone receiver.

    Human as he is, a public performance brought Hart's judgment into question.  His own folly hurt him.  However, even without such a slip, history tells us an advertisement can change the public's perception.  From television sets nationwide a narrative evolved.

    The most awesome, powerful responsibility in the world lies in the hand that picks up this phone.  The idea of an unsure, unsteady, untested hand is something to really think about.  This is the issue of our times.  On March 20, vote as if the future of the world is at stake.  Mondale.  This president will know what he's doing, and that's the difference between Gary Hart and Walter Mondale.

    Voters were intentionally filled with fear.  Might a Senator be less senior and not as prepared as a former Vice President was?  Could it be that time in the White House better qualifies a person to be President of the United States?  Americans cannot be certain of what might have been.  We only comprehend what we believe.  Whether the world was, or is, in fact dangerous, it matters not.  Humans feel great trepidation for the unknown.  An imminent threat daunts and taunts us.  The unfamiliar is perhaps more ghastly than any reality might be.
    When it comes to ruling the brain, fear often is king, scientists say.

    "Fear is the most powerful emotion," said University of California Los Angeles psychology professor Michael Fanselow.

    People recognize fear in other humans faster than other emotions, according to a new study being published next month.  Research appearing in the journal Emotion involved volunteers who were bombarded with pictures of faces showing fear, happiness, and no expression.  They quickly recognized and reacted to the faces of fear -- even when it was turned upside down.

    "We think we have some built-in shortcuts of the brain that serve the role that helps us detect anything that could be threatening," said study author Vanderbilt University psychology professor David Zald.

    Other studies have shown that just by being very afraid, other bodily functions change.  One study found that very frightened people can withstand more pain than those not experiencing fear.  Another found that experiencing fear or merely perceiving it in others improved people's attention and brain skills.

    When people are panicked, they react and remember.  Any good  advocate [advertiser] understands if the message is to be effective, it must be unforgettable.  Public relations is the power of storytelling. Anyone can create a market for merchandise if they recognize they have three to four seconds to grab the attention of an audience.  An promoter has moments more to tell a story.  If an impression is to made, and the message is to influence, the information and delivery must be memorable.

    In recent days, the public has been flooded with extraordinary expositions.  The narrator warns in a portentous voice "It's 3 am and your children are safe and asleep.  But there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing.  Something's happening in the world.  the question is asked of voters, 'Would you want Hillary Clinton to answer the call or Barack Obama?'  Will experience settle your mind or will judgment quell your angst?

    New York University researcher LeDoux says, "We've gone from 'vote for me or you'll end up poor' to 'vote for me or you'll end up dead.'"  . . . .

    Why do these ads "work?"

    "Elementary, my dear Watson": the amygdala. The amygdala overrides the work of the more thoughtful cortex of our brains. It is a vestigial organ that testifies to the superior nature of the brain's fear circuitry. Neurons only carry traffic one way from the cortex to the amygdala, which allows it to override the more logical and thoughtful cortex; it doesn't work the other way around.  You might be able to "think" yourself out of an unreasonable or irrational fear, but, usually, the amygdala hobbles logic and reasoning, making fear "far, far more powerful than reason," according to neurobiologist Michael Fanselow of the University of California at Los Angeles, whom Ms. Begley quoted in her article this way, "It (the amygdala) evolved as a mechanism to protect us from life-threatening situations, and, from an evolutionary standpoint, there's nothing more important than that."

    Some say talk is cheap.  Speeches are not solutions.  However, in reality resolve is an afterthought actually well-founded in fear.  Try as humans might to silent the beast within, hysteria burgeons.   Frenzy follows. Men, women, and children act on fervent beliefs.  The telephone will ring in the dark of the night, and an experienced person must be in the Oval Office to answer it.  People prefer to place their hope in reason, regardless of the fact that fear, our emotions are not really rational.

    By the time the telephone rings in the White House Military officials have already acted.  Professionals in the Pentagon are the first to respond and react.

    Contrary to popular myth, and Hollywood portrayal, the hot line has never been a pair of red telephones, one in a drawer in the Oval Office, the other in the Kremlin. At first, it was a set of teletypes with messages punched in at a rate of about one page every three minutes. That system was replaced in the late 1970s with two satellite systems, as well as an undersea cable link.

    The American end of the hot line is located not in the White House but across the Potomac in the Pentagon -- at the National Military Command Center.

    Without knowledge, people presume.  Humans fill in the facts.  Citizens rely on sources, even if these references appeal only to our innate fears.  Indeed, if a informant can touch a nerve, they can cause abundant concern.  Consternation is often the catalyst for great change.  We see this in political polls and through our purchases.  Currently, post September 11, 2001, Americans have bought the idea, we are in a necessary battle.
    Even as far back as the 18th century the theorist Edmund Burke said, "No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear." It's no wonder, then, that the electorate since 9/11 has been constantly manipulated with "orange" and "red" alerts and color-coded systems of assessing the threat of terrorist attack.  (Duct tape, anyone?) After 9/11, few of us doubt that there are terrorists who threaten our country, but constantly invoking that threat for political purposes has become Plan "A" for this Republican administration.  And it seems to be getting a great deal of play on the caucus stump, as well, especially from Republican hopefuls.

    Here is one interesting example of fear trumping reason. Flight insurance was offered that would cover "death by any cause" or "death by terrorism."  The specificity of the word "terrorism," combined with the responses that it triggered, caused more people to spend money on "terrorism" insurance than they spent for "death by any cause" insurance, even though "terrorism" insurance is merely a small part of the "death by any cause."

    Harvard University psychology researcher Daniel Gilbert is quoted in the article: "Negative emotions such as fear, hatred and disgust tend to provoke behavior more than positive emotions, such as hope and happiness do."

    Hence, we may speak of peace and prosperity; nonetheless, Americans, as humans throughout the planet act on antipathy.  Our aversions drive us further and more frequently than affirmations do.  Politics, with all the claims that it is practical is in essence personal.  Affairs of State are also psychological.  More than a century ago, advertisers realized that the best tool they had was human emotions.  Brain researchers may not have plotted the patterns at work within the gray matter, until recently; nevertheless, Applied Psychologist, Walter Dill Scott explains, entrepreneurs knew how to move the masses.  Marketeers, then and now, acknowledged art alone, presented on a page or on a silver screen, does not have the appeal that an inferred message might.  Science, if applied subliminally, sells as well as sex does.
    In an address before the Agate Club of Chicago the speaker said: "As advertisers, all your efforts have been to produce certain effects on the minds of possible customers. Psychology is, broadly speaking, the science of the mind. Art is the doing and science is the understanding how to do, or the explanation of what has been done. If we are able to find and to express the psychological laws upon which the art of advertising is based, we shall have made a distinct advance, for we shall have added the science to the art of advertising."

    In a recent address before the Atlas Club of Chicago the speaker said: "In passing to the psychological aspect of our subject, advertising might properly be defined as the art of determining the will of possible customers.... Our acts are the resultants of our motives, and it is your function in commercial life to create the motives that will effect the sale of the producer's wares."

    Perhaps that is why politicians invest as they do.  The expected expense for influence in the 2008 Presidential election could exceed three [3] billion dollars, according to TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, Cable News Network's consultant on political television advertising. Professionals in the public eye have learned from profiteers.  'You must spend money if you hope to "change" public opinion or odious perceptions.  We all are familiar with the notion politicians are crooks.  Image is everything if you wish to be elected or selected as the best software system, or the most sumptuous soda. Search engines also understand the importance of image and advertising.  Coffeehouses are not exempt.  As much as customers crave caffeine, without a bit of gentle coercion even the most loyal consumer might consider the cost of the Jamaican bean unnecessary.
    • Microsoft - more than 20 percent of their annual revenue or $11.5 billion
    • Coca-Cola - more than $2.5 billion
    • Yahoo - more than 20 percent of their annual revenue or $1.3 billion
    • eBay - 14 percent to 15 percent of its revenue - which was $871 million, much of that to advertise on Google
    • Google - In the millions rather than billions of dollars - with $188 million
    • Starbucks - $95 million

    Fear can convince a constituent to vote as they will.  When a presentation is deftly designed, people forget the influence of media.  Persuasion is palpable.  Human hearts are touched by tone, tint, and tenor.  After, the emotional sentinel, the amygdala internalizes information, then people intellectualize.  Men, women, and children ponder, and ultimately affirm that they are right to think as they do.  The fives senses may not be directly involved in decisions made; still, information [or intuition] is studied through the filter of fear.

    Americans think they analyze, what will occur if the red phone rings.  Then, just as advertisers hope, they act emotionally.  As citizens of the United States listen to the campaign commercials, watch the stump speeches, and seek solutions, we must accept that our choice will not be logical, for we are not reasonable.  The two-legged animal called man is but a blip in the natural cycle of neurological events.  The difference is, we have the capacity to build, and create machines that kill.  Humankind acts more aggressively on apprehensions than other animals are able to do.  We, the people are perhaps more vulnerable to descriptions, metaphors, and similes.  The psyche is profound as is psychology.  So, this election season remember.

    This illustration of the way in which one chapter of psychology (Mental Imagery) can be applied to advertising is but one of a score of illustrations which could be given. Psychology has come to be one of the most fascinating of all the sciences, and bids fair to become of as great practical benefit as physics and chemistry. As these latter form the theoretical basis for all forms of industry which have to do with matter, so psychology must form the theoretical basis for all forms of endeavor which deal with mind.

    The householder in glancing through his morning paper has his attention caught by the more attractive advertisements. The mechanic in going to and from his place of employment whiles away his time in looking at the display cards in the trolley or the elevated cars. The business man can scarcely pass a day without being forced to look at the advertisements which stare at him from the bill boards. The members of the family turn over the advertising pages in their favorite magazine, not because they are forced to, but because they find the advertisements so interesting and instructive.

    These persons are oblivious to the enormous expense which the merchant has incurred in securing these results. They are unconscious of the fact that the results secured are the ones sought for, and that in planning the advertising campaign the merchant has made a study of the minds of these same householders, mechanics, business men, and members of the family. Advertising is an essential factor in modern business methods, and to advertise wisely the business man must understand the workings of the minds of his customers, and must know how to influence them effectively, -- he must know how to apply psychology to advertising.

    Roy Spence certainly knows his stuff.  The Texas advertising consultant for Senator and Presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton, creator of the first 3 Ante Meridian commercial and the Red Phone infomercial has captured our attention.  Mister Spence is truly a master.  He is an artiste and a scientist.  This amazing man has moved the media and the masses.  He has advanced a implication, increased the audience, and altered the focus.  Roy Spence, on more than one occasion, has triumphed.  He successfully worked to make the most of the fear factor in a manner few can match.  Perchance, when the telephone rings in the White House or at the Pentagon, we may want our man Roy to answer the call.  Mister Spence grasps what alludes most malleable minds.

    Congratulations Roy Spence.  You are a marvel.  You apply psychology and artistic principles.  Mister Spence, you have proven yourself to be the genuine candidate of change.  At a crucial moment in your candidate's campaign, you alter reality.

    Situations, Sources, Slogans, Speeches, Solutions . . .

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    The telephone, the tale . . . (10.00 / 1)
    What is our truth, and do we wish to have a "professional" direct our decisions?

    It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are. ~ Ian Anderson. Jethro Tull

    Betsy L. Angert


      I hasten to vent my spleen on this... BE-THINK is sooo right on!!! I will say that fear is a POWERFUL emotion. It is so powerful that one puny and even understated ad can halt momentum--an exuberant and refreshing movement, that of Senator Obama's campaign. It is not only the American electorate that succumbs to fear, it is humanity.  We live in systems and families that hold us in control with fear. Not rational fear that helps us survive. We're talking irrational fear, a type of hysteria. It begins at birth for most and carries forth as we create our various environments and modes of relating and being. It speaks to a certain evolution of mind/spirit and until we educate and train ourselves to be and respond to other than fear, it will remain a dominant control switch. Flip it on and bam! We react rather than think it through and go forth with calmness and rationality.  In our reactions we create the opposite of what we might intend.  We create chaos and spread the fear to other vulnerable, unaware souls.  The fear grows--a cancer.

    My hope is that this dynamic is called out publicly by the Obama campaign and others in the media. We must identify what is happening and discuss it or it will continue to have its destructive grip on us.  Disabling us from moving forward in creating a healthier and more vibrant society and world.

    We create either chaos or calm (0.00 / 0)
    Dear anonymous  . . .

    I recall the day in my own life when this was so clear to me.

    I was in a relationship so bad I did not know I was in a relationship.  I was fearful of the connection and apprehensive when apart.  Every supposed action, for he and for I, was a reaction.  The difference being actions are love; reactions are responses to our own sense of anxiety.

    Fast Forward; The Story Unfolds. Fade into Feelings

    As I studied humans, communication, psychology in hopes of understanding the pain, I learned.  I realized just as you state.  We learn habits in our homes.  We each are the center of our universe.  Thus, we think when people respond to us, the reason is we said, did, felt, are . . .

    Some were raised to fight and they do.  Others flee.  Quite a few blame themselves.  More place the onus on the other.  

    Be it on the campaign trail, in civil battles, or in world wars, the same dynamics govern.  We can be like children through eternity, if we do not recognize we choose.  We create either chaos or calm.  If we deny this, we continue to live with little consciousness.

    It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are. ~ Ian Anderson. Jethro Tull

    Betsy L. Angert


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