Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Urban Legend

Of Tony Snow

On Jan 12, 2007, White House spokesman Tony Snow dispelled President Bush's apparent preparations for war on Iran and Syria as a mere urban legend. Snow, speaking to reporters at the daily White House briefing, emphatically said there are no plans for war with Iran and Syria. However, most people that I've talked to from various sides of the political spectrum fully believe that Bush is very much interested in starting wars with both Iran and Syria. Why?

How does such an idea float amongst people? How does it persist although it may be false? Can the same principles that make urban legends work be used to sell political ideas to the public? We've all heard that word-of-mouth is the best means of selling. Perhaps urban legends can be used to sell political ideas. What is it about these stories that makes people want to spread the word?

All successful urban legends have three essential components: a hook, a threat and a request. The components get the reader or listener personally involved, frightened or intrigued, and instructions to pass the story on.

One such cautionary tale immediately comes to mind. Here is the outline:

At one time vast oceans protected our country from foreign ennemies. Then a hundred years ago, we invented planes so that we could cross these oceans. We trusted other people to fly all over the world on planes. Then 911 happened. Be afraid, very afraid. Things are different now. 911 is the fault of our freedoms (and liberals that adhere to them). The smoking gun is a mushroom cloud. Now we're fighting them abroad so that we can defeat them there and we won't have to fight them here at home. Iraq has turned into a civil war. And the terrorists have now moved on to Iran and Syria. Support our troops. Pass it on because the liberal media is not going to tell you this.

I have heard this urban legend in part and in whole dozens of times during lunch at work, from friends and family. President Bush's speeches are embellished versions this urban legend. And, in fact, Tony Snow's job is to snow people into spreading it.

By the way, Bush has been planning a regime change in Iran
becoming President.

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