Hyperessay #4: The Appropriated Narrative

My appropriated narrative was inspired by Newt Gingrich’s traditional, conservative views on marriage rights in America and his much more unscrupulous personal marital history. Married three times and a rumored adulterer, Gingrich walks on thin ice when he pounds the pulpit of marriage sanctity, and I aimed to highlight this hypocrisy in my narrative. My brief presentation was more propaganda than pseudo-event, as it was aimed mostly in inflame those who already don’t care for Gingrich, not to appeal to the general public’s desire to educate themselves.

At the root of my propaganda was a pseudo-event in it’s own right: a Republican presidential primary debate that took place on January 7, 2012. (Not only does the whole idea of a media-hosted debate play right into pseudo-event theories of Boorstin, but the mere fact that we are having debates 11 months before the election seems to reinforce Gabler’s contention that politics has become a full-blown form of entertainment.) During this debate, Gingrich was asked to offer his position on gay marriage rights in the U.S., and I edited a portion of his response to serve as the spoken narrative of my piece. The portion I chose captured the most grandiose segment of his response, where he called marriage “a historic sacrament of enormous importance in our civilization” that is a “part of how we define ourselves.” I chose this portion because one aim of my propaganda was to underscore his hypocrisy… so I thought it best to capture him at the grandest moment possible, then use images and sound to show that behind closed doors he is hardly qualified to stress the importance of marriage.

Finding images for this task was easy: I picked three shots of him with his three different wives. No one image is more important than another, but as a whole, they thumb their noses at Gingrich as he preaches in the background of how our marital choices define who we are. Dolled-up on stage, under the spotlight and firmly poised in front of a flashy podium, Gingrich’s argument is much more convincing. But juxtaposed with these pictures, it’s easy to see how even a simple digital tool like a photo can change the content of the narrative considerably.

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Finally, I scored the presentation with “Here Comes the Bride,” so to really underline the theme of marriage, then remixed the song with harsh record scratching sounds, timed so that each occur when a photo of a new bride suddenly appears. Those brash record sounds not only interrupt Gingrich’s speech, taking away some of his polished rhythm, but also act as a que to the viewer that there is a discordant relationship between the what he is saying and what the images are showing.

In total, the aim of this propaganda was to strip away the politician “star appeal” that Gabler described in his essay. Gingrich and his team go to great lengths to position him as a man of God, who takes marriage quite seriously, who is very devoted to his (most recent) wife. By highlighting his three marriages, the piece brings him down to earth, where divorce is as common as it is undesirable. In other words, it aims to break down a very small piece of the “post-reality,” where Gingrich has used misdirection and denial to fabricate an image for himself as someone who is qualified to preach the virtues of marriage. The reality is that he has a personal marital history that is uglier and arguably more immoral (and unchristian) than the average American’s.

When confronted with that reality, I imagine some viewers will feel negative emotions, like disdain or disgust, towards Gingrich. And perhaps the beauty of the appropriated narrative-style ad is that those viewers might also feel lied to, as Gingrich’s own words of marital righteousness make the case against him even darker.

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