Are we ready to start this meeting? Can everyone hear me? Good. The new product line is George Bush at Ground Zero at the Republican National Convention this summer. The advertisers want George to re-assume his famous pose at the edge of the sacred pit. At the end of the RNC, he walks down to Ground Zero, right there where they made a great cross out of rusty girders. He should walk up and take that same pose. The political people want to put him in the same windbreaker, give him the same bullhorn. Then he can campaign with the same items. And, of course, we’ll find the same firefighter for him to put his arm around.
The product is like those Spielberg or Tom Hanks World War II movies. This is one of the hottest exposures in the image world. George Bush at Ground Zero a week after 9/11, standing there, leader of the free world. Balancing in his face – toughness and his old Yale cheer-leading. He faces the Teleprompter through which the world stares.
The President goes back and stands inside the precise image from three years ago. That will jolt our consumers. Product recognition. Everything the same, except that the buildings are rising in the background, progress, indomitable strength of the American Character, and he’s captured Saddam.
And we need more than this hero-shot. Why not bring the relatives of the dead, bring in the army families, the widows with their little American flags folded in that triangle, like we see in the news clips of the funerals, as if they came straight to the President, to Ground Zero, for their blessing by God. They should gather around the President. No, better not invite the wheel-chair people. Just the widows and the little kids.
Congregation, listen. How did these rich hard-right devil-worshippers transform Ground Zero into a Super Bowl of Fear? They did it by interrupting, overlaying what really happened in those towers.
The victims in the towers sent a signal to us, we know what they said in the last moments of their lives, while they were talking on the phones and typing emails on the high floors up there. They were not telling their husbands and wives to go out and get revenge. They had seconds to live. Can we hear them? Are we listening? George Bush is pretending to represent them. He attacks the world in their name.
People, listen. Do we hear the story that has been interrupted? The people in the towers that were bombed by Osama, and the silenced millions in the streets, and the families running under those computer-guided bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq and wherever else America wants to go with its killer Democracy. They are saying something…
Alleluiah! The Great Unison that echoed across the world a year ago February 15, WE WANT PEACE; the millions of people shouting this phrase together. George Bush called us a ‘focus group’ with a product he did not want to buy. Something that we didn’t realise at the time: we were expressing the wishes of the people who died in the towers!
We haven’t forgotten, have we? This is all an advertisement, with an actor and lots of special effects, and very rich men talking with advertising hypnotisers every day. We know it’s an ad, and we know that the people in the towers, who are talking to their loved ones on the phones in the last seconds of their lives – they are telling us that there is a kind of radical forgiveness within our reach. They are telling us to turn off the television that George Bush is on. Turn it off. It’s our choice. Change-a-luliah!!!
Somebody give me a Change-a-luliah!!! Children! Cup your hands around your ears! Listen to that wind! The ones who were bombed, the ones who could say something to us in the last seconds, they all said the same thing: our lives will outshine this dark marketing. They are still with us and we are with them! Amen!
Bill Talen is the author of the book What Should I do if Reverend Billy Is in My Store? (New Press). It is available in independent bookstores. If you see it in a transnational chainstore, steal it.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist February 2004