October 20, 2020


Lincoln Project's anti-Trump ads show power of biting satire (Chris Lamb, 10/20/20, The Conversation)

For satire to be effective, it must attack someone or something that is readily identifiable. This often includes using someone's own words to make a fool out of them - as the Lincoln Project ads often do with Trump. One way to measure satire's effectiveness is in the response of the person being satirized.

The ads certainly struck a nerve with Trump, who called the Lincoln Project "the Losers Project."

If Trump intended to damage the project, it backfired. The group received $2 million in donations in the two days after his comment, which also inspired the creation of more ads that were designed to poke fun specifically at him.

Playing off his bragging of having the "most loyal people" working for him, one ad quotes John Kelly, Trump's former chief of staff, calling Trump "an idiot"; Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state, calling Trump "a f--ing moron"; and John Bolton, the former national security adviser, saying, "I don't think he's fit for office."

Another ad targeted military families and veterans, showing American soldiers carrying the flag-draped coffin of one of their fallen comrades while the narrator reads out the words Trump has used to describe soldiers: "losers," "suckers," "dopes" and "babies."

The Lincoln Project ads have occupied the attention of the news media. The New Yorker and "60 Minutes" have published recent stories on the PAC, promoting its objective to defeat Trump.

Advertising Age reported that the ads have become a sensation during the 2020 campaign. One ad, called "Hospital," opens with an image of a patient in a hospital bed that then quickly fades to black as we hear the beep of a heart monitor. There is no narrator. The words on the screen say, "A death from COVID is the loneliest death imaginable."

The ad finishes by linking the responsibility for those deaths to Trump with the following words: "Over 200,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID. We could have stopped it. His lying is killing us. We have to stop it. Vote him out."

The Lincoln Project uses many of the same techniques of satire, but gives them a thoroughly modern bite by using slick videography. The ads go viral on social media to audiences that may not watch television ads.

One Lincoln Project ad was posted after Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus. The ad criticizes Trump for reportedly infecting staffers because he refused to wear a surgical mask and he mocked those who did. The ad, called "Covita," shows a montage of a maskless Trump at White House functions as a singer delivers a parody of the words from "Evita":

"Don't cry for me, White House staffers. The truth is, I will infect you. All through my tweeting, my mad existence. I broke my promise. Won't keep my distance."

The Lincoln Project may or not accomplish its objective to defeat Trump on Nov. 3. But it already has made a contribution to the tradition of political satire.

Posted by at October 20, 2020 6:19 PM


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