MoveOn.org is getting a lot of extra press from its Petraeus Betray Us ads. Apparently, George Lakoff is helping out. I know Lakoff from his work on metaphor (that used to be non-partisan). Now he’s become a darling of the left, and therefore far less academic, but he knows how to shape perceptions with figures and tropes — which are often more effective than rational argument. The right should take a page from Lakoff’s book (literally and figuratively).
Indeed, there are all sorts of mental models, figurative language and powers of association that people can use to influence others (and change minds). Just yesterday, I saw a talk by a Duke psych prof named Gavin Fitzsimons, who has studies showing the influence of the "contagion effect" on the purchasing habits of folks in grocery stores. You can take a sterile, unopened box of tampons and have them touch an unopened box of cookies (on, say, a display) and people will often refuse the cookies due to subconscious revulsion.
I can see people applying this contagion phenomenon in other media: Run ads with roaches crawling over Hilary Clinton’s face. Or repeat the phrase "Jim Black Democrats" whereever possible. Anyway, politics has become a war for hearts and minds and no device is beyond our grasp in a society of free speech and expression. (We’ve even criticized our counterparts on the left for less-than-artful use of such tactics.)