Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
The flag thing, as you point out TBG, is crucial. To see a mixed race person ( who is 'read' as African-American) in front of these iconic flags is a 'novelty'. It makes people look at the flags - which they see everyday - in a new way.

Flags, when they represent pride in who you are, are powerful foci for feelings a lot of peope find hard to express. I mean nationality and location are harder to define these globalized days. Your average Finn will only notice the flag on certain flag days (such as midsummer) and on the rare occasions when a Finn or team of Finns win something major that is recognized abroad. For the Finn, the Finnish flag can become a torch of exstacy, say with the winning of the World Hockey Cup. And it is because that flag is not mundane. The flag is seen on these special occasions only. It therefore becomes part of the magic that people feel at that time. It becomes invested with that magic.

But shove a flag in people's faces everyday and it is debased. It becomes wallpaper - UNLESS you see it in a novel context. And that can make the flag come alive again with personal meaning, it brings a flood of associations. Most of them positive. But how to give it personal meaning?

You do what Obama did. You reframe the flag, by associating it with an unusual object - in this case, himself. Not only that, but it plays with figure-ground ambiguity (Is it the flags or Obama that is the main thing in the frame?). The funny thing with that type of oscillation (figure-ground ambiguity), is that it makes the medium 'hot' in the McLuhan sense, where Clinton and McCain are more going for 'cool'.

Granular or low resolution messages are 'hot' because they force you, the observer, to involve yourself - to complete the image from imagination. Without you, the picture is saying, I am incomplete.

High resolution messages keep you at arms length. They are cold. The detail may seem amazing but, essentially, that detail is telling you that you are not needed. You can't get involved. The cold picture says 'I'm good - I don't really need you. I am complete.

Clinton and McCain think that they have to be seen as managers. The kind of people who can take the 3am call about cataclysm as cool as a cucumber. And they can't do the flag thing, because with them it would be mundane and without novelty.

Only Obama could do this so powerfully. And the massage is hope. IMO most people do not know what to hope for, except health, love and happiness. Hope is not greed. Hope is that things will get a little better in the future even if that future will only be enjoyed by their kids.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 06:53:47 PM EST

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