This ad has been posted throughout the city of Houston by Brian Klock; in many ways, it reminds me of early political ad campaigns in which politicians used fear of nuclear threat by the Soviets to win elections. With the heightened fear of terrorism, I suspect we will see more ads of this nature. Hillary R. Clinton ran an ad exposing Obama’s lack of experience earlier in the campaign by playing a red phone ringing in the middle of the night. Walter Mondale did the samething in a 1984 ad (see here). The point of course was to make the public question Obama’s qualifications for handling a major nuclear crisis. Houston has been seen as an easily accessible port city to smuggle a small nuclear bomb into; I do not remember the number, but I do recall hearing once that only 5% of shipping cargo is checked. Of course with our technology today, I am sure there are more efficient ways of doing this. Although Mark Elrod told me a few months ago that the Daisy Girl ad is thought to be lame by today’s standards, it is one I recall seeing while in high school (see video clip of ad here):
The advertisement begins with a little girl (Birgitte Olsen) standing in a meadow with chirping birds, picking the petals of a daisy while counting each petal slowly. (Because she does not know her numbers perfectly, she repeats some and says others in the wrong order, all of which adds to her childish appeal.) When she reaches “9”, an ominous-sounding male voice is then heard counting down a missile launch, and as the girl’s eyes turn toward something she sees in the sky, the camera zooms in until her pupil fills the screen, blacking it out. When the countdown reaches zero, the blackness is replaced by the flash and mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion.As the firestorm rages, a voiceover from Johnson states, “These are the stakes! To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.” Another voiceover (sportscaster Chris Schenkel) then says, “Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”
As soon as the ad aired, Johnson’s campaign was widely criticized for using the prospect of nuclear war, as well as the implication that Goldwater would start one, to frighten voters. The ad was immediately pulled, but the point was made, appearing on the nightly news and on conversation programs in its entirety.
As I get closer in my courses to the Cold War, many of my fears re-emerge. During my early 3rd – 5th grade years, the Soviet Union was not a stable state. It seemed that the office of the premier was a revolving door. As a kid, I often constructed mental maps of the world with my hand tracing lines from Moscow to various United States cities. Each line represented a nuclear missile; I would even draw a mushroom cloud marking the destruction of a city. And, the 1983 movie The Day After did not help my fears. Warning: Watch this clip
Clips such as The Day After are being replaced by a secret nuclear bomb being smuggled into Baltimore then detonated during the Super Bowl. See clip from the Sum of All Fears.