|Hannan's Willie Horton Moment
||[Aug. 26th, 2009|08:02 pm]
I can't work out what Daniel Hannan is up to. He's made a series of outbursts in recent months; starting with his rant at Gordon Brown in Brussels that became a YouTube favourite and lately he's been touring the right wing radio and TV circuit in the US having a go at the NHS.
We can have a discussion about whether his comments were played back to the UK accurately or whether we should be focusing more intently on the faults within the NHS. But anyone would keep their head down after the firestorm that was caused yet Hannan has been back on the US circuit, being interviewed on reason.tv and deliberately mentioning his admiration for Enoch Powell!
What's his strategy. Is he just being carried along on the hubris of his moment in the sun or is he deliberately trying to smoke out the Notting Hill set that surround the leader's office?
I'm not sure but one thing stands out. He's dangled some red meat to his fan base in the UK Tory party with the mention of Powell. Tories normally do this by mentioning Thatcher but would never risk referencing Powell, such a controversial figure with his 'Rivers of Blood' speech about the dangers of immigration.
Hannan has been clever though in that he's made no mention to race or immigration in the text of what he's said so it's easy to defend in the media. What he's done is appeal to the emotional element of the brain. This is common in US politics, where Hannan is making friends, and works by using certain words or imagery to imply something that activates the emotional side of the brain. It means to you can send signals, which if they were explicit, may cause an outrage, but by being subtle they make the desired impact. They're often referred to as dog-whistle issues.
A famous example was the Republicans' attack ad used against Democrat presidential candidate, Michael Dukakis, in 1988. The ad was about Dukakis' record at giving convicted felons early release. The example that kept being used was a black man called Willie Horton, who kidnapped and sexually assaulted a young couple while on weekend release.
This is a shocking crime but it was the use of specific words with the regular flashing of Horton, a black man, using unusual and manacing facial expressions that prompted feverish discussions about what the Republicans were trying to imply.
I'm not for a moment suggesting that Daniel Hannan is racist or anti-foreigner but his use of Enoch Powell and all that he represents to elements of the Tory party was very clever.