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Anat Shenker-Osorio Headshot

Stoking Racist Xenophobia for Political Gain

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Steve Poizner has clearly taken a page from a handbook on propaganda in his latest ad bating us to pin our economic troubles on illegal immigrants. This ad, the third in a series using different words to convey this same simplistic and racist idea, is another attempt to pull him out of Meg Whitman's shadow. Divide and conquer could be his campaign's theme.
Poizner not only calls for an end to services for immigrants, he uses propaganda to do so. Calling these immigrants "illegals" -- he creates a noun for what's traditionally an adjective. In other words, instead of people who have done something illegal (no doubt like every one of us at some point in our lives), he suggests that committing crime defines them. Breaking the law is not an act, it's an identity.
And then there are the images. Poizner is often shot from below, godlike. Look closely at this ad and you'll see a fence behind the car on the hill where he stands. A fence is a border -- it visually and physically divides space. In pairing language about illegal immigration with this image, the ad suggests that when California goes over the cliff -- it's headed for Mexico.
Poizner then pushes the car back from the brink -- demonstrating his strength in keeping us from going down with the Latinos. The message had been about restoring our economy, the perils of "doing too much for too many." But the ad ends with the words "let's save California" -- as if the state itself is under attack.
Blaming one group for society's troubles, conflating a negative action with an identity, positioning yourself as the savior -- these tactics are not only vile, they demonstrate that Poizner possesses neither the maturity nor the wisdom to govern this state.