Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Just when you thought things couldn't get weirder

 It seems that the producers of the History Channel are not the only people who are fascinated with extraterrestrial life. Hillary Clinton, who recently lost the primary in West Virginia, has struggled to gain the support of younger voters among other subgroups. Aside from adjusting her position on health care, Clinton has attempted to get closer to potential voters by altering her other strategies. A recent article by the New York Times noted Clinton's repeated acknowledgement of potential extraterrestrial life and her promise to make government files about Area 51 and other ET related material public. Interestingly, Clinton's mentions of ET have been on talk shows or radio shows. Many have attributed this to her campaign chairman John Podesta, who apparently has a great interest in ET. Some believe that Clinton's acknowledgement of ET will help her gain the support of potential voters who also hold such a belief. Furthermore, Podesta, who claims that his biggest failure while working under Obama was not getting the papers published, states that he will hold Clinton accountable for her promises once she reaches office.
Clinton apparently has a "past" with ET related business -- or at least in pop culture (Weekly News)
 What do you think this piece of news indicates about the current electoral process and the standards of the media? Do you believe that Clinton's actions count as obvious pandering or something else that is lighter? In regards to Podesta, how big a role do you think someone associated with the campaign should have during the hypothetical term following a candidate's successful election? What types of issues should a candidate be invested in, and where does the candidate draw the line between absurdity and unique concerns?

FiveThirtyEight
Telegraph
Huffington Post

13 comments:

Elliot Quan said...

I think this directly mirrors the trends of the GOP campaign - I really don't think Trump (or Ted Cruz previously, for that matter) is really stupid for what they've said, but they know that there is a significant portion of the electorate that is, and thus they target those people with ideas that we consider absolutely absurd. However, I'm kind of surprised we're seeing this from the Clinton campaign, but I guess why not? As long as these... "ET papers" don't actually harm anyone, go ahead and publish them, I don't care. I'm not sure that the same can be said for some of Trump's rhetoric.

Jonathan Liu said...

I just don't see the point. Like Elliot said, these statements and the intent of publishing the ET papers are I guess harmless, but at the same time, I don't really understand the point of her mentioning this at all. It all seems pretty ridiculous. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I find it hard to believe that there's a significant constituency that believes in aliens, and just as hard to believe that they would give Clinton their votes just because of this. Not to mention the votes she risks losing from people like us who find a great deal of absurdity within her claims. It seems to me if anything a personal favor that she's doing for Podesta, in exchange for his help in the campaign. He seems to be hell-bent on publishing those papers, and perhaps he only agreed to help her if she mentioned repeatedly that aliens have the potential of existing? Who knows.

Crystal Lee said...

I agree with Jonathan in that while these papers are basically harmless, they're very out-of-place, especially, I think, from a candidate trying to separate herself from Trump's constantly changing, pandering views. I guess you could infer a deeper meaning about Clinton's belief in science, but these, I think, will certainly appear kind of random and absurd to the electorate; I say this as someone who does believe there is extraterrestrial life, but I still think that addressing this in a presidential campaign, especially when it's nothing near a key issue, is a waste of resources and time.
Also, interesting theory, Jonathan! I think that is possible, or maybe he convinced her this would somehow help her...
Overall, I do think this is just pandering, whether it's to Podesta or certain sections of the electorate, not only because of the non-importance of the topic (in relation to the campaign), but also because the Clinton campaign seems to always be awkwardly pandering to people. For instance, she had that whole Snapchat thing a while back to reach younger voters, and recently, she mentioned (to a radio station, I believe, oriented towards a black audience) that she always carries hot sauce in her purse, which is a popular thing among African-Americans (as exemplified by the writing on Beyonce's bat in Lemonade, which Colbert uses as a segue into the topic in the video below). Colbert has also criticized her pandering and changeability of opinion before.
But has Clinton finally gone too far?
referenced video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzzJZoaAefo

Charles Cao said...

To me, this is a non-story. These ET files are not a pressing matter that she is campaigning on rather just a side note that she's mentioned here and there. As stated above, pandering to the electorate is nothing new and is used by all candidates. Likewise, I don't think any range of topics can be deemed as "going to far" if it helps them get votes. There's so many people in this country and I think the best way to run a campaign would be to support everything you possibly can that will get you the most support. The interesting part of Hillary's campaign is truly her inability to connect with much of the country. At the start of this, I believed that Hillary would dominate this election season (good credentials, weak republican and democratic nominees, ran before and was successful). The fact that she has struggled at times to beat Bernie, in fact being dominated by Bernie among the millennials, shows either weaknesses in her or the way she has ran her campaign. While I believe that Hillary will beat Trump in the general, I will not be surprised if it is close given the amount of dislike for her currently in this country.

Brianna Panozzo said...

As Charles mentioned, I also agree that Hillary has substantially weakened over the term of her campaign so far. At about this time last year, she seemed to be the obvious choice for president or at least the obvious democratic candidate. Many people dislike her due to her mishap with the deleted emails or because they believe she is corrupt, and I think that the support for ETs is just an example of her attempts to actually connect with the whole portion of the electorate that she has lost due to her bad reputation. Many of our peers are very pro-Bernie because we can relate to his aspirations and goals, but not so much to Hillary's, who doesn't seem to be liberal enough to really satisfy our expectations. This may just be a last minute attempt to gather support from a small group of the electorate, probably young people, who believe in aliens. I think that this is too small and insignificant an issue to gain much attention and believe that she should focus on things that are actually important to the fairly large group of people that aren't voting for her.

Steven Lee said...

This is a nonstory just like Charles said. During this election cycle we should not be focusing on the kinds of stories like this and actually focus on issues that affect everybody. Sure the ET story is a nice thing to have on the side but I have to agree with Charles that this is a poor way to try and connect with voters. The reason why she is the candidate with the second lowest approval rating (only behind racist orange man) is because of her stances on issues, or perhaps I should say her "stances" on the issues. She as for the TPP then she was against it when Bernie was against it, she was silent on the XL pipeline, and now she's against it, etc. What bothers me about the Clintons, Obama, and the New Democrats in general is the fact that they only have preferences and no convictions that they want to fight for. This is unfortunately no longer the party of FDR or LBJ. Clinton needs to get back on the issues and while she's at it, she might as well release her transcripts of the speech she gave to Goldman Sachs.

Langston Swiecki said...

There seems to be a slight problem with nomenclature in talking about this subject. Believing in extraterrestrial life signifies a belief in the presence of any life on other planets, which could include organisms as simple as bacteria. Hell, I believe in the potential for extraterrestrial life. It is a big universe out there and the number of planets in their star's habitable zone is fairly astounding. However, when talking about intelligent terrestrial life and "aliens," there is certainly a greater divorce from science, although apparently around a quarter of people believe the earth has been visited by aliens according to polls by HuffPost and Gallup (probably because of the X-files, but still). Hillary, in taking the second position, would seem to be deviating from issues that bear greater relevance to the nation and the election, potentially exposing her to further attack and ridicule. However, there is some sense in this seeming madness. Considering the fairly negative image of her in regards to government secrecy and specifically her e-mail debacle, taking a strong stance on releasing the documents related to Area 51 will at the very least draw attention away and could hypothetically improve her image in regards to this issue. This issue's overall irrelevance actually helps her in this case, for it by itself is not likely to drive voters away, making a low-risk investment that could potentially yield a decent number of votes, as those who believe in something outrageous in the face of reason will cling to this belief all the more fervently and might more willingly change their voting pattern to comply with it.

Christopher Duan said...

I agree with both Langston and Steven. This story generally has little value in itself. This election cycle seems to be the most polarized and contrasting that comes to mind. In answering your question, I think that it is not Clinton pandering, rather it is Clinton vying for the attention she so craves from voters. In response to Podesta, of course past experience and actions will play big role. It should play as big of a role as it needs to, and of course that varies from candidate to candidate. I feel as though Hillary has been very involved, as she worked closely with Obama, and of course so then this affects her campaign, no doubt. In regards to the issues a candidate should focus on, I believe that the candidates do not generally have a "set" slate of issues, but should focus on the issues that seem most important to THAT candidate. Accordingly, it seems that perhaps aliens in this context and this type of attention seeking is pretty high on Clinton's priorities, and she should be judged accordingly.

Tara Young said...

I do think that this is a very odd piece of media. While it ma gather some supporters, Clinton does also have other more significant positions. If she had stated that she firmly believed in extraterrestrial life and took a strong stance on finding it, like ET, when she became president, I might be more weary. However, she simply stated that it is a possibility. I think Podesta has a big role in the Clinton's campaign as she is a significant contender for winning office. I think that the candidates should focus on more currently relevant and controversial issues like immigration and economic policy. There should be a line drawn between the clearly possible and the fantastical ideas.

ETHAN CHAO said...

Hillary Clinton is just claiming that she will release E.T. related government material just to portray herself as honest and forthcoming. She may have gained some supporters from this, but the time of those Alien conspiracy theories ended more than a decade age; many of us don't really care about it anymore. If the government is keeping the existence of E.T. life a secret, the thought of it doesn't really disturb us. If she was running for presidency in the nineties, promising to release these E.T. classified documents would definitely gain peoples' attention. Besides, if she were to become president, it's doubtful she'll release anything that will please the Alien conspiracy theorists among us. Perhaps she's trying to draw attention away from some of her intended agendas and platforms.

Jeffrey Song said...

I agree with Tara in that's it's definitely an odd piece of media and one that I'm not completely sure of how it got to the front page of news in the first place besides perhaps the fact that media outlets are looking for anything related to candidates/the presidential race considering the controversy and speculation that this incoming election cycle has generated. On the other hand, there may be people that actually buy this stuff, the 25% that Langston mentioned, and could be more inclined to vote with the rest of her beliefs if she acknowledged theirs. This announcement isn't exactly deterring voters away from her either who would have otherwise voted for her, so perhaps it's just an attempt to safely reach an extreme subset of the population without damaging her reputation with the rest of the population? Pure speculation and probably incorrect, but I can't really think of any other good reasons as to why this story was even publicized in the first place.

Cami Nemschoff said...

I am wondering if Clinton's strategy to gain more voters will actually work. It seems that the amount of voters who believe in aliens and extraterrestrial life is relatively small in comparison to other votes she could be targeting. Like others mentioned, this strategy could actually have a negative effect by weirding out voters and turning them away even more. I think that if Clinton is looking to gain more voters she should target a group that has a significantly larger amount of members.

Lea Tan said...

I agree with everyone that this doesn't really seem like a strategy that will actually be successful, and if anything, it might hurt Clinton more than it will help. Like Cami said, the number of people that believe in ET is so small that it will barely get her any additional votes, and the number of people weirded out by her new ideology will probably be more hesitant to vote for her. On the other hand, because people who don't believe in any extraterrestrial suspicions probably won't take her seriously, this "change in strategy" probably won't affect much of anything because we don't really believe it anyway. It is suspicious that Podesta is such a big supporter of publicizing ET matters and Clinton is just now deciding to try to gain those voters, but either way, I don't think the story will do much of anything other than make people laugh. Also, if Clinton is trying to appeal to young voters, does that mean she thinks many young voters believe in extraterrestrial life and aliens? Because it seems like, at least here, that is really not the case. If anything, younger voters would believe less in extraterrestrial life than other age groups because we are exposed to a lot more science and scientific research now than past generations were. She should definitely try to appeal to younger voters in another way.