Junkfood, Jayzus and the Cute Cat Theory

Film, Observatory

There’s a political theory, first applied to online petition signing, that suggests people only care about an issue when it directly affects them. A Labour counsellor wants to allow a needle exchange to be opened next to a school, say, or Tories plan to turn your street into a dual carriageway. Suddenly you’re galvanized into attending local hearings.

It gets its name from the idea that while online activism might concern Tunisian politics, but people will only get involved when it results in their daily dose of cute cat images being shut down. US voters apparently aren’t interested in Mitt Romney’s stumble across Europe – it’s too distant to relate to.

But in parts of the US religion and politics are mixed together, which brings us to Chick-Fil-A, a hard-right Christian fried chicken chain that largely exists in the Bible-belt. After Fox News’s Mike Huckabee supported their anti-gay stance and declared Wednesday a ‘Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day’ the outlets posted their highest-ever revenues as people voted pro-Family Values (man, I hate that term) through the purchase of hand-held foodstuffs. (Wait, didn’t Oprah Winfrey just complain that India ate with its hands?)

So it’s a street-level display of faith and politics where people can directly get involved and show what they stand for. But this also suggests a fatal disconnect between major political decisions and how they affect voters. If there was a way of linking the two that wasn’t as vague as noticing that it’s a bit harder to get a job or finding your wage packet a bit thinner, people would quickly become involved and issues would get the hot-button treatment.

We would be horrified if our local chippie suddenly started handing political brochures, but maybe it a way of escaping the anodyne corporate culture now smothering every issue. I live in a world where I get emails from my aftershave – how would I feel if clothing stores suggested how I should vote?

4 comments on “Junkfood, Jayzus and the Cute Cat Theory”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    Good column on the quandary that political activists face daily in the U.S. and not only in the States.
    In small towns – and large – it’s know the good next-door neighbors and automatically ignore and distrust the neighbors one street over. (“It ain’t my problem, is it?” Unless, of course, it’s “I’ve just meet a girl named Maria.. Maria,” right?) The same holds true with countries.
    “All politics is local”, “It’s all about the economy, stupid”, and “Foreigners. Lt ‘em take care of their own problems”. The world is made up of Tight Little Islands, which was a great old film by the way; islands of local interest. knowledge and belief and Experience, which for me is a biggey. Hamlet might well have said: To know and to know not. That defeats all questions.
    In the U.S. religion and politics is too mixed up and, unfortunately, much of the time it’s shallow religion and shallow politics. A dose of world religion for everyone. Separation of church and state? Hah!
    Note well: Just days after the Chick-Fil-A’s President announced that his company had a policy of not serving gays, the firm’s middle aged Vice President of Public Relations dropped over of a massive heart attack.

  2. Cat Eldridge says:

    Early polling on Romney’s European follies does suggest it’s playing into how the general electorate is perceiving him as less than qualified to be President. His overall approval numbers are down slightly since the trip and, more importantly, his disapproval numbers took a sharp jump.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    I’m surprised, Cat. Usually there is little attention paid to candidate’s actions overseas. Of course, candidates usually don’t leave the country during campaigns (see ‘all politics is local’ above). I wish there were a chick-fila in my neighbourhood so I could boycott it. Just when I think we’re moving ahead I get a request to sign a petition against the ‘gay panic’ murder defense in Queensland, Australia (q.v.)and a bartender returning from Europe on a Canadian airline with his partner were subjected to anti-gay treatment by fellow passengers who were indulging in loud drunken behaviour including throwing miniature drink bottles across the width of the plane.
    Are we moving ahead at all?

  4. John Howard says:

    All of the above makes me think that we are either all living through an episode of The Newsroom or alternatively Aaron Sorkin has become a modern day Nostradamus. There is a further possibility, he knows how extremist America works and just cant help writing about it.

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