Floating Voter / I Never Watch That Stuff

Sanctimonious pretense week approaches. From Tuesday, from the moment the first television campaign broadcast is aired, sanctimony will have a field day.

It starts with denial. You exclaim, "What, me? I never watch that stuff."

The rating figures will also show a small viewing. After all, who wants to declare himself a shiftless eccentric with nothing better to do than waste his time on such things?

But let me tell you, from my experience, the number of viewers is exactly the same as the number of pretenders, who cover their eyes with their hands, but spread their fingers apart so they can see between them.

The second part of the sanctimony trip is the suffering. We find time due to our civic commitment and personal curiosity to watch the first broadcasts, to remain au courant and not withdraw from the national parlor. But our mind is made up in advance. "You have no idea," the suffering viewer will complain, "how I suffer when I watch that garbage. It's a shame, a disgrace, it's hard to believe how low they can sink, those lazy politicians and their public relations experts." Despite the pain, we decide to attend the national zeitgeist.

This is how it has always been - we watch and complain, much like peeking at gossip columns. It is shameful to become addicted to it but hard to abstain.

You'd think all those fastidious people, who turn their nose up with disgust, are always watching ARTE at home. That is, if they watch TV at all, as they prefer reading a good book, anyway. And you'd think the campaign broadcasts are so much worse than regular television commercials, which are like a forcible infusion of infected blood. In fact, you'd think they're worse than most popular prime time television broadcasts.

Nobody will admit to watching campaign broadcasts voluntarily, and certainly not to being influenced by them. "What, you mean to tell me that I am swayed or could be impressed by campaigners' tricks? That they're brainwashing me with this nonsense?"

That is exactly what I want to tell you. Yes, you are both influenced and brainwashed. It's an insulting statement, I know, but it's well-founded.

I'll let you in on a secret, which is well-known to politicians and their employees, although it is not altogether clear who the employer and who the employed is, and who dictates to whom. They know that the broadcasts do matter. Public opinion polls conducted by the campaign staffs each night prove that the broadcasts make a difference. They don't effect a revolution, but they are worth quite a few Knesset seats. Granted, all the voters are intelligent and they all know the parties' platforms by heart, and yet they move from one party to another.

The "average voter" is not the only one who is offended by my reserved opinion of him; I, too, was offended when I discovered, in several election campaigns, that my success in the polls is conditional on the success of my idiotic campaign broadcasts. A man spends years working, sweating, doing his best, but his political life depends on a few insipid, tasteless, TV moments. They can cause his entire life to run aground on a sandbank.

In the 1999 elections, for example, we prepared a delightful clip showing a band of klezmers headed by the famed yeshiva student Benjamin Netanyahu with other well-known representatives of religious-nationalist functionaries. It was accompanied by the slogan "Must stop the music." It became the hit of those elections, and was broadcast nightly "by popular request." We started out with 3-4 seats in the polls, and ended with 10 seats in the Knesset. All the conclusions pointed to that clip as the straw that saved us from drowning.

Not once have I asked myself for who I am working and for what, if a four-year Knesset term is summed up by 30 minutes of television, consisting of 10 fleeting broadcasts.

Since I was insulted as an elected official, I am now insulting the voter; now I can afford it. I will point a finger at him and tease him - clip by clip by clip by clip.