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The master of suspense on politics

At Powerline, William Katz describes the great director Alfred Hitchcock, "the master of suspense" and in a suprising essay describes some of Hitchcock's political lessons.

"Alfred Hitchcock was born in England in 1899 and died in California in 1980. Since you are worldly Power Line readers, you probably know most of his great films - "Rear Window," "North by Northwest," "Strangers on a Train," "Vertigo," "The Man Who Knew too Much," "Psycho," "Dial M for Murder," "The Birds," and others. . .

Hitchcock's films were known for many things, including a glossy, elegant style. But it was his ability to play our feelings, to sense how the audience would react, that was the spearhead of his success. And it struck me that Hitchcock had quite a bit to teach political candidates, even 28 years after his death. Some political players know these things instinctively. Most do not. Consider what Hitchcock knew, and showed in his work.

LESSON ONE – People love to be scared. We don't like to admit it, but it's clearly true. Hitchcock's career was based, simply, on scaring the audience. He reminded us of our sense of vulnerability, of what he called the "watch out" factor in life. There's a world of difference between fearmongering and understanding what people fear. It's outrageous, for example, when critics accuse President Bush of fearmongering when he discusses terrorism, for it's something Americans legitimately fear. Fear, in many respects, is good. It's the reason we don't put our hand on a hot stove.

POLITICAL APPLICATION: The candidate who understands voters' fears, and who can provide solutions, will have a strong appeal. People want their fears addressed. They don't want them ridiculed or ignored. A parent who fears that her child will be beaten up in school is outraged if her fear is shrugged off as a "socio-economic problem." Both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, although sunny characters, understood how, with restraint, to use fear. Roosevelt told America, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," but forcefully described, and addressed, the economic despair gripping the nation. Reagan spoke of "morning in America," but visceral fear of crime, and of international defeat, was always on his agenda. Understand fear.

The four other lessons are here.

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