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Words & Images


A brief response to the movie “No” (2012).

Background: Based on an unpublished play, the movie centers around the 1988 Chilean national plebiscite; a national referendum to determine whether Augusto Pinochet would be allowed to extend his rule for another eight year term. Citizens would either vote “Yes” or “No,” and although many at first did not believe in the credibility of the referendum and the No campaign’s power, the No campaign ended up winning. Pinochet attempted to retain his power but was forced to step down as military chiefs refused to continue their support.

When those who worked on the “No” side first got to work, they realized that their research showed the majority of those who were on the no side would not vote, for fear of retribution, a return to the communist era, and for other reasons. Many on the yes side would also not vote because they thought that Pinochet would remain in power regardless of the outcome. Moreover, the no campaign didn’t even have a figure to lead their side; they had no individual, icon, or personality.

Subsequently, the campaign team centered most of the campaign on themes of “happiness” and positiveness. The campaign’s logo (http://ecd.elciudadano.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/arcoiris-no.jpg.gif) features a rainbow with the word No; many of the campaign’s 15 minute videos (they are shown weekly followed with a 15 minute video of the Yes campaign) are also based on the motif of hope and joy, with people smiling and dancing and skipping, etc. It should be noted that for most of the years since Pinochet’s rule, Chile suffered economic crises and brutal crackdowns on protesters, with thousands of individuals jailed and executed without due process, tortured, missing, etc. The general mood of the population was therefore very, very gloomy.

At first, many in the No side wanted to focus their video segments on the brutality of the regime; some parts did, but the vast majority of their time on air for all videos were spent on brighter themes. The campaign team did not focus on public opinion and sampling as much as Greenberg Carville Shrum in “Our Brand is Crisis,” but they were also less entrenched in grass-root movements in comparison to Evo Morale’s campaign strategy… and yet they won with the theme of joy, happiness, with segments of jokes and laughter and choreographed dances, mimes and carnivals, all for the purpose of saying “No.” Upon first seeing this, I thought it was an 80’s advertisement for Coca-Cola.

Perhaps this strategy worked simply because of the context of the referendum, but could this strategy be successfully imported, with or without the context of socio-economic crises, in the United States? President Obama centered his campaign on themes of hope, but they were much more realistic and centered on actual problems rather than general idealistic themes of people dancing around.

To watch one of the 15 minute videos of the “No” campaign, here’s a link:

(skip to 02:00 to see what I mean by “themes of joy and happiness” and laughter, etc.)



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