Nick Naylor states that, “The beauty of argument is that if you argue correctly, you are never wrong” (Reitman, 2005). The underlying concern in the film “Thank You For Smoking” is the adverse effects that arise from smoking cigarettes. However, the degree of truth and perception of the public regarding the subject is determined by the strength of the argument presented. The statistical facts presented for the argument against the use of cigarettes can be easily disputed by a vigorous convincing argument to the contrary.
The American public perceives political issues on the basis of individual and collective representation of the subject matter. The more convincing an argument seems, the more believable it is, despite the available facts and statistical data. For instance in the film, Naylor suggests that what the cigarette industry needs is “a smoking role model, a real winner” to save the industry from public fallout (Reitman, 2005). Political agendas are pursued by telling the public what they want to hear, but not necessarily what they need.
Information presented to the public is subject to various interpretations; therefore, the most convincing argument in the interpretation of information is, in our case, the emergence of the image of a winner. Politicians depend on the media to counter any negative publicity that may harm or derail their political agendas. The media command a significant public opinion base in relation to matters of public interest; therefore, appealing to the media is critical for any political group or individual.
In the film, in an effort to save the tobacco industry’s image Naylor announces a budget of fifty million dollars to be used in campaigns aimed at discouraging the youth against smoking (Reitman, 2005). The reception of this information earns the industry a degree of credibility in their arguments. Politicians capitalize on public forums and platforms in the furthering of their agendas and aligning the public towards them. This strategy is used by the tobacco industry in furthering its lobbying and marketing strategies.
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Lobbying is an integral aspect of any political movement. The tobacco industry lobbies to convince the political class to pass laws in their favor. The same case applies to any politician or political group. The formation of committees whose aim is to prevent any negative publicity while manipulating the media content in their favor is crucial. The groups within the same political umbrella have defined responsibilities and groupings. This scenario is represented in the film, where the tobacco companies have divisions, like the academy of tobacco research, whose mandate is researching the relationship between tobacco and lung cancer (Reitman, 2005).
The public determines on how to rate a politician given their conduct and affiliations. Therefore, reception of an argument presented by a politician whose affiliations are questionable may not be positive, despite the accuracy of the facts presented. For instance, at a congressional hearing, senator Finistirre suggests that the tobacco industry’s involvement in tobacco related research may affect their priorities. However, Naylor counters by stating “No, just as I am sure campaign contributions do not affect yours” (Reitman, 2005). The senator is careful not to paint himself as a direct beneficiary of the tobacco industry, which he is investigating. This would result in adverse public perception of him.
The political class represents itself as role models who are to be emulated by the public. Therefore, it is the politician’s responsibility to present themselves in standards that are above reproach. They are expected to live up to the standards in which their political forums and manifestos are inclined. The media play a critical role in this aspect. The public’s analysis of a politician’s character and moral standings are significant in the perception of any arguments presented by the politician.
A politician cannot have double standards and must act accordingly to protect and preserve the fundamental freedoms of individuals. The accountability to the public regarding one’s beliefs and moral standing is enforced by the media. The media ensure that every aspect of a politician’s life is brought to the limelight for the public scrutiny. Deviation from these may be construed as a political suicide. However, politicians are careful not to represent themselves in a manner that is subject to misinterpretation by the public. In the film “Thank You for Smoking”, Naylor states that after his ordeal at the hands of his kidnappers, he believes in protecting all freedoms. His son, however, misconstrues this statement as the one that gives him the freedom to smoke. Naylor cuts his speech to prevent his son from lighting the cigarette (Reitman, 2005). This action illustrates Naylor as a man of double standards - a fact that is detrimental in the case of any politician.
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It is the intention of politicians to entice the public and behave in a civil manner when faced by challenges. The astute politician maintains the appearance of a humble, civil servant while pursing his agenda. The presentation of facts in any argument is dependent on how good a person is capable of manipulating the truth and presenting it persuasively to the public. The public is prone to skilful and convincing arguments that are excitable. Thus, a politician’s ability in public speaking techniques and the ability to command attention is critical. These aspects are represented in the film by Naylor and Senator Finistirre. Both depend on their ability to argue and convince the public to perceive issues in their perspectives while alienating the opposition.
Tact is essential when appealing to the public and the media. The media are capable of destroying political career and public perception towards an individual. This is illustrated by Naylor’s involvement with Halloway, a reporter whose mission is to find news at all costs (Reitman, 2005). The media are a powerful tool to be wooed by all politicians. The film illustrates the power of the media and the tobacco industry’s dependency on it to put across its agenda. The political class is aware of the significance of the media and spends fortunes on media campaigns. Politicians invest in media companies and align themselves to media owners in attempts to secure their public forums, opinions and agendas.
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