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Gary Horton: It’s what you don’t see that matters most

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: March 2, 2010 8:27 p.m.
Updated: March 3, 2010 4:55 a.m.
In marketing it’s called “negative space.” That is, the space that’s not expressly part of a graphic image that communicates a marketing message as forcefully as the image itself.

Confused? Take a look at the FedEx logo on this page.

We’ve all seen the FedEx sign a million times. Their trucks and packages are everywhere. But have you ever noticed the bold, right-pointing arrow between the E and the X? Look closely and you’ll see that bold arrow sending out its strong emotional message.

We may not be exactly sure of what a “FedEx” is, but the bold arrow tells us FedEx is going places and on the move. They’re serious and they’re competent.

Sometimes what we don’t see is more important than what we do see. It’s true for some business logos like that of FedEx, and it’s true for what we don’t see in the headlines of our news.

Recognizing what’s not making the news might be more important today than what we see splashed in bold print. Politicians and policies make big news when things go wrong. But the newspapers go blank and the airwaves silent when things go well.

Today we no longer read of red and orange terror alerts screamed by an administration fixated with fraying our nerves and keeping the population fearful and malleable.

We no longer read of new laws passed with more coming, designed to constrict our civil rights.

We don’t read of hundreds of war-dead Americans each month, or of thousands of killed Iraqis and Afghanis.

We don’t read of precipitous stock market falls; we no longer see car companies and investment banks collapsing, taking huge slices of the country with them.

We don’t read of secret White House meetings with top energy companies, followed by $150-per-barrel oil that stops our economy in its tracks. We don’t read of Enron energy deals that nearly brought California to its knees.

And we certainly don’t see Twin Tower buildings brought down by the first large-scale attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor.

We don’t see any of this. We don’t see the fear. We don’t see the terror. We don’t see the blatant abuse and manipulation of the American people for the benefit of the few and the rich.

That’s all empty, blank, negative space now.

But that doesn’t mean its absence isn’t important. That we no longer see and suffer this stuff is perhaps the greatest achievement of the Hope and Change we were promised.

With the election of Hope, Fear has been largely dispelled. This is change I believe in. I am so pleased to no longer be abused, manipulated and harangued by Bush era fear-mongering and the tragedies born from incompetence.

Of course, America yet suffers serious problems. We’re fighting our way out of the toughest recession since the Great Depression.

But we’re climbing out of it instead of helplessly piling into it, like the rudderless Bush Titanic America piling into an economic iceberg.

And yes, we see partisanship and health care fights that are drawn out, brutal and often discouraging. But these are the headlines of how we’re wrestling with one another to improve America rather than headlines of more war, fear, collapse and tragedy.

Let the news flamboyantly cover the latest twists and turns in health care or in Economic Recovery Act spending. I’ll take this news over botched Katrina responses and bombed Twin Towers; over waterboarding and orange alerts; over housing collapses and energy ripoffs any day — right here, right now.

And so it was that I recoiled with disgust last week when former Vice President Dick Cheney made news accusing Obama of missing warnings relative to the Christmas Day “panty bomber.”

“That kind of incompetence,” Cheney said, “gets people killed.” Forgetting his own missed warnings and incompetence resulting in the 9/11 tragedy, Cheney wants fear back front and center in the news.

I recoiled further when Bush torture policy author Viet Dihn publicly whined that we’re killing terrorist leaders so fast we don’t have a chance to interrogate them to see what they’re plotting.

Say what? Someone tell Dihn that dead terrorists plot nothing. Dead terrorists don’t fly jets into towers.

So, save for reputation-salvaging fear mongers and those like them, today our news is of health care wars and deficits, of jobs programs and banking. Yes, we’d all like results more quickly. Still, things are plainly improving from the tough spots we were in.

So it’s not what we’re seeing in the news that’s most important. Today there’s empty negative space once filled by terror and fear, incompetence and death.

That giant empty space in our news shouts to America like the bold, white arrow from the FedEx sign: “We’re going places. We’re on the move. We’re serious and we’re competent.”

That’s the real message of today’s news. It’s what we don’t see anymore, and let’s be glad it’s gone.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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