LIFE magazine, One More Try for the Thoughts

On February 1, 1968, Nixon declared that he will be running for president after critics write off his political career as finished 8 years earlier. After he lost the campaign against John F. Kennedy in the 1960s election, he stated that he was finished with politics. [2] Of course, due to the huge shock that followed such news, news articles of all kinds fought to cover this sudden change in the presidential race. In the March 1, 1968 issue of LIFE magazine, those expressions of shock are presented as a pleasant and certainly wanted surprise by a popular figure.  Throughout the article, the author depicts Nixon as a handsome stranger who is very much welcome back into the political field.

Nixon Volunteers in Rochester

Objectivity is usually what we expect from news articles, but LIFE tends to give a biased review of such topics. In particular, this article utilizes many very positive phrases to describe Nixon such as:

“A hard nosed realist, a fiercely ambitious man who knows the game of power” [1]

“At 55, (which is younger than any of his three prominent rivals), he looked extremely fit, and his voice was strong and low as he spoke in what seemed a perfectly relaxed and candid objectivity.” [1]

This careful depiction of him as he talks about the situation only further draws the reader’s sympathy which during the time would have been effective propaganda for Nixon.

“(There was) strong certainty that he would win, yet expresses his cautious and aware nature of the situation at hand.” [1]

“What is true in spring may not be true in summer. Things change very fast.” [1]

“The pamphlet confirms, ‘Nixon’s the one!’” [1]

Following these statements, the article is laced with words such as: courageous, ambitious, diligent, and finally concludes that “Nixon possess all of these qualities and more like it with abundance” [1]. The article even ends describing how Nixon would be bringing in “New Freedoms” and throwing out the “Old Freedoms”, a play on the American public’s pride to only further increase his good standing with the public. LIFE magazine effectively portrays Nixon as the ideal candidate that is strong and bold against a wavering Democratic party at the time. Through articles with words of only positivity towards Nixon, voters could only be influenced to think well of him, thus leading to his eventual victory in the presidential election. Readers are thus influenced by these positive adjectives and end up having a much better attitude towards Nixon than they did before. Thus, although this article was not directly an advertisement for Nixon’s campaign, it played out the part of an advertisement due to the heavy attempts at altering vernacular memory.

A list of magazine covers in 1968

Popular magazines such as LIFE during 1968 were often more of a form of propaganda than an informing piece of media due to the heavy influence of the changing political environment of the time. Articles such as this one was a more passive propaganda in a way that did not explicitly state it was for his campaign, but definitely did not try to hide its bias towards him. Although it was not actively advertising Nixon, it certainly still had the effect of promoting him though the careful choice of words and situations depicted within the article’s content.

These are all effective approaches that is often found in irrational advertising that primarily focuses on appealing to people’s emotions. In a time like 1968 in which the political environment was shaken up by the tumultuous events that preceded it, this was especially effective [2]. Events like the assassinations of several key figures in American history at the time, such as Martin Luther King Jr and John F. Kennedy lead to Nixon’s eventual victory on a platform that promised security and stability.

In relation to present day memory, it does not directly affect the popular culture nor memory of Nixon due to the fact that only a very small number of people will actively be in contact with the article itself. Because of this, the magazine acts mostly as a relic that only allows us to analyze the residual memories of the pro-Nixon campaign back in 1968. However, it does give great insight into how biased certain magazines were towards certain candidates and further how much the public could have been influenced by such articles.

As an article of almost 50 years, we can only use it now to depict the possible mindset people had about Nixon at the time. We can also see how this article shows how selective people are in their memory of a promising individual by filtering out the negatives of the person in question while leaving the positives in place. In a sense this article does just that because we do not seem to see any criticisms of him in the article itself. It projects only the good side of Nixon and allows for viewers now and when the magazine was published to see that side.

SEE ALSO:

Nixon’s Campaign Ads: The Puppeteer of American Doubt, Fear, and Hope

Citations:

Wainwright, Loudon. “One more try for the heights” LIFE, 1 March. 1968, pp 60-68. (Link)

History.com Staff. “Nixon Announces His Candidacy for President.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nixon-announces-his-candidacy-for-president.