Archived Story

Can you sketch the next outrage?

Published 12:03am Friday, March 23, 2012

I am tired of the outrage. Aren’t you?

It is all around us, I am afraid. Turn on the television, fire up the Internet, unfold the newspaper each morning. Wherever you look, someone is outraged.

It’s not that there isn’t anything to be outraged about. Schools are failing, infrastructure is crumbling and long-term problems are not being addressed.

And yet, presidential candidates are making much ado about things like Etch A Sketches.

You could see the little red boxes with tiny white knobs and gray metallic screens nearly everywhere you turned Thursday afternoon.

The people at the Ohio Art Company must be ecstatic. You would be too if the toy you had been making for more than 50 years suddenly became the focus of a national presidential campaign.

Even though the toy has been around since 1960, the Etch A Sketch has never been spotted on as many television screens, in as many newspapers and discussed on as many websites as it had Thursday — the day after one of Mitt Romney’s aides compared Romney’s campaign strategy to the toy.

Senior campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom might have thought he was being clever when he said Romney would “hit a reset button” when the GOP candidate faced President Obama in the general election.

“It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch,” Ferhnstrom said. “You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.”

Strike up the ominous music. Whip up the garish campaign graphics. Switch to live broadcasts of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrish somewhere in Central Louisiana waving above their heads — you guessed it — Etch A Sketches.

In a matter of minutes, Fehrnstrom’s remarks were transformed into the outrage of the day.

It turned into profits for the Ohio Art Company, who saw its stock prices soar more than 100 percent Thursday, reaching, at one point, a 52-week high.

Forever seeking that gotcha moment that will keep viewers tuned in, the media took the Etch A Sketch incident and ran with it. Such moments are far more interesting than discussing the real issues that deserve outrage.

In a world dominated by social media and instant news, small things grow into big things. It has already happened numerous times in this presidential campaign alone. Whatever happened to Santorum’s Satan remarks, Gingrich’s marriage problems, Romney’s “corporations are people, too” and “cheesy grits” gaffes. These gotcha moments that were supposed to spell doom for the candidates, have only served to get the media more attention.

But how much outrage can we take? How much longer will we watch before we decide to look somewhere else for our entertainment, because at this point that is all the campaign has become — a few talking points and a lot of manufactured drama?

Are the issues so complex and boring that the pundits and the voters would rather talk about toys than talk about the issues. That may be.

There will soon be another drama to capture the attention of the media and the voters and a serious discussion of the issues will once again have to wait — maybe wait until it is too late. It is likely this week’s brouhaha will have little effect on who ultimately becomes the Republican nominee and whether that nominee can beat President Obama.

Like the Etch A Sketch this controversy will soon be shaken and we will start all over again.

Maybe Romney’s senior aide was correct after all.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or

  • Anonymous

    If the GOP choice is Romney we’ll be shaking for 4 years trying to get it straighten out. He’s as bad as bama. But people will not listen to what he says. Any of the other three would be the best, but with his knowledge and know how Gingrich would completely knock obama out of the water. Romney does’nt stand a chance against obama and the Democrats know it, that’s the reason he’s the so called ‘front-runner’. 

  • Anonymous

    Nice article, Ben. And I am OUTRAGED that more haven’t said so! Keep writing.