At the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Sen. Mitch McConnell rolled out a 7-foot, 3-inch stack of paper wrapped in a red ribbon. This stack purports to contain the 20,000 pages of regulations created to flesh out the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“Obamacare”). Regardless of your politics, the Red Tape Tower makes an impression.
Since its unveiling, the stack of paper has become quite popular. A quick web search reveals instagram photos, facebook posts, Average Joes posing with the tower, and behind-the-scenes action sequences showing its movement backstage at CPAC. The tower even has a twitter handle: @theredtapetower.
Emotionally-engaging symbols shape the conversation.
Does the symbol dramatically oversimplify a complex topic? Absolutely. Is that the point? Absolutely.
Mitch is trying to move hearts and minds. He has struck a resonant chord with some folks. There is pent-up frustration with the ACA of 2010, and the tower has served as a sort of megaphone for some of those frustrated people, a way to “speak out” quickly, easily, and visually. “Click to share” takes away the need to communicate complicated thoughts on the topic in prose.
Of course not everyone reacts favorably to the Red Tape Tower. But Sen. McConnell wasn’t going for 100% “likes”; he was framing the conversation.