Back to our Senses The Pope's on YouTube. The uncompromising authoritarian comes across like a furry teddy bear, utterly unimposing, almost ordinary. Certainly not someone you could imagine objecting to a bit of enjoyment and excitement in life. Some people didn't believe that he would ever venture online in the first place and join the surreal world of those insane, funny and nerdy video masses. But they underestimated the Vatican's image consciousness. For the Vatican has always known that you don't get power over people using arguments, and certainly not with moral pleas. You have to appeal to their senses. Why do believers kneel? Not because the Pope is saying something so amazing but because he appears so imposing in his sinfully expensive robe, surrounded by the finest art, the greatest music - everything is so grandiose it's almost otherworldly. This extraordinary and super-human quality appeals to us mere mortals. But we want to see and hear it for ourselves rather than just be told about it.
Some people will never understand that. Naomi Wolf, for example, the critic of society's obsession with material consumption. She gave a speech at Washington University, entitled "The End of America" which was secretly filmed and posted on YouTube. In just a few days it had received 1,250,000 clicks. For Ms Wolf this proved to be a humbling lesson; she was dejected because in text form her arguments only ever reach the usual suspects, in other words a few thousand book fans, while the video version attracted a motley audience of over a million. Even at petrol stations or in nail studios, Wolf says, she encounters people who have not read a single one of her books but who vehemently recount the arguments they have heard on YouTube.
What more does the woman want? To be more papal than the Pope? What for? The question here is not: arguments or video? But rather: How do I best get people to listen to my arguments? The formula is nothing new: Get into people's heads. Why the head? We always draw a distinction between the head and the gut. The rational and the emotional. As if the head equals the brain. But the head is the seat of the senses: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue. So to get into people's heads, you have to go through their senses.
Look at Obama. Until recently, other people could have rattled off "Yes we can" to zero effect. Obama doesn't rattle it off, he personifies it. We look at his powerful elegance, his get-up-and-go and want to be a bit like Obama too. It's only when something appeals to our senses that we absorb the message and take it seriously: "We're the ones we've been waiting for." What would have happened if Bush had uttered those words? Roars of laughter no doubt.