"It's coded," Flynn said in hushed realization, his finger arced towards the wall screen over the noisy restaurant's bar. "I'm certain of it."
Tony lowered his reuben and turned to look. An ad was running, the slick come-on for the former president's newly organized mega-church. "What's coded?"
"That ad. They're using subliminals."
The room was too noisy for either of them to hear the smarmy voice-over clearly, but like all good propaganda, the message was carried in the visuals as well. The pitch had started with a rousing patriotic rush of flags, jets and other emotionally freighted icons, interspersed with a thickening melange of religious imagery, all of which coalesced into the church's name and logo.
When the ball game resumed, Tony turned back and quietly took another bite.
Deep in thought, Flynn swirled a limp French fry through the last of the ketchup on his plate. "That montage..." he said idly. "That montage was far too busy not to have had some covert crap layered into it."
"I don't know. All I got out of it was a sudden yen to get all cuddly with the ex-pres. Not that he's my type, or anything."
Flynn grimaced at the image his friend had conjured up, and laughed. "Not that any man is your type, you mean. But that's my point. It's too effective. There's something hidden in that pixel soup that burrows into your brain and fiddles with the controls."
"What, and you're surprised? I mean, think about it. The right-wing wackos have been kit-bashing politics and religion for years. That self-appointed spokesman for the uber-daddy that he claims told him to start a few pre-emptive wars all but put the two together as it was. The only thing new is they've given it a name, and they're having a membership drive. The so-called terrorist threat they conjured from an old spy shop phone book after 9/11 to scare their Christian base was exactly that: a blending of politics and religion. Hell, their favorite boogeyman is their own reflection. So why not do a mash-up?"
"It's dangerous, that's why."
Tony had his mouth full of reuben again, but he managed to ask for an explanation anyway.
"You have to ask? The founders knew how dangerous it was to mix politics and religion. That's why they prohibited the government from granting any of them special status."
"Oh, come on, Flynn. The guy's not in office anymore. And besides, it's not a government-sponsored religion."
"It might as well be. You just saw it. Joining his new church is everyone's patriotic duty. But like I said, there's something else going on in that ad. I've watched it so many times now that I'm beginning to see it in my sleep."
"Sounds like a good reason to stop."
Flynn ate the last of his potatoes. "Actually, that's a good thing, believe it or not. I do some of my best thinking when I'm logged out. All that random stuff I'm always reading bumps up against the problems I gnaw at during the day, and some pretty amazing things pop out."