This is from two years ago, but here's an opinion article from the Huffington Post by Ron Howard (yes...Opie Taylor and famed film director) about how to revolutionize political campaign ads. I think this is a great idea.
what if all TV ads were, by law, only allowed to feature the candidate, with, say, the American flag as the backdrop, alone, speaking directly to the camera? Perhaps the words also subtitled on the bottom of the frame. No music, no graphs, no cut-away shots of disturbing or sentimental images. Only the candidate, talking to us, the voters.
Imagine hearing the candidates speak for themselves instead of hearing fear-mongering narration and insidious attacks and claims from some Super PAC. This would be REAL campaign reform in a positive direction.
Maybe, but in the grand style of American politics, mud slinging is a time honored tradition. Thomas Jefferson's campaign openly called John Adams a hermaphrodite. In the contest between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, Jackson's wife was openly called an adulterous whore, and J.Q. Adams was accused of being a pimp for the Czar when he served as ambassador to Russia. When Grover Cleveland ran for the presidency, it was stated he had an illegitimate child. The campaign slogan was "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!" Lincoln was portrayed as an African Ape wanting to free the slaves.
The difference is that back then, the voter could put down the newspaper or flier. Today, changing the radio or TV station, or going from one web site to another, doesn't get rid of the crap.
We have a Canadian example as well - a little bit toned down as we like to see ourselves.
Our first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald was touring during an election and got up on a high platform to speak to a crowd of farmers. One of the farmers pointed out that this Conservative politician was standing and speaking on a manure spreader. He quickly replied "Well, this is the first time I can honestly say I've spoken from a Liberal platform.'"
We also had an example in the early 1990's when the Conservatives tried to make fun of a birth defect that caused Jean Chretien to speak out of the side of his mouth. They tried to portray this with an ad that he was a shady character. I am very proud that this enraged many of us and backfired on the Conservatives.
Unfortunately the negative advertising has now taken hold in our country and has been an effective tool for Stephen Harper's campaigns.
I wrote a letter to our national paper lamenting this talking about a U.S example which is in this link
Gerry Nicholls says that negative ads “inform voters about a candidate’s possible flaws.” A textbook example of that is demonstrated in the documentary Hot Coffee and the negative campaign to oust Oliver Diaz from the Mississippi Supreme Court to insure a big business slant in the judicial system.
Deep pockets financed a smear campaign in the election and Oliver, with less money, was still able to prevail. The meager funds he did get resulted in a bogus charge of bribery. After he showed that to be spurious, he was hit with another bogus charge of tax evasion.
Completely exonerating himself from those charges took up three years and people with their busy lives only remembered the bad press. In the next election there was a lot of good material for special interests to draw upon and Oliver was bounced. This new Supreme Court routinely ruled in favour of big business over the little guy.
Negative ads allow those with money and power to hire communication consultants to influence citizens to go against their own safeguards.
Russell Pangborn, Keswick
All of this is true, but I hope none of the well-earned cynicism stops atheists and critical thinkers from voting! Even in a corrupt and dysfunctional system, when it comes down to it, we need to vote!
As rational atheists I think we're able to see right through the bullcrap of negative political ads just as we're able to see right through the bullcrap of religion. I get the feeling that we're better informed about political/social issues and that we also understand the importance of voting.
Hey Sentient - I would never advocate not exercising the "sacred" right to vote.
Always have and my three children have been brought up to respect this privilege no matter what.
We just need to vote with our eyes fully open.
Hey, Russell, that money spent on negative advertising provided a lot of employment.
Something positive? What can we do that will drive the billionaires into penury?
I hope mail in ballots for Obama don't get lost in the mail. It's all right for those for Romney to get lost. Wonder how many law suits there will be. Wonder how long it will take to declare a winner.
Me too! Now that I've voted I'm trying, unsuccessfully, not to read about the election. But it's like a train wreck. Impossible not to peek through fingers, even with hands covering the eyes!
This will be my first time voting. I used to believe that the system got away and didn't matter anymore. But now that I have a family, I do not want anyone else voting for me. Voting for a president might be contraversial because of the Electoral College, but on a local level, like state measures, votes really do matter.
Glad you are voting! And despite the "drop in the bucket" that each of our votes makes, the investment in voting is minimal, and it matters a lot. Thank you for commenting and for voting!