Popcorn: Political Ads are Great Entertainment
I have a
confession to make that I expect most of you will not share. I love
political advertisements on television. While most people I know, this
time of year, are so sick of the constant smears and counter-smears that
they seem ready to turn off the TV altogether until after election day,
I absolutely can’t get enough of it. And the more outrageous and
over-the-top, the better.
of course, that this is an uncommon position. Most people I know believe
that the prevalence of negative television advertising will bring about
the downfall of the republic, the end of Western Civilization or worse.
I would advise those who feel this way to get a sense of humor, and
realize that, the vast majority of the time, absolutely no harm is done
by attack ads. And rather than restrain such ads, the McCain/Feingold
campaign finance reform, and the third-party 527 loophole it created,
has only made the mudslinging more wild.
campaign has a new twist. Political junkies nationwide, for the entire
election season, have been viewing ads from all over the country on
YouTube and other online video sites, laughing communally about the best
game operates in a free market. Especially unfair negative ads, of
course, are subject both to responses from the targets and oversight by
the media and blogs. For example, an especially unfair Rick Santorum ad
against Bob Casey in Pennsylvania was methodically picked apart by a
local television station, which discovered that virtually every
assertion in it was false. And on YouTube, a burgeoning genre has
emerged of amateur and parody campaign ads, which are often even more
effective than those produced by expensive, professional consultants.
as sick as anyone of seeing the exact same ad again and again and again.
And there are certain ads – especially the RNC’s unquestionably racist
Harold Ford Jr./Playboy bunny bit – that are absolutely beneath
contempt. (The RNC, in fact, was shamed into pulling that ad.) But the
vast majority of televised political advertising is not only completely
harmless, but often unintentionally hilarious.
Robinson, a perennial Republican congressional candidate in North
Carolina who has stated on more than one occasion that he aspires to be
“the black Jesse Helms.” Robinson’s ads against his opponent, Brad
Miller, are almost a self-parody of far-right Republican talking points.
In one ad,
he accuses Miller of “paying for sex” with taxpayer money (because he
once voted to fund a study of the mating habits of elderly men). In
another, he says that “if Miller had his way, America would be nothing
but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals,” and that Miller
“voted for illegal aliens to spit on and trample” the American flag. (If
there really had been an Illegal Alien Flag-Spitting Act, I would guess
Miller probably would not have supported it.)
there’s Nebraska’s way-behind-in-the-polls Senate candidate Pete
Ricketts, who produced a cartoon ad depicting his opponent, Ben Nelson,
shooting turkeys on his farm, while singing “Old MacDonald.” You can try
getting outraged at ads like these, but it’s hard not to laugh first.
(New York mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer ran a similar ad last year
depicting Mayor Michael Bloomberg as riding a horse with George W. Bush
- then set off a brouhaha when it appeared that the cartoon mayor was
performing a sex act on the president.)
the most outrageous one of all? In a sequel to 2004’s “Wolves” ad, the
RNC has given us “These Are The Stakes,” which features only a ticking
clock, and footage of various al-Qaeda leaders. The only thing funnier
than the ad’s implication - (only the Republicans can find Bin Laden?) -
is a YouTube parody: “These Are the Stingrays.”
and then, of course, a supremely effective positive ad will emerge that
is so powerful that it actually helps a candidate win their election. In
the state of Minnesota alone, this has happened twice in recent years:
Paul Wellstone, in 1990, was elected from out of nowhere to the U.S.
Senate largely on the strength of an ingenious commercial that showed
him running around the state – quickly, he said, because his time and
funds were limited. Eight years later, Jesse Ventura used an ad
featuring himself as an action figure fighting “Evil Special Interest
Man” to catapult himself to that state’s governorship.
get on their high horse all they want and depict political ads as cruel
and wrong. But I, for one, could watch these ads all day.
© 2006 North Star Writers
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