Sunday, November 05, 2006


The mid-term elections in the States, for House & Senate seats are on Tuesday.
This election is particularly important because there is a possibility that control of the House and Senate could go to the Democrats. There is also the possibility that if Democrats win control of the House, then Nancy Pelosi could become the first woman Speaker of the House in US history.

One distinction of this year's campaigns, has been the overwhelming use of attack ads/negative campaigning.
While none of them seem to be of "Willy Horton" level of infamy, the sheer number of the ads, and the incredible tastelessness of some of these ads seems to be a new low.

These ads usually feature the subtlety of a propaganda film and the "acting skills" one would expect from a grade school play.

Their usually all follow the same formula:
1. We first see an image of the "opposing" candidate. Naturally, it is a very unflattering photo, and it usually a grainy black & white one, which makes the candidate look more sinister.
2. With "horror movie" music playing in the background, we are told about the candidate's political record or their plans for office. This almost always includes gross exaggerations, taking things out of context, and at times, blatant lying.
A candidate is accused, of for example, "siding with the terrorists who want to kill Americans"-this is accompanied by a picture of a terrorist at an Al Queda training camp. Being soft on terrorism and illegal immigration seem to be the main theme of attack ads this year, but other themes usually involve enforcing policies that hurt senior citizens (seniors tend to vote more than any other demographic group); the estate tax, stem cell research, etc.
3. But, alas, hope springs eternal! Just as we have heard all we can about the "extreme" "radical" oppositional candidate. We meet, "our" candidate. Suddenly, the grainy black and white screen turns to color, and we are transported to "spontaneous" scenes of the candidate meeting with constuents. Visiting blue collar workers, visiting schools, visiting senior citizens, etc. Almost always the ad features a shot of the candidate with his/her (usually) photogenic family.
4. The voiceover turns from menacing to sweet, and we learn about "our" candidate's record and plans for office. We are then told that a vote for ---- is a vote for moderate values, moral leadership, and most of all, a vote for our community.
5. Usually there are several obligatory shots of the American flag and Veteran ceremonies thrown in as well.
6. The ad occassionally ends with a disclaimer, that the candidate is not responsible for the ad, but the national Republican or Democratic party organization is.

One of the more well known ads this year, which was actually taken down, is this ad against Harold Ford.
Real Player

From a socio-political analysis, in my opinion one of the more fasinating, if not disturbing campaign is that of Vernon Robinson, of North Carolina, who declares himself to be a "black Jesse Helms" Jesse Helms,of course was known for his extreme anti gay, and, for much of his career, his extreme anti black statements. Helms utilized one of the more blatantly racist ads in US political history, the infamous "hands" ad. :

Vernon himself has learned well and has created a similar campaign for 2006:

His ads are unabasadly anti gay and anti immigration. Which of course shows that minorities can be just as racist as anyone else, and that belonging to a historically oppressed group does not mean that you don't oppress others.

Mr. Robinson is really extreme, and I don't think think he will be elected. But, then again, this is the same state that elected the real Jesse Helms to office numerous times. So, what do I know.

Here, by way, is another one of Mr. Robinson's ads:

This, by the way, is a very thorough article on Robinson and his campaign:
Meet Vernon Robisnon: The Black Jesse Helms.

As much as people complain about ads like these, they still obviously work, because politicians still use them.


Bg anon said...

Shaina dont know if you watch CNN but I was shocked by an anti Bush hour special shown a few days back about corruption at the white house.

The lame duck President really is a lame duck and they are all lining up to condemn him. All well and good but its a pity that CNN didnt run this documentary years ago rather than doing the cowardly knife in the back approach now.

Still, maybe that is the way the US polity works. I'm no expert. And I suppose its good that the mainstream media is finally taking a stand.

Shaina said...

Hi, I didn't watch the CNN special; although I do watch CNN fairly regularly.
CNN does tend to repeat their specials a lot, and they will probably repeat it.
So, I have no comment about whether the piece was well done, balanced, or not.

However, I'm sure you know as well as I do why the mainstream media waited this long before airing such a special, or before being openly critical of Bush. I think it is the first time that they felt as if they could air such a special. I'm not talking about formal censorship, or anything of that sort. However, IMHO (and this is just my opinion of course) the combination of the feverent patriotism in the wake of 9/11 and the early stages of the Iraq war; as well as the fact that the White House was very good on "keeping on message" and providing a united front in the past; made criticisms of the White House, whether legitimate or not, very hard to voice.
IMO, Katrina really was a watershed event (no bad pun intended) when it came to media's relationship with the Bush administration. For the first time, there seemed to be antogonism between the two; and the media was taking a harsher stand.
That, coupled with growing popular
dissatisfaction amongst the American people with the war in Iraq; the more and more criticism by military officials on how the war was planned; and the recent Bob Woodward book have all created an atmosphere where criticizing the President is done more openly.

Bg anon said...

Yes. Its interesting the way the system works.

But you know its quite odd as well. Anybody who is aware of the problems we have in the Balkans - particularly with leaders and political parties.

But somehow this tendancy in the US to overly respect their own President is not only unhealthy (IMO) but also a little undemocratic. Blind belief in something, respect for respects sake is something I am very resistant to. People need to be more cynical and questioning I think - no matter what the current political temperature in the country.

Still, its ironic isnt it that both Bush and Blair, once all powerful, are completely under pressure and both lame ducks.

The bottom line in all this should be that at least neither will not run again for high political office.

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