Recently, a headline appeared on thewebsite of Real Clear Politics: “‘Latino Victory Fund’ Ad Depicts Ed GillespieSupporter Terrorizing Minority Children.” The title of the ad was “Shamefulanti-Gillespie campaign ad by Latino Victory fund.” The ad depicted minoritykids being chased down by a pickup truck with a Confederate flag and a”Gillespie” bumper sticker. The ad ended by audaciously stating, “Is this whatDonald Trump and Ed Gillespie mean by the American Dream? Latino Victory Fundpaid for and is responsible for the content of this advertisement.
” This isonly one example of where political advertising has pushed its limits. Althoughmany politicians rely on political advertisements to help their campaign, theads are not always the best course of action because they have an overallnegative attitude, they are often ripping apart the other candidate, and in alltoo many cases, they contain bad language. First of all, politicaladvertisements have an overall negative attitude. Karen S. Johnson and Gary A.Copeland refer to negative political advertising as the “coming of age.” Basically,this means that the idea of “mudslinging” has somewhat become the normal tacticof the day.
“A September 2016 report fromthe Wesleyan Media Project shows that 53 percent of ads that aired overthe previous month were negative — compared to 48 percent of ads that randuring a comparable period of the 2012 campaign. The report notes thatHillary Clinton and Donald Trump have taken different approaches withtheir advertising: “‘Just over 60 percent of Clinton’s ads have attacked Trumpwhile 31 percent have been positive, focusing on Clinton. Trump, on the otherhand, has by and large used contrast ads, which both promote himself and attackClinton. He has aired no positive ads'” (Denise-Marie Ordway and John Wihbey).
Very many well-known ads arenegative. Some of these examples are almost humorous. UCP author John Geersays, referring to Reagan’s presidential opponent in the mid-1980’s, “Mondale 1984. He ran a negative ad trying to suggest that if Reaganwas re-elected we would need to start digging bomb shelters—that Reagan wasleading us down a path to nuclear war. It was a theme that had much in commonwith the famed Daisy spot. But it did not play well. Reagan was popular and hadshown no signs that he would use nuclear weapons.
He was not willing to bargainwith the Soviets, but many people approved of that position. Former VicePresident Mondale lost the election in one of the most lopsided outcomes of alltime.” One of the least informative political attack advertisements also camefrom 1984, called the “bear in the woods” ad. The Reagan campaign aired the ad.
“There is abear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t seeit at all.” The script goes on to say that we need to be as strong as the bearand that we should not risk being unprepared. Who is the bear? The SovietUnion? Probably, but since it’s not clear, some argue that the spot is notnegative.
It’s an interesting ad and one that probably was run because of Reagan’shuge lead over Mondale. Its subtle meaning just makes it not very informative. (Geer).Secondly, political advertisementsdo not just have an overall negative attitude toward the other candidate, butthey are often very derogatory about him. Many politicians have no feelingtoward their fellow man’s reputations, but are willing to do anything to anyoneas long as they can win the election.The tradition of attack ads datesback to the 1950s, when anti-Eisenhower Democrats launched an advertisementthat claimed that Republicans were being hypocritical, as mentioned before, bysaying one thing to one party and saying the exact opposite to another (Geer).
One instance of this is an ad fromRight to Rise PAC, sponsored by Jeb Bush, and entitled “Not a President”. Airedover the radio, this advertisement plays all of the profanity Trump used whilecampaigning, while substituting each bad word with a bleep. The ad concludes by asking, “Is this the type of man we wantour children exposed to?” (McManus)”After the death ofKennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson ran one of the most powerful ads in politicaladvertising history. Entitled “The Daisy Girl,” it showed a younggirl playing “he loves me, he loves me not” and when the last petalwas plucked, a voice counted down to a nuclear explosion. It was verging onpropaganda, but it worked.
The tagline “because the stakes are too highfor you to stay at home” was the final nail in the coffin for Johnson’sliberal competitor, Barry Goldwater. The final tally of 44 states to 6 provedthe efficacy of negative campaigning and the reach of TV.” (Suggett)One of the most recent derogatoryadvertisements aired on October 30, 2017. This ad was also mentioned in theintroduction to this paper.
“‘In a desperate attempt to becomeVirginia’s next governor, Ed Gillespie has eagerly embraced racism andxenophobia,’ the group tweeted Monday morning. ‘We refuse to stand by asGillespie slanders our families and portrays our community as thugs, criminals,and gang members'” (Hains). The ad was a giantlie, and it had the opposite of the intended effect, but not enough to secure awin for Ed Gillespie.Thirdly, political advertising often uses badlanguage. This may be the candidate’s own word choice, or it may appear to usea candidate’s language against them. Then-presidential candidate Donald Trumpwas definitely a target of the latter, including the Right to Rise PAC ad fromJeb Bush, as mentioned earlier.
Even if the language is in the ad to attack thecandidate, the language is still in the ad. Thus, the question remains: Whydoes any profanity appear in the first place?One of the biggest reasons for this is that it is areally good way to get the listener’s attention. Any advertisement withprofanity catches the listener off guard. Because of this, they pay closerattention to the rest of the ad.
Also, to a lot of the world, profanity is asnormal in day-to-day talk as “A,” “An,” and “The.” One Denver Post journalistcommented that a lot of the expressions considered “terrible” in his teenagedays are now used without a second thought. Basically, profanity appears inpolitical advertisements because most of America sees no reason to have aproblem with it. But when it does appear, it can get ugly. Almost any swearword or crude expression that one can think of has appeared in some politicalad in America.
They may be disguised by changing the expression slightly, butthey are there (Swear off Profanity in Advertising).Any person with a good sense of what is going on inAmerica should be able to see that political advertising is getting a littlebit out of hand. People, especially politicians, have no respect for thereputations of other people, as evidenced by when they hurl derogatorypolitical advertisements at their opponents. It only takes the ads to figureout that America is going majorly downhill.
To answer the question posed in thetitle of this paper: No, no, no, political advertisements should not be used intheir current state. Even though positive political ads with no “language” donot grab the listener’s attention nearly as easily, they protect the reputationof the opponent. American politicians need to find another way to promote theircampaign, to protect the opponent’s reputation and their own!