I try not to write much when it comes to American Politics – it’s very polarizing and I’m Canadian. My University education was a joint honors in Poli-Sci/Economics so I do watch with much interest, and since what happens to my favorite neighbors to the south has an impact to us Canucks, it’s an important observation.
The media aspect of American politics is fascinating to me. I find the negative campaign pieces humorous (apologies if my American friends take offense – we just don’t see that level of backhandness and blatant fact massaging up here – although each year we are moving closer to that ‘system’) and they seem to better belong as a SNL skit more than a decision making/changing mechanism.
For those American friends who haven’t enjoyed Canadian TV a brief explanation – we get all of your TV and news stations. We have some of our own, but for the most part we watch the same TV and the same commercials.
When I saw this while watching the CNN election updates last night, well, I was both shocked and mildly amused.
I’m going to point out here that my blog has a conversational style to it – I don’t write researched articles here. It’s more like we are sitting around a pub having a beer and the idea comes up in ‘conversation’. So, we are having that beer and this comes up as a topic – does it really work? Do people actually watch that and think they better vote Republican before The USA flag gets a new yellow star added to the flag?
Besides the possible racial effect it could have on Asian Americans which is a much deeper topic of discussion, I can’t help but feel that ad is an insult to the intelligence of the American people.
I’ll get back to the regularly scheduled gaming stuff as normal. Just something I was exposed to while watching the House switch hands last night.
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Political ads are, in general, an insult to the intelligence of their target audiences. Yours is a great example. Or take the “Taliban Dan” ad, run by Democrat Alan Grayson of Florida. He took a statement by his opponent out of context and compared him to the Taliban. It was ridiculous.
Of course, both sides of the aisle are guilty of these distortions. And, it’s not limited to national or state politics, either. There was an ad for the county District Attorney where I attended school where the incumbent D.A. accused the challenger of having no experience prosecuting cases. While that’s techically correct, the challenger was a defense attorney and had far more experience trying cases in recent history than the incumbent. It was sad. Oh, and by the way, the incumbent got crushed.
I was listening to local election coverage last night, and it could have passed very easily as coverage on a sporting event. I was reminded of Bobcat Goldthwait’s comment something to the effect of:
“You know why politicians love football? It’s because it’s like their job, a violent sport of land acquisition.”
…yeah, I probably butchered the delivery, but the sentiment is accurate enough. It really is a big game to many of these people, a circus to indulge in to keep the proletariats busy while the bread vendor comes around.
I’d extend Pope’s comment, though; it’s not just political ads that treat constituents as idiots, it’s politicians in general. Most of them are sociopaths if not full-on psychopaths.
And to clarify – I’m not taking sides – I’ve seen both Red and Blue motivated negative campaign ads. This one example just happened to have originated from the one side.
My wife refuses to watch American networks during election time as they are equally frequent and preposterous.
It only really worries me if it’s actually effective.
Oh, I take sides. It’s Us vs. Them. The People vs. the Politicians. 😉
It can be very discouraging when it’s your own political system that gives rise to that type of bullshit. There were a number of highly contested races in California, and listening to the ads when even a tiny bit of relevant knowledge made my eyes roll almost continuously.
The sad reality is that negative campaigning happens because it works. It’s easier to demonize your enemy than to put forth a coherent reason why you are a better candidate. Further, the Supreme Court decision to remove limits on corporate spending on politics in the name of “Free Speech” has shown its ugly head in this election. So much money was being slung around it was just disgusting. But, that’s politics, and for some reason politicians seem hesitant to reform this mess. In fact, one of the biggest supporters of campaign reform, Russ Feingold, was just voted out of office in a high-stakes campaign. Surprising that….
No, no, that’s not the word I wanted. The word I wanted was depressing.
On the other hand, all that money spent on elections does give an attentive voter a chance to see more of the machinations and vested interests and vote accordingly. I levy a fair bit of concern and blame at ignorant voters who are content to remain so. We get the leaders we deserve, on the whole.
As an American I tell you I take no offense at your comments. Myself and most people I know can’t stand what our political system has turned into. But there are plenty of people who watch these ads and listen to all the rhetoric and take it as gospel from on high(I have a few of these in my own family).
It’s a shame really, but with so many buying into it change seems unobtainable.
Thanks for the conversation guys. I was a tad apprehensive to post it as I didn’t want a huge Red vs Blue debate (et al) but I felt it was worth commenting on – even in a gaming discussion forum.
@Tesh: How are we still losing? =)
@Psycho: Sad truths – and sadder still that there isn’t much hope for any immediate or obvious change
@MMOR: Glad you didn’t take offence – last time I posted a political spin (in a public forum) it became a blithering conversation and I felt embarrassed in many ways that the opinions shared were so prevalent. For all the good things the USA is, the way the Political sphere is so twisted is just worrisome (outsider’s perspective)
By the way I’m Canadian as well and I happen to live in the United States. As a conservative game designer I’m sort of an anomaly in the industry and in the gaming blogosphere that is decidedly left-wing so allow me to be the counter-point to the discussion here.
I actually liked that ad and thought it was one of the better ads that actually provokes thought and discussion (notice we are talking about it now). Thankfully Americans won’t tolerate political correctness as they do in Canada where that ad would probably not be allowed due to some pressure group going to the Human Rights Commission and complaining.
China in fact owns much of US debt and there is every reason to be concerned about it. There’s nothing racist about that ad at all. By the China is a country not a race. You should be very worried about China’s growing dominance and constant saber rattling in the world as well as their total disregard for human rights.
But I feel your trepidation about talking about that ad is well founded because quite frankly there is a lot of browbeating in the hegemonic MMO blogosphere and intolerance for any opinions that aren’t left-wing. If you challenge the status quo you’re likely to get dropped from a number of influential blog rolls.
What Brian calls “BS” is really just a part of the political process and it has been for centuries down throughout human history. Go back and see the campaign rhetoric and posters of the USA after the original 13 Colonies won their independence from England and you’ll see far worse. It’s all part of democracy and has been since Ancient Greece.
There’s nothing wrong with free speech and I support that Supreme Court decision that Brian finds so predictably distasteful. Not to digress but Brian I wonder if you are equally outraged by the millions of dollars that socialist billionaire George Soros uses to fund a myriad of left-wing front organizations? To me, his pernicious influence is a far greater source of problems than worrying about corporations who are buying political ads.
Oh and don’t get me started about the power and influence of unions…
In the end we’re all adults. Do your research about political speeches and ads. Let the buyer beware.
@Wolf: Thanks for adding constructively to the discussion – my trepidation wasn’t from getting flamed in this little online community (I blog for neither fame nor fortune =) but keeping the discussion intelligent. Dissenting point of views are always welcome. Will counter point.
“I actually liked that ad and thought it was one of the better ads that actually provokes thought and discussion (notice we are talking about it now). Thankfully Americans wonâ€™t tolerate political correctness as they do in Canada where that ad would probably not be allowed due to some pressure group going to the Human Rights Commission and complaining.”
While the ad may provoke some discussion, I fear it won’t be for the right reasons. The sensationalistic nature of it by design pretty much ensures that it isn’t on the core points of the piece, and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it’s purpose. The purpose seems intent on fear mongering which is never a good basis of a proactive, constructive discussion.
“China in fact owns much of US debt and there is every reason to be concerned about it. Thereâ€™s nothing racist about that ad at all. By the China is a country not a race. You should be very worried about Chinaâ€™s growing dominance and constant saber rattling in the world as well as their total disregard for human rights”
I won’t argue about the debt ownership. the Singapore Stock Exchange recently made an 8B dollar bid to buy the Australian Stock Exchange. The economic dominance China is pushing all over the world is cause for analytical discussion – taking away America’s sovereignty through debt isn’t a possibility however presented. I’m not sure if you read the link I presented regarding the ‘racial’ implications – I didn’t call the ad itself racist but sadly the average joe can’t discern country origin. They see asian people who have taken over their country through some debt mechanism on tv, and then their American Asian co-worker who sits beside them becomes that enemy. The demonization of Latins, Blacks, and Asians is more of a threat in that piece than the sovereignty fears it is promoting. Now I agree with you on the point that China is a country not a race, but Muslims is a religion and not race as well. Many people still see Muslims and see ‘terrorist’ – not ‘the chartered accountant whose was born and educated here from immigrant parents and does my taxes’. I know that is a bit of stretch as well, but it’s a valid concern.
“Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with free speech and I support that Supreme Court decision that Brian finds so predictably distasteful. Not to digress but Brian I wonder if you are equally outraged by the millions of dollars that socialist billionaire George Soros uses to fund a myriad of left-wing front organizations? To me, his pernicious influence is a far greater source of problems than worrying about corporations who are buying political ads”
I’m not answering for Brian here, but I also disagree with that Supreme Court decision. The answer to cleaning up politics (pretty much in any ‘democratized’ countries) is less special interest – not more. Single terms, capped campaign contributions FOR EVERYONE (regardless where it comes from). Politics shouldn’t be a career – it should be public service. Politicians are often dissuaded from making the right – and tough – decisions because the re-election campaign starts the day that they are elected – and they need to start saving up for the next big fight. If half of the brainpower and money was used in making political decisions that was ‘spent’ getting people elected our political systems would be much more productive and useful. As a quick mention, this campaign in the US cost just under 2 Billion for the Republicans, and just a fraction less for the Democrats. That is an awful lot of cash controlling the elected representatives. I also agree with free speech – but question how free it is when voices are essentially purchased.
“Oh and donâ€™t get me started about the power and influence of unions”
Oh, I won’t. I’m not a fan of that power regime either. I am not a fan of any powerful special interest group that twists political spheres for their own gains.
“In the end weâ€™re all adults. Do your research about political speeches and ads. Let the buyer beware”
We are all adults indeed and my trepidation is that I believe most don’t do their political research as there isn’t any reliable sources that the average Joe or Jane can refer to that isn’t completely biased to one candidate or another. I am stressing here I lay equal blame on any political party – even here in Canada – the twisting of facts and direct marketing to voters makes it very difficult to make an informed decision.
The two biggest things that Politicians will tell you are 1) What they are going to do, and 2) How much it is going to cost. The never answer 3) HOW they will make it happen. Where will those costs come from? What will need to be changed in our everyday lives to make it happen? As citizens collectively we don’t learn 3 enough.
On a final aside, I do recommend the UK magazine The Economist. It is unashamedly a conservative magazine but does a great job of de-sensationalizing politics (and business). I am a fiscal conservative who believes that keeping your work force trained and healthy is a net business positive which is in part why I believe in social programs. (I also believe as a citizen it’s ok to take care of the poor and sick). Living in Canada, whose government has run a Federal surplus for over a decade before the US market crash I see how you can have your cake and eat it too. I also agree with the Economist as they repeatedly publish – as a right of wing magazine – that the only issue with Obama’s stimulus spending that it wasn’t enough. They do understand the consequences that would have happened if it wasn’t there. (They now call for the USA to do a shorter term and more focused second round of stimulus to create the jobs needed to really help the economy recover – the initial stimulus saved the USA economy from completely crashing, but it by itself won’t help the economy actually recover.)
A thought on sensationalism: If the facts are sensational, is it sensationalism to point it out? Similarly, if the truth of a situation really is troubling or problematic, is it fear mongering to point out the problems?
I think sometimes we refuse to give credence to amazingly messed up facets of politics because we would prefer to think of them as mere wingnuttery. If we can convince ourselves that Soros or Bernanke are just some of the Good Old Boys of the benign bureaucracy, we ignore them.
To point out an example from a bit ago, I’ve read a bit recently (though I’m still digging into it) that Senator Joe McCarthy was actually correct in many of his accusations of Communism sympathy or support back in the 60s. Those he pointed the finger at actually were enemies of the state, wolves in sheep clothing, as it were. We can look now at declassified documents that he was working from (Venona reports) and see where he was coming from, but his contemporaries and many still today demonize him as a dangerous loon. His claims were seen as fear mongering, *even though they were right*.
It’s almost a reverse “cry wolf” problem; true problems hide in an atmosphere of panic and perpetual fear. That’s not to support or justify the climate of fear, mind, but neither does it help if we automatically dismiss dangers as being “just more political hyperbole”.
@Tesh: pointing out sensational facts isn’t sensationalism on it’s own. I suppose there are two parts – the “facts”, and the means by which they are shared.
If NASA wanted funding to protect from that errant asteroid that is bound to hit earth eventually and kill us all, they could run a program detailing true facts on the number of close calls there have been and the mathematical models by professionals pointing out the various probabilities.
Of course, if they ran a 30 second commercial spot with the words “you are all going to die” over and over with clips of charred bodies flying around, mayhem in the streets, and children cannibalizing each other in the aftermath… well, I suppose that would be sensationalism.
I’ve seen programs on discovery saying just that (the former, not the latter) and while that argument and possibility is sensational, I didn’t find it sensationalistic.
Perhaps there is also a significant and important difference between what has happened and what might happen. History and recorded fact in the public record are one thing, supposition quite another. I’m also reminded of, shall we say… selective presentation, wherein certain facts are conveniently or inconveniently unmentioned. That makes certain implications and intimations play a bit differently for someone who doesn’t have all the facts.
Good article here allaying the fears.