In Politics, Words Can Speak Louder Than Acts

Article excerpt

Byline: Jack Mabley

Political attack ads, or negative ads, don't say "elect me." They say "don't elect the other guy because he's bad."

The public detests political attack ads. But unfortunately they seem to work in the short term.

Advertising professionals at the convention of the American Association of Advertising Agencies voted to oppose smear and scare ads. One reason is they give the ad industry a bad name.

A Minnesota agency head said, "Many of our advertisers do not want to be near to these dirty commercials. So we're going to get a couple hundred thousand people to sign a pledge not to give money to, nor vote for, any candidate who doesn't sign a pledge not to use negative ads."

A Campaign Advertising Code requires candidates to acknowledge that "an emphasis on near-personal attacks or sensational 'issues' and demeaning photos or videos of my opponent increases public cynicism, decreases voter participation and degrades democracy."

In Illinois, Democrat Richard Durbin and Republican Al Salvi are beginning a contest for the U.S. Senate that looks like it will be down and dirty.

Would these two men be willing to sign a pledge to refrain from using attack ads? We'd have more respect for them, and we'd all be better off.

Durbin could advertise his record as a congressman, and Salvi could run more pictures of him and his kids.

* * *

The gods of column writers work in mysterious ways.

Shortly after I wrote the above paragraphs, I received my issue of the Washington Monthly magazine, containing a copy of a memo from GOPAC, the Republican organization formerly headed by Newt Gingrich.

"LANGUAGE: A KEY MECHANISM OF CONTROL" was the heading.

A list of words followed. …