Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nasty Attack Ads in a Soft Soprano

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nasty Attack Ads in a Soft Soprano

Article excerpt

Have you noticed a certain rise in attack ads this year? Not a numerical rise, mind you. What that you might call a tonal rise. The political voices broadcast in ads across the nation have been ratcheted up as much as an octave on the scale. Assaults that used to be launched by baritones now are set off by sopranos.

Follow this musical triptik across the sound waves of the political season.

You're driving along Route 66 when a narrator warns about a moral crisis: "The problem isn't in your house. The problem is in the White House - Bill Clinton's White House." You're slumped in front of the TV set when a voice intones, "Bill Clinton said he'd lead the war on drugs and change America. All he did was change his mind." You're deep in Colorado or in the suburbs of New Jersey when the voice-over on television castigates a Senate candidate for opposing a flag-burning amendment: "Some things are wrong - and they've always been wrong." Or maybe you're in Massachusetts when you make TV eye contact with a mother accusing a Senate candidate of being soft on criminals: "Maybe John Kerry wants to give them another chance, but I just want to get them off the street." This may be standard traveling music in the world of negative campaign advertising. But this year's recruits in attack ads are increasingly women. The latest weapon is a nicely tuned set of female pipes. The notion that a female's place is in an attack ad is not entirely new. The most famous such ad is the one that scared voters away from Barry Goldwater in 1964. It was a little girl counting daisy petals before the nuclear countdown. If there are more women today, it may be a perverse sort of progress. Some of us remember when advertisers used only male voices, explaining that only men had the authority. As a consultant once explained to political scientist June Speakman of Roger Williams University, "The voice of God is a male's voice." Women still rarely sound all-mighty in political ads. They still take minor roles. One of the lingering curiosities is that female voices are almost never used in ads for female candidates. But when you hear them, they're probably on the attack. …

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