Negative Political Advertising: Coming of Age

By Karen S. Johnson-Cartee; Gary A. Copeland | Go to book overview

I
INTRODUCTION

Man is the symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal inventor of the negative (or moralized by the negative) separated from his natural condition by instruments of his own making goaded by the spirit of hierarchy (or moved by the sense of order) and rotten with perfection.

-- K. Burke ( 1966, p. 16)

Today, voters no longer experience politics firsthand but rather through the eyes and ears of the mass media system. From the mass media we obtain symbols, which we then interpret, redefine, and alter through our communication with other people. What we know as our political world is not a photocopy of the objective world but rather a created world of symbols, often mass-mediated symbols.

People use symbols without questioning or thinking about their origin. We use symbols nonchalantly without realizing the social, political, or personal ramifications for having used them. We often accept for ourselves the symbols created by others without analyzing the merits or appropriateness of their symbolic logic.

Politics is a symbolic world. Men and women divide the goods of society among groups of people. The goods are mostly symbolic in nature but considered precious nevertheless. We construct our rules and regulations based on our symbolic knowledge of the world. We know good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust. We deal with these polarized symbols or positive-negative dichotomies in our political negoti

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