On Negative Advertising

Bill Vis calls attention to Peggy Noonan’s essay, this ending line especially stood out:

I wish someone would make this ad and show it across the country and say at the end: “Cheer up, have faith, greatness is possible, sometimes it’s there but you only see it in retrospect. Not everyone’s a bum.”

“It’s halftime, America.”

Here is the ad community’s thinking.

“Negative” ads are part of the drawing of bright lines between the two sides. They can be done with fun or not (most of us prefer the fun ones).

What Noonan does not get to directly, or only touches on, is the structure that generates such ads. When you have your Super PACs out there, funded by a rather small set of extremely wealthy individuals (a fraction of the fabled 1 % ), you end up with pretty much this sort of stuff. Why? Because a PAC cannot go out and advocate FOR a candidate, thus its easiest media path is to go after the other guy.

This is the genie Citizens United let out of the bottle.

As to the antidote? Well those with skin in the game want to keep their voice, so I am doubtful of any legislative action. But for the christian community that does mean that we can be part of building civic and civil discourses. This turn will be seen by activists as one to the apolitical, a pulling back from cultural engagement. It probably is. A second difficulty will be nurturing communities that provide local civic leadership. Once this was relatively easy, when Calvin essentially served a regional audience. her poli-sci grads then went off and worked in their communities. The national shift at Calvin has meant that those same poli-sci grads aspire to more national status and so zombie-like, get infected.

In short, if we want a better community, then we will need to be about the task of creating a better culture.

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