In this week's episode, Beth and Kelly discuss the history of deception in campaign advertising. Political ads are filled with misleading claims, and we wanted to find out why that's not against FCC regulations the way false claims in consumer ads are. Political advertising is meant to persuade the viewer to change their mind or reassure their beliefs in 30 seconds or less. Advertising works by multiple mechanisms, some of which are about conscious decision making, and some which are not. You can be influenced, even subtly, without really realizing it.
Lets begin with one of the most effective ads in American history, LBJ's Daisy Girl ad. The ad, which shows a little girl counting while pulling daisy petals off her flowers - the camera zooms in on her eye and a countdown begins that ends in a nuclear mushroom cloud. LBJ is heard saying: "These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die."
His opponent, Barry Goldwater, had stated he would not be opposed to engaging in a nuclear war. This ad changed the face of political advertising forever, and is remembered as one of the most effective political ads in history, despite the fact that it only aired once. It was so controversial that it was pulled after the first time it was shown. It literally scared people to the polls.
Johnson's majority in the 1964 election was the largest since James Monroe's virtually uncontested 1820 re-election.
Next, we moved forward to 1998 and George HW Bush's ad against Michael Dukakis featuring a criminal named Willie (William) Horton. Considered by many to be a seminal change in muckraking advertising, this ad used racial fear-mongering and repetition in speeches and further advertising to beat back Dukakis' 17 point lead. GOP campaign strategist Lee Atwater famously said, “By the time we’re finished, they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’ running mate.”
Both the Swift Boat ads against John Kerry in 2004 and the Vietnam Vets Against McCain in 2008 called into question the military service of McCain and Kerry.
Political ads are largely focused at low-intensity voters (people who don't pay close attention to politics) and the purpose behind them is two-fold:
A new tactic used recently in the Tennessee Senate race between Phil Bredesen (D) and Marsha Blackburn (R) aim to manipulate Google searches for information on the candidates. In this instance the Google Ad, which shows at the top of the search results and displays as an ad has a misleading headline and url. Both candidates in Tennessee’s Senate race claim their campaigns have not paid for these ads, and Google has not released information about the source. If this type of false advertising is successful this could be a tactic carried forth to future campaigns.
The history of false and misleading claims in political advertising is nothing new, unfortunately. During the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson reportedly hired journalist James Thomas Callender to create a write up about his opponent John Adams that called him: "a hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, not the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
One way to get informed about how social media advertising is targeting you is by checking out ProPublica's political ad collector. Since launching the add-on, ProPublica has collected more than 56,000 ads from more than 11,000 users - and it continues to grow. The tool makes it easy for users to see how candidates are targeting people in your area and age range. It is up to voters to check carefully the sources of claims made by candidates, and we hope this November we will see a more informed voter base make their way to their polling places.
Kelly Jam of the Week: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn't know is that Nick's family home happens to look like a palace, that she'll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia's most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick's formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should--and should not--marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider's look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.
Beth's Jam of the Week: Jump in the Line by Harry Belafonte
False Ads: There Oughta Be A Law! – Or Maybe Not
Swift Vets and POWs for Truth
Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain
'Songbird John' McCain? No evidence McCain helped enemy in Vietnam
How Large and Long-lasting Are the Persuasive Effects of Televised Campaign Ads? Results from a Randomized Field Experiment
Facebook Political Ad CollectorQ&A: How Facebook regulates the wild west of political ads
Here's why Trump can legally get away with saying things that aren't true
In Tennessee Senate race, anonymous Google ads skirt rules to alter headlines
9 Insults That Make the Presidential Campaign Seem Civilized
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