Lets make attack ads self-defeating -- give them the boot

Posted 03.22.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Nasty attack ads by any Canadian political party are attempts to intimidate voters; they push us toward hating politics, politicians, and elections. This "politics of dirt" has been imported from the worst excesses of American political assassination, promoted day after day by the Fox TV network.

Commentators of all stripes have noted that without Fox's promotion -- and its employment of some of the loudest attack hacks -- the tornados of political hostility and hysteria would never have become such a force in the American mainstream.

Fox takes credit for encouraging the Tea Party movement in the US, an extreme right-wing movement that saw the election of several senators, congressmen, and state governors in last fall's mid-term elections. That may be giving Fox too much credit -- American history has had "know-nothing" movements in many forms, especially in the 1850s, and the Tea Party springs from this anti-immigration tradition.

Because of the dangers of such simplistic and aggressive thinking (the attack on Iraq, based on bogus claims of Iraq's advanced weaponry, is one example), most ordinary Canadian have not welcomed these assaults on media neutrality, on rationality, and on political compromise.

Our present government has made vitriolic attack ads its main political tool; Prime Minister Harper discovered he could trick campaign spending limits by spending big-time before an election campaign was called, and thus opened the floodgates. There is no election campaign presently, yet we are insulted almost every evening by political attack ads from Mr. Harper's giant political bankroll.

The federal Green Party has launched a counter-attack, one that does not mean joining Mr. Harper in the dirt but rather a campaign that points out the nastiness and emptiness of the attackers' program. Good work, Greens!

Other parties have indulged in a milder form of attack advertising when they could afford them (the Liberals), but most politicians have stayed away from nastiness. That may be morally correct, but it does leave the airwaves in the grip of the thugs. The Greens' approach is creative -- and proactive.

A question remains, however, about the effectiveness of meanness. We Canadians expect that bullies and abusers will rarely get away with their nastiness for long; the Canadian people are, by and large, a decent and cooperative people. Maybe it's our difficult climate and our isolation that force us to be cooperative, but it's worth noting that even in the USA political nastiness has its limits.

Obviously, all the racism and anti-intellectual abuse directed against Obama proved ineffective. His losses last fall may stem more from continuing recession, and from his own timidity in confronting the country's largest problems, than stem from Fox network's harangues, accusations, and their infamous "false news" reports.

Canada is not part of the southern US, despite Mr. Harper's hopes. Can he push Canadians towards nastiness and political illiteracy? It's up to us to show him the answer at the next election; that answer is the exit door.

Copyright © 2011 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/03.11