#246 – Dick Bernard: Down and Dirty Political Advertising

The lead letter in yesterday’s Woodbury Bulletin was mine*:
“The Woodbury Bulletin’s Aug. 25 “Our View” (“Hoopla over YouTube video on local GOP website…”) causes me to think back a few years.
I had written a letter, published in the Bulletin, which criticized a local legislator. It was, as are all letters I write, signed with my real name and town. I was a Woodbury resident, [then as now], listed in the phone book.
Your paper came out on Wednesday. About 3 a.m. the next morning our doorbell rang twice in rapid succession. I went down, turned on the light, and on landing was what the Woodbury Police Report later referred to as fresh “feces”.
Happenings like that tend to shake one. They say “I know where you live. Shut up.”
That had never happened to me before, nor has it since. But I remember.
That incident happened in the good old days (or so it seems) of political conversation in this community, state and country.
Now we’re facing over two months of political advertising everywhere whose intention is either to canonize one candidate or crucify his or her opponent. Anyone who believes any of this stuff is a fool.
But the makers of the ads really don’t care. And they know the slickly prepared pieces are essential to “win”.
Cost for this “feces” is probably way up in the billions of dollars each season.
It comes to our mailboxes, over our radios and through our televisions.
As is well known, all that is necessary is to plant the impression of good or evil in a potential voters mind.
You do this very simply: by constant repetition.
It isn’t funny, and it certainly isn’t productive for our community, state and country.”

As noted above, I was responding to an earlier editorial over a piece of offensive website content that had become national news. It turned out to be the local website for the local Republican party.
The website featured, for a time, a “funny” piece of video, produced somewhere, that compared “hot” Republican women, with “dog” Democrat women. You had to have a sick sense of humor to get any “laughs” out of the caricatures particularly of the Democrat women – real photos, probably, not even photo-shopped, but in this digital age when a minute or two “on camera”, particularly if you don’t know you’re being filmed, can yield (charitably) less than flattering images.
The editorial had no time for the offensive website. Of course, the editorial had to be “fair and balanced”, thus criticizing my own favorite news program which, I would admit, at times can be edgy and, while accurate, over the top. While I think there is a huge distinction between the “hot” and “dog” web production, and what I watch every evening, there is a point well taken: the sinning doesn’t stop at party lines.
Shedding light on it won’t stop it. About all that can be said is that old standard: “caveat emptor” – “let the buyer beware”.
If something, particularly political advertising, is too good, or too bad, to be true, the odds are certain that it isn’t “true”. All one can be is aware.
Caveat Emptor.
* – For whatever reason, the editor of the paper doesn’t include my name at the end of this letter in the on-line version. I hadn’t requested anonymity, but the earlier incident – which indirectly involved the paper – must have impacted….