Nancy's Columns

The Politics of Negativity

Under topic: critical_thinking

Election time is over and we may now be spared negative and in some instances, dishonest, campaign commercials--until the next time. Negative commercials make it very difficult to make an informed decision.

They tell us what the opposition candidates cannot do. They do not tell us what their or any of the candidates can do. These types of commercials should make everybody angry and ill tempered knowing that they have been abused and manipulated by the media.

An informed citizenry is our best protection in a democracy.

It is time to speak out against them not only because they affect how our government operates but because they invade and affect the atmosphere in the home. Parents need to help their children to learn how to distinguish fact from fiction in commercials. At election time, parents should comment and point out these negative messages, especially those that are against the character of the candidate. Some messages cast aspersions on the candidate's family and/or lifestyle.

When a supposed scandal is stressed rather than an issue, or is used to override an issue, point it out and perhaps add a comment about what would have been more useful for you to know as a voter. An informed citizenry is our best protection in a democracy.

Children need to be helped to become informed citizens by not being swayed by dishonest campaign commercials. In much the same way children need to be taught to understand commercials about candidates in order to become informed voters, they need to be helped to understand commercials for things in order to become informed consumers.

The people making the commercial present their product or their candidate in a very favorable light whether it is true or not. Children need to understand that just because something is shown on television it does not necessarily make it so. This is especially true during the Christmas season when children are bombarded by commercials on TV about what they should ask/demand from their parents for Christmas. It is also not necessarily so that the candidate who is elected looks and acts as well in person as he did on the TV commercial. Even well informed voters sometimes get fooled.

It is easier to avoid this mistakes with products than with people. We are stuck with the candidate until the next election. This is not true of things. If a child is very much taken in by a commercial, and insists that what he has seen is fact, a parent can always take the child to the store and show him that the actual product is not like it is depicted on television. At the store, he can find out for himself that the product does not do all of the wonderful things the television commercial says it does. That is an important lesson for children to learn.

It is best learned before Christmas morning. Otherwise the child will be disappointed with his presents because of false advertising. Parents also should not be swayed by commercials and buy toys which they know are inappropriate just because the child demands them. It helps to model appropriate behavior and tell the child exactly why you do not think that product is appropriate for your family to buy and stick by this decision. In Christmas present giving, it helps if parents set up the rules early so that children know what to expect. The same thing should be true about election campaigns. Voters need to let the candidates know that they are tired of being manipulated and lied to in campaign commercials. Candidates who hire advertising firms to make commercials for the purpose of getting them elected no matter what the cost need to be given the message that their commercials will have the opposite effect. That is they will be voted out of office not into office.

First published in 1994

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