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Do attack ads just preach to the converted?

This issue it seems right to shift focus away from goings on at town hall. We have seen quite a few attack ads recently with both federal and provincial elections taking place in 2011.

Inspired by these ads I have been working on a computer program that I think could make me some money. I have provisionally called it the Attack-O-Matic 5000 and it can be used to create Personalized Attack Ad Solutions for political campaign managers.

To create the ad, the user has to input some key information. For example, whether the target is the leader of a left or right wing political party. And… er… that’s pretty much it. Bearing in mind the politician’s party, the program selects appropriate super-villain qualities that can be readily applied to the target.

Many left wingers will tell you that the chief problem with the right is, simply put, that they are greedy and unpleasant.

So for a left wing customer the Attack-O-Matic would trawl the internet for a photo of the right wing leader looking angry. Perhaps he or she will have just stubbed his toe and be trying to suppress a stream of swear words. The lighting for the ad should be dark. If the right wing leader speaks in the ad, then the Attack-O-Matic will try to make him sound like either Hannibal Lecter or Darth Vader.

The other thing we know about right wingers is that they like big business, fat cats and boardrooms. These words should be used repeatedly and there should be footage of fat cats (just to be clear these are middle–aged men in business suits, not actual cats) engaged in various practices such as laughing in manic fashion whilst patting each other on the back, and doing snow angels in piles of cash.

Following this vision of hell the left wing party leader should appear looking fresh faced and angelic, with running water in the background and bright sunlight all around. He should use the words “caring”, “together”, “building” and “future” repeatedly.

As all right wingers will tell you, the real problem with the left is that they hate hard working people. The harder people work the more tax they should pay. Left wingers are also sneaky (think Swiper the Fox from Dora the Explorer) and hypocritical. It is only because they are sneaky that you will rarely catch leftish leaders reading the works of Karl Marx or sporting berets and goatees. The lefties are buddies with unions. The unions are sneaky too. Lefties also like bureaucrats. The bureaucrats are even worse than the unions.

The ad should have black and white footage of “regular people” looking miserable as they open tax bills and tap hopelessly on calculators. The ad should use the phrase “crippling taxes” in every sentence.

At the end of this alternative vision of hell, our right wing hero should appear looking authoritative but also optimistic. The overall impression should be one of a fair minded but manly school teacher of the distant past who is unafraid to use appropriate physical force to break up a fist fight between two silly boys. The right wing hero should use the phrases “fair deal”, “hard working families” and “lower taxes” repeatedly.

I think you’ll agree my Attack-O-Matic has potential.

In all seriousness, although many people dislike them I don’t personally have a major problem with attack ads. Although various experts will try to convince you otherwise I don’t think they are likely to change people’s views. What they may do I suspect is reinforce views that are already well established and perhaps motivate people to vote. By spreading a little fear, I think that natural supporters of the various parties are more likely to turn up and vote.

Perhaps attack ads aren’t so bad after all.

For the avoidance of doubt, neither the author nor this newspaper is seriously suggesting that right wingers are greedy or unpleasant or that the left is sneaky or hypocritical. The Attack-O-Matic’s views are strictly its own. The Attack-O-Matic is fictional and bears no resemblance to any real invention alive or dead. No politicians or their pets were harmed in the writing of this article.

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