Monday, November 06, 2006

I Love Attack Ads

Minneapolis writer Charles Baxter has a great opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times about the Kennedy/Klobuchar senate race in Minnesota.

He says the debates were like proceedings in divorce court -- lots of emotional accusations and he said/she said but little coherent argument or topical debate. The attack ads from the Kennedy camp are no different. But then they're made by the same guy who got in trouble in Tennessee for the ads attacking Harold Ford -- the ads that were taken off the air and decried as race baiting.

Baxter's take on the attack ads is apt:
One trouble with more typical negative ads is that in their simplicities they have turned, formally, into tiresome clichés. With the black background, the outraged voice-over, the accusations, the snow-infested distorted image of the opponent, you always know what you will get: your intelligence is insulted. You are not really being informed; you are, like a child witnessing a divorce, being asked to take sides. Ms. Klobuchar has broadcast attack ads attacking Mr. Kennedy’s attack ads, in a postmodern emptying of content, so that the ads are often just about other ads, an endless reconstruction of a hypothetical history.
It's a beautiful thing. I was lucky enough to witness some of Minnesota's best attack ads in October. They're much more brutal, but also much sillier than anything I see coming from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut.

Baxter concludes:
If politics is the art of compromise, then attack ads are not really political, but emotional, and, what is worse, infantilizing. They suggest the narcissistic rigidity of name-calling, going home and sulking. In Minnesota, the appeal to polarization this time may have lost its appeal, however, possibly because the press of calamitous current events seems so urgent.


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