Ninety percent of all ads in the current American election campaign are negative.
I stumbled across this little tidbit yesterday in a post on an American blog that was complaining about the negativity. Which was itself a negative post, ironically enough. It's impossible to decry something without being negative.
And that is as good a demonstration as any that not all negativity is bad. Nobody can be positive about child rape, for instance, at least not anybody you would want to have sitting in your living room.
Negativity can also be a powerful teaching and communication tool. Any teacher worth her salt knows that contrast is indispensable in teaching new concepts. One of the best ways to help students understand what something IS is by showing them at the same time what it ISN'T.
This can be done very legitimately in a political ad too. "My opponent advocates this. I think it's a bad idea for reasons X, Y, Z, and this is what I propose instead and why." This I would consider good negativity. It provides a positive counterbalance.
The problem arises when there is no positive message at all, when the ad consists uniquely of criticism or mudslinging. This caters to our lower instincts and to them only and contributes in every way to the lowering of the political debate. I heartily oppose it.
And that too, is good negativity.
Technorati tags: Negativity, Mud-slinging, Political ads
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