Woe Is Us
It’s that time of year again, and the bad guys are at it in full force. No, I am not talking about our do-nothing Congress. I am talking about our do-everything negative political ads. I don’t want to take sides. I don’t want to support any issues. I just want to say one thing: I don’t know how you feel, but these ads make me sick. It’s as simple as that.
I an not naïve. I realize that sometimes politicians need to roll up their sleeves and fight to get elected. It’s just that I wish they would roll up their sleeves and work just as hard once voted into office. The public image of Congress is already bad. I don’t think any of these people realize how much worse these ads make us feel. People feel helpless and frustrated – and isolated from anyone who can help.
I don’t think things will get better unless we speak up. As soon as someone vows to broadcast only positive ads, they seem to quickly change their minds when they start slipping in the polls. I expect things will get even worse, because the latest batch of negative ads are some of the nastiest I have ever seen.
That being said, I am going to offer a few tips on how to cope with this flood of negativity without blowing your brains out. (I have a lot of experience blocking out negative things.)
The first thing we need to learn is that statistics are merely numbers, and they can be manipulated in different ways and still be called “true.” Here is an example.
Derek Jeter, the star shortstop for the New York Yankees has been in the news a lot lately, as his career just came to an end. Most people agree that he was one of the best players of all-time. You would think that an all-time great player would have great statistics (and he does), but I will show you how a clever (and devious) person can manipulate that to appear he was not so good.
Derek Jeter had a lifetime batting average of .310. In baseball, that is VERY high. So how can we change that to make you think it isn’t? Easy. An average of .310 means that a player got a hit 31 times out of every 100 chances. It also means that he didn’t get a hit 69 times out of every 100 chances. Simply: he got out more than he got a hit. This means that he failed more times than he succeeded.
A clever ad could say that “Derek Jeter spent most of his life as a failure at his job.” See how easy that was?
A particularly negative local ad that is currently running states that a candidate left a loaded gun by an elementary school. The ad makes you feel like he was handing out loaded pistols to kindergarteners. It’s scary. I did a little research into this (more facts pending) but it seems that the gun was in his car, which was broken into and stolen. I am still checking up on that.
Another ad shows a little girl counting the petals on a flower while a nuclear warhead explodes over her head. This is a rip-off of the 1964 Lyndon Johnson ad that helped defeat Barry Goldwater. The thought behind the original ad was “who’s finger do you want on the nuclear trigger?” It was appropriately-effective back then because it dealt with the issue of nuclear weapons (even if it was extremely negative). The current ad is supposed to be a “commentary” on our educational system. Instead it makes you think that if you vote for someone, nuclear war will start. This is unacceptable trickery.
So, What Do I Do?
Unfortunately, the burden is on us. People can say whatever they want, color it any way they desire, as long as there is a scintilla of truth at the core. So it us up to us to do our homework – and use common sense.
One solution is to turn off your television. But again, that is naïve. Hardly anyone will do that, and even if they do, they will eventually turn it back on. So we need other options.
The first thing you should do when you see an ad is to pay attention to who paid for the ad. That will tell you the direction that the ad is slanted. Use that to balance out what seems exaggerated.
The next thing you have to do is homework. You will have to dig and dig and read through various news sources and try to find the facts. Hopefully, you will uncover a non-partisan source that you can trust. It is sad to say, but don’t take anything you see or hear in an ad at face value. CHECK IT OUT ON YOUR OWN!
Yes, the burden is upon us, but we do get the last word in this matter – we get to vote! This is something that people have given their lives for. It is something that we should not take for granted. I don’t care what party you like or what your views may be. It is up to you to try and find the best candidate, and it is up to you to go to the polls and vote.
We do have the power to change things, but not if we turn our backs. When people care, it shows. It is POWERFUL, and the people do have the power!
I know this was not funny, but sometimes there are things about which you just need to be serious. Perhaps tomorrow is a day for silliness. Even so, we can still…