Campaign Ads are Crueler Than Fiction

It’s that time of year again. It’s election season — otherwise known as comedy hour for poli-sci majors. For those of you who get your TV fix via Hulu, and don’t have to suffer through the pain of Snuggie and Slap-Chop infomercials during your late night study breaks: You’re missing out.

I discovered this entertainment medium two years ago during the 2008 presidential primaries. I was sitting on the couch, cradling a monstrous SAT book and secretly wishing I owned a Snuggie. Then Mike Huckabee’s voice broke through the late-night lull and, in my sleep-deprived grogginess I heard: “My solution for securing the border: Chuck Norris.” Unsure if the long train of SAT words had permanently fried my brain, I sat up and listened carefully, only to hear Huckabee continue, “There’s no chin behind Chuck Norris’s beard — only another fist.”

This year, it’s a new guard and instead of nights with Chuck, this election season has been more of a late night horror show. Campaigns ad seem less humorous and more vicious. Carly Fiorina’s devil sheep ad made me drop my box of Cheez-Its as green pastures transformed into red-eyed sheep and flashes of Steve Poizner. Imagine sitting on the couch, alone, watching a dimly glowing television set in the dark and seeing a man dressed in a devil sheep outfit turn his glowing red eyes on you from behind a bush. Don’t lie — you’d be scared too.

As the year progressed, the ads have only gotten worse. Floridian Congressional candidate Dan Fanelli stereotyped Arabs as terrorists and deemed them flight risks. But that’s expected. In Colorado, anti-abortion proposition labeled Obama the angel of death, merging Obama’s face with the Grim Reaper’s and claiming that bank bailouts are used to internationally fund abortions.

These ads have abandoned any pretense of informing voters and instead are maliciously smearing opponents and minorities with unsubstantiated lies. Although most of us can see through the fallacy of devil sheep, the candidates are counting on the voters that can’t. It’s not a far stretch to assume that political ads do subconsciously affect voters.

Researchers from psychology departments across the country found that these campaigns created an implicit bias among voters without them realizing it. Catchphrases commonly associated with certain candidates — especially the negative ones — stick, and despite us knowing better, the words are already embedded in our brains and could affect our decision in the voting booth. These ads are the ones that encourage extremism, civil unrest and violence, legitimizing and encouraging radicals. David Corn, columnist for Politics Daily, claims the Tea Party makes radical moves and holds fervent marches because “extreme rhetoric can lead to extreme action.”

So this election season, I propose that all political campaigns should be funny. Bring back Chuck Norris, bring back Tina Fey and bring back Will Farrell. I do not wish to develop ovinophobia — the permanent fear of sheep.

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