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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fear and smear redux

Perhaps the worst aspect of the Healey bombardment on decency is the campaign's inability or refusal to face reality.

Listen to this whine from Tim O'Brien, the designated attack dog (where is Reed Hillman?) in trying to defend the savagery of the fear-filled ads against the more traditional "comparative" ads run by Deval Patrick.
"He hides behind the shield of 'They're running a nasty campaign' while at the same time his friends and allies are running a smear campaign," O'Brien said.
Patrick's ads focus on Healey's statements and actions as second banana -- reflecting the state's poor ranking in aid to education and her cold statements that seniors are "overhoused" and should move if they want to pay less in property taxes.

It is one of the oldest arguments in campaign tactics. When does an ad cross the line from "comparative" -- taking a position/action and putting it in a harsh light -- and sink into "negative." The definition, much like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of porn, is "I know it when I see it." Patrick's are comparative. Healey's are smears.

Lyndon Johnson's daisy ad was certainly a pioneer. Bush 41's Willie Horton ad ranks as the worst of the worst. Raising fear to irrational levels is the key in both of these examples.

Healey's ads focused on Florida cop killer Carl Songer and Ben Laguer, using dark images of roadside police stops and a woman walking through a garage. The bottom line is to create a sense of fear among viewers. Do Patrick's ads raise these kinds of emotions?

Throw in the stunt with the skinhead "prisoners" and you have a fear and smear campaign.

Ratchet back the whining Timmy. And learn the definition of "smear."

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