Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pondering The Dark Arts

For those as weary of political attack ads as I am, The Star's Carol Goar has an interesting column in today's edition. Entitled Debating ‘dark arts’ of political campaigning, Goar relates her experience of moderating a panel over the weekend comprised of

... Jaime Watt, the primary architect of former Ontario premier Mike Harris’s two election campaigns in the ’90s; David Herle, co-chair of former prime minister Paul Martin’s two election campaigns a decade later; and Chima Nkendirim, the strategist behind Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s victory in 2010.

While each had his own definition of his role during a political campaign, Herle and Watts defended the use of what they called 'negative ads'. While averring their distaste for attacks on a person's personal life, and agreed that mocking physical appearances/disabilities, they both feel it is fair game to question a candidates motives and fitness for office, which, to me, despite their rationalizations, is tantamount to endorsing character assassination, probably in many ways much worse than mocking of physical attributes. Nkendirim was the only one who felt his prime duty is to defend his candidate vigorously.

Rather disingenuously, Herle professed to being deeply troubled by low voter turnout:

“When 40 per cent of the population isn’t voting, the results are wildly unrepresentative of the people,” he acknowledged. “But we don’t know what the driver of that is.” He suggested it might be the reduced relevance of government in an age of globalization and market economics.

I suspect a bit of willful ignorance on Mr. Herle's part. As political observers far more astute than I have observed, there is little doubt that political attack ads, by the very fact that they lower political discourse to the level of schoolyard taunts, are a disincentive to voter participation.

And as I have suggested before, that is precisely the outcome desired by those who have proven to be such adept masters of these dark arts, the Harper Conservatives.


  1. A short montage of attack ads from both libs and cons followed by the Canadian flag morphing into arguing faces.
    Then the message follows:
    "Tired of the Libs and cons.
    Try something New!
    The New Democratic Party of Canada!"

  2. Sounds like it would be an effective ad, Dan, although I do fear that the closer the NDP gets to power, the more conventional they may become, perhaps occupying the centre that the Liberals have forsaken. There getting rid of references to socialism in their party preamble is perhaps an indication of that drift.

    In terms of the Liberals, as someone recently said, the only thing we know about Justin Trudeau is that he approves of the Nexen deal, approves of Keystone, and supported the dismantling of the gun registry. Makes him sound awfully close to the Conservative perspective.

  3. Yes, it is not politically correct to be a socialist.
    Maybe we need to start an antisocialist party.
    Oh wait, that would be fascism wouldn't it?