The insidiousness of attack ads and that Republican ad on Angus King

The negative attack ad Republicans have run right out of the box at Angus King is instructive.

It shows the insidiousness of attack ads.

Here’s an ad that Republicans have not paid to run anywhere. it’s web only, not on tv or radio.

It has exactly zero evidence to back up its charges that there was some sort of backroom deal.

And they’ve managed to have it talked about (including by me) and run on broadcast outlets.

Thus with zero evidence and zero money to pay for airing the ad, they’ve created a pseudo-controversy and had their message spread.

Angus King has done a good job handling the situation, telling a tv station that the Republicans’ claims are “bunk” and “what I’ve learned is people that say stuff like that that make up stuff like what that really tells you is what they would do.”

Political scientists and communications scholars have found that citizens can learn a good deal about candidates from advertisements that are critical and accurate while focusing on policy; they call these contrast ads.  The ad Republicans ran against King is not accurate and not focused on policy; it is basically a negative attack ad that misinforms citizens.

But what should the media do with such an ad? It doesn’t seem like inaccurate attack ads can be ignored, yet giving them attention enables their messages to be spread while giving the impression there might be some there there.

And that is why they are so very insidious.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.