Don't believe those elxn ads - they are not quite what they seem.
Attack ads are notorious for distorting the truth, grabbing a little snippet out of a speech and presenting it completely out of context. It’s all about creating a negative impression, making a person seem incompetent, scary, dishonest, whatever.
They work on some voters. Specifically, they are aimed mainly at people who don’t really follow politics, and aren’t going to think beyond the message conveyed. It will never cross their mind that they are being misled.
The attack ads we are most familiar with, because if you watch TV they are played so often you can’t miss them, are the Conservative’s attack ads on Justin Trudeau. So let’s look at a couple of those.
“Budgets will balance themselves.” Did Trudeau actually say that? Does he really believe that? Yes, and yes. But the context makes all the difference. What he said was “if the government did its job well and focused on growing the economy then the budget would eventually take care of itself. Each increase in GDP sees an increase in the government's coffers. Balancing the budget is simply a matter of ensuring that there is enough economic growth and therefore revenue to cover expenses.”
Well, put it that way and I guess budgets do balance themselves. Put another way – if you earned more money, you wouldn’t have to worry about your making you mortgage or car payment. It would cease to be a problem.
Point being, if you don’t hear the context you are left with a false impression.
In a more recent attack ad, the Harper Conservatives are playing more on that “budgets will balance themselves” line by ridiculing Trudeau’s comment that he wants to grow the economy “from the heart outwards”.
Opponents (not sure if it was the Tories or NDP) labelled that “Care Bear economics”. That’s a clever line so kudos to whomever came up with it, but again, it is misleading.
In the speech where he made that comment, he was talking about the heart of the economy being the middle class, and that therefore growing the economy should come from that heart; from the middle class.
Voters can make up their own mind on whether that’s good policy, but he’s not channelling his inner Care Bear here. There’s more substance to it than that.
Even more recently, we have an example of the same kind of distortion from the Liberals, of a comment by Stephen Harper. The Liberals, like all the parties that aren’t the Conservatives, have to pace themselves in respect to media buys, so for now at least, this one only lives online, but is being widely circulated – that’s how I saw it. Here it is:
Well, really no, it doesn’t say it all. Far from it. If it had said it all, it would show that when he said he is not going to hold everybody accountable for “their” actions, he wasn’t taking about “everybody”. Here’s the complete quote: "These (Duffy and Wright) are the two people whose actions are responsible for this situation. That's why I've held them accountable and I'm not going to go around holding everybody else accountable for their actions".
If you just grab the last half of that sentence, as the Liberals have done here, you can see how it changes the meaning completely.
Know what’s a shame? That truth in advertising laws don’t apply to political ads. But they don’t and with the election campaign soon to ramp up we are undoubtedly going to see a lot more of them.
The take away here – be careful of any quotes one party uses against another, and take it all with a grain, no a large handful, of salt.
Meantime, here’s to hoping whenever any party puts out an ad, that the media analyzes it to see if it is a distortion, and if it is found wanting in that regard, that they report that far and wide.
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