Every election cycle provides us with non-stop mind-numbing advertising campaigns by the major party candidates. A torrent of print and television ads are directed at the public featuring claims and counterclaims, charges and rebuttals, promises and reassuring agendas. Voters cannot avoid being exposed to at least some portion of this political onslaught. How they are affected by all of this is not readily apparent or sufficiently understood. Commentators and journalists do make an effort to sort things out, to evaluate claims, scrutinize candidate’s records and analyze the relevance and likely consequences of their proposals.
What rarely attracts attention are the photos opposing camps employ along with their messaging. It’s time we took note of their crude, almost comical efforts to disparage opposition candidates. Both sides manage to present the most unflattering pictures they can discover, the more bizarre and unattractive the photo the less likely voters, so the thinking goes, will respond favorably to his or her candidacy. These pictures have probably not been altered, but amidst the vast numbers available, surely there’ll be those suitably distorted to serve the sinister purposes of each side.
So, expect to see an array of scowls, sneers, grimaces, bland, mug-like expressions conveying either anger, indifference, mockery or gullibility – images distinctly at variances with the confident, reassuring and friendly demeanor we’ve come to expect from politicians.
No one knows how the public reacts to these distorted images, whether they negatively impact perceptions or produce an opposite wave of sympathy in response to their transparent efforts to smear. But with negative campaigning a fixture of our politics these pictorial efforts to distort and demean will no doubt remain.