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by Brick Walters, 11/3/00

Dc: This is DCR, a news program not to be believed. In the final days of the campaign season, candidates at all levels have turned to negative tactics that are increasingly nasty. This happens in spite of the fact that surveys consistently indicate that the public is strongly against negative advertising. Brick Walters reports.

(sfx: outdoor)

Group: We don't care what experts think. Going negative really stinks!

I won't rave and I won't rant, I just want them to nix the anti!

Down with negative! Down with negative!

Brick: (vo) This group picketing a Milwaukee TV station presents one bit of tangible evidence that the public has become exasperated with negative advertising.

(chanting fizzles out)

Ann Tyall is co-president of the Down With Negative Coalition.

Ann: I hate negative stuff, we all do. Especially the lame accusations that you know are taken out of context and exaggerated. THEY ALL do it! Every one of them! Constantly!

Brick: Maybe not all of them all the time.

Ann: All of them. Every time.

Brick: What else would you have them do?

Ann: Stop the negative! Right? Down with Negative! Down with Negative!

(group chants)

Brick: Right, right....

(chant stops)

... we know what you're against, but what are you FOR?

Ann: For?

Group: For? For? Two... Four .. Six .. Eight! We hate those who denigrate!

(chanting fades)

Brick: And groups like the Down With Negative alliance aren't alone. Leading political media specialists like Tamara Henry say negative ads defeat their own purpose.

Tamara: Ultimately the goal of a television advertisement is to get that viewer to cast a vote for your candidate. But the negative ad puts your candidate in the position of being a whiner. And nobody likes a whiner. Voters like forthright positions, simple statements and catchy slogans. That's what we ought to concentrate on.

Brick: (brighty and rhythmically) Just drop the "h" and add an "n" and your "whiner" is a "winner" again!

Tamara: (unimpressed) It has to be catchier than that.

Brick: But all too often, one candidate's negative advertising leads to more negativity from the others. At least that's the view of Al Rondozo, who is assistant campaign manager for the Enough! Party.

Al: Suppose I told you that you were gonna get two phone calls tonight and you could only take one of them. One person would be calling to brag about himself, and the other would be calling to dish the dirt on other people. Which one would you take?

Brick: I'd take the gossip, of course.

Al: Right. Either way you wind up annoyed. But we gotta get their attention before we can get their vote, and negativity is a great attention getter. Did you know Al Gore put his mother-in-law's dog in a lockbox?

(sfx: chanting under)

Brick: Given the stark reality of our current political discourse, it may be quite some time before negative ads disappear completely, if ever. Even though nobody likes them, everybody knows they don't work, and the people who write and produce negative ads also tend to be shoplifters and aggressive drivers who pinch old ladies and start forest fires. (innocently) Really! Out in the field, I'm Brick Walters.


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