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Dirty Politics: Deception, Distraction, and Democracy

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Americans in recent years have become thoroughly disenchanted with our political campaigns, especially with campaign advertising and speeches. Each year, as November approaches, we are bombarded with visceral appeals that bypass substance, that drape candidates in the American flag but tell us nothing about what they'll do if elected, that flood us with images of PT-109 or Americans in recent years have become thoroughly disenchanted with our political campaigns, especially with campaign advertising and speeches. Each year, as November approaches, we are bombarded with visceral appeals that bypass substance, that drape candidates in the American flag but tell us nothing about what they'll do if elected, that flood us with images of PT-109 or Willie Horton, while significant issues--such as Kennedy's Addison's Disease or the looming S&L catastrophe--are left unexamined. And the press--the supposed safeguard of democracy--focuses on campaign strategy over campaign substance, leaving us to decide where the truth lies. In Dirty Politics, campaign analyst Kathleen Hall Jamieson provides an eye-opening look at political ads and speeches, showing us how to read, listen to, and watch political campaigns. Jamieson provides a sophisticated (and often humorous) analysis of advertising technique, describing how television ads use soft focus, slow motion, lyrical or patriotic music (Reagan used I'm Proud to be an American) to place a candidate in a positive light, or quick cuts, black and white, videotape, and ominous music (for instance, the theme from Jaws) to portray the opposition. She shows how ads sometimes mimic news spots to add authenticity (Edwin Edwards, in his race against David Duke, actually used former NBC correspondent Peter Hackis, who would begin an ad saying This is Peter Hackis in Baton Rouge). And Jamieson points out that consultants create inflammatory ads hoping that the major networks will pick them up and run them as news, giving the ad millions of dollars of free air time. The most striking example would be the Willie Horton ad, which the press aired repeatedly (as an example of negative advertising) long after the ad had ceased running. (In fact, it never ran on the major networks as an ad, only as news.) From a colorful, compact history of negative campaigning from Eisenhower to the present, to an in-depth commentary on the Willie Horton ads, to an up-to-the-minute analysis of the Duke-Edwards campaign in Louisiana, Dirty Politics is both a fascinating look at underhanded campaigning as well as a compelling argument for fair, accurate, and substantive campaigns. It is a book that all voters should read before they vote again.


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Americans in recent years have become thoroughly disenchanted with our political campaigns, especially with campaign advertising and speeches. Each year, as November approaches, we are bombarded with visceral appeals that bypass substance, that drape candidates in the American flag but tell us nothing about what they'll do if elected, that flood us with images of PT-109 or Americans in recent years have become thoroughly disenchanted with our political campaigns, especially with campaign advertising and speeches. Each year, as November approaches, we are bombarded with visceral appeals that bypass substance, that drape candidates in the American flag but tell us nothing about what they'll do if elected, that flood us with images of PT-109 or Willie Horton, while significant issues--such as Kennedy's Addison's Disease or the looming S&L catastrophe--are left unexamined. And the press--the supposed safeguard of democracy--focuses on campaign strategy over campaign substance, leaving us to decide where the truth lies. In Dirty Politics, campaign analyst Kathleen Hall Jamieson provides an eye-opening look at political ads and speeches, showing us how to read, listen to, and watch political campaigns. Jamieson provides a sophisticated (and often humorous) analysis of advertising technique, describing how television ads use soft focus, slow motion, lyrical or patriotic music (Reagan used I'm Proud to be an American) to place a candidate in a positive light, or quick cuts, black and white, videotape, and ominous music (for instance, the theme from Jaws) to portray the opposition. She shows how ads sometimes mimic news spots to add authenticity (Edwin Edwards, in his race against David Duke, actually used former NBC correspondent Peter Hackis, who would begin an ad saying This is Peter Hackis in Baton Rouge). And Jamieson points out that consultants create inflammatory ads hoping that the major networks will pick them up and run them as news, giving the ad millions of dollars of free air time. The most striking example would be the Willie Horton ad, which the press aired repeatedly (as an example of negative advertising) long after the ad had ceased running. (In fact, it never ran on the major networks as an ad, only as news.) From a colorful, compact history of negative campaigning from Eisenhower to the present, to an in-depth commentary on the Willie Horton ads, to an up-to-the-minute analysis of the Duke-Edwards campaign in Louisiana, Dirty Politics is both a fascinating look at underhanded campaigning as well as a compelling argument for fair, accurate, and substantive campaigns. It is a book that all voters should read before they vote again.

30 review for Dirty Politics: Deception, Distraction, and Democracy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    I really wish GoodReads let you give half-star ratings. I'd probably rate it two and a half. It was worth reading, but dry and a lot of what she said seemed like common sense. I'm reviewing this after the fact, so it's hard to remember, but her explanations of how politicians can best counter attacks by their opponents were enlightening. I really wish GoodReads let you give half-star ratings. I'd probably rate it two and a half. It was worth reading, but dry and a lot of what she said seemed like common sense. I'm reviewing this after the fact, so it's hard to remember, but her explanations of how politicians can best counter attacks by their opponents were enlightening.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Yost

    Very informative, and interesting.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alec

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maximilian Rivera

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Jr.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike DuBois

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tom Dougherty

  8. 5 out of 5

    Matthew J. Marlieu

  9. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jurgis Liepnieks

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jake Epstein

  12. 4 out of 5

    Eric Uecker

  13. 4 out of 5

    Delbert

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emily Tosoni

  15. 5 out of 5

    Luke Elzinga

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sean Murphy

  17. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Adam Crouse

  19. 4 out of 5

    Terry

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt Berger

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ellis

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alan Rosenblatt

  23. 5 out of 5

    Icelandic Freyja

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brenna

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marshall Cohen

  26. 5 out of 5

    Steve Klien

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  29. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  30. 5 out of 5

    Austin Hofeman

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