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EDITORIAL – We love to hate election mudslinging, but it works

Conservative attack ad.

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

AT LEAST ONE PREDICTION was absolutely correct about federal election 2019 — it’s been a nasty one.

We used to think of negative campaigning in terms of attack advertising but modern media have changed that. Attack ads, social media posts, emails, hostile debate exchanges and “leaked” revelations are now all part of the mix.

One study shows the Conservatives have been doing most of the attacking. Leader Andrew Scheer has called Justin Trudeau a liar and a fraud who’s not fit to govern. There was the brownface scandal, and enduring references to SNC-Lavelin.

This week, an email blast from the Liberals to supporters told them, “Throughout this whole campaign, we’ve seen a steady flow of disinformation and negative attacks from Conservatives….”

As examples, the email referred to misleading claims by the Conservatives about a ‘secret’ Liberal housing tax, an ad that made it appear Rick Mercer was endorsing the Conservatives, and media baloney meters on the carbon tax.

But those are examples of misinformation rather than personal attacks. Another report shows the Liberals have increased their own attack strategy in the last couple of weeks of the campaign, and sometimes it’s personal.

There was the insurance broker issue, and the dual-citizenship thing, both of them aimed at lowering Scheer’s credibility.

We profess to hate attack campaigning, insisting we want to know about policies. Yet study after study has proven mudslinging works if it’s in sync with our values.

We happen to like the negative aspects of campaigning, whether we admit it or not, or even realize it.

So when we vote in this election, we may well be doing so based as much on how our opinions have been shaped by negative campaigning as on those policies we’re concerned about.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6993 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – We love to hate election mudslinging, but it works

  1. Small point: “We happen to like the negative aspects of campaigning, whether we admit it or not…” I disagree. Just because you’re influenced by something (even unconsciously) doesn’t mean you actually like it. Most of us would agree it’s a scourge, and would love to see the end of it. Even those who employ these tactics don’t necessarily like them. They just like their effectiveness.

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