It’s election season, and that means it’s also campaign advertising season; a contemptible season wrought with doleful cinematic failures. The only explanation for the authorization of these snippets of proliferate misinformation or obvious cliché can be that the folks at Geico already bought up the contracts of anyone with an ounce of advertising wit.

It is therefore an incredible mark of prestige that Barack Obama’s ads have been comparatively good. They are good, certainly, in their quality as ads, but also good in the sense that, so far at least, Obama has been dignified enough to avoid publishing a direct attack ad against McCain. The strategy for the Obama camp has been simple enough: feature his speeches, and use Obama himself as the advertisement’s narrator. Thus, the videos are effective because they’re pointing out a substantive difference between the two candidates: Obama is uniquely charismatic and inspiring. John McCain doesn’t even need to be mentioned.

On the contrary, McCain’s latest campaign advertisements are following the usual disgraceful chicanery: not only are they downright cheesy and horrifically witless, they feature cleverly couched lies and misinformation too. As has been reported en masse, McCain’s latest attack ad compares the celebrity of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton with that of Barack Obama. It’s worth posting the McCain ad here for comedic effect alone:

Yes, folks: that’s the ad that passed through the creative gauntlet and political astuteness of the McCain campaign. That is, not only did this ad have to first gain authorization among (what I assume to be) a slough of other advertisement ideas, but it also warranted such high praise by McCain that it was worth spending campaign money on.

I suppose the idea behind featuring Barack Obama as “the biggest celebrity in the world” is to suggest that somehow it is a negative quality that his speeches have drawn crowds nearing 100,000 supporters, due entirely to the brute force of his political career and the content of his speeches. The ad also overlooks the ironic fact that Britney Spears is a diehard Republican and McCain supporter (although I’m unaware of her opinion now since the release of this ad).

As you’ve just seen, the video progresses (in completely unconnected fashion) from featuring Obama as a charismatic leader to making claims about his energy policies. The oblivious lack of a relevant transition aside, it is crucial to note that some of the claims McCain is trying to sneak in are actually straight up lies. Since the advertisement does not cite its sources (something we need regulation for!), I decided to look into the claim that Obama wants to raise taxes on electricity myself.

A quick and useful resource for fact-checking political claims like this can be found at factcheck.org, and if you’re clicking that link near the time that I’m posting this blog entry, you’ll notice that the relevant article is actually posted right on the top of the page.

It turns out that Obama never claimed to raise taxes on electricity at all. The only possible source for McCain’s advertisement claim comes from a drastic misquote. During an interview once, a reporter asked Obama if he thought it was a good idea to tax clean energy to help pay for education. Obama responded, in completely rational fashion, that such a tax would be a bad idea, and that if any tax on energy would be appropriate, it would be a tax on “dirty” energy like coal, oil or, to a lesser extent, natural gas. But even so, no tax on electricity, not even on dirty energy (perhaps unfortunately so, if you want my opinion), is part of Obama’s plan.

Thus, not only does McCain’s ad fail in wit and cinematic skill, it is also replete with blatant lies.

When the advertisement ends with a sudden musical shift and a supposedly noble, chin-raised McCain approving the message, you have to check yourself from thinking this might actually be an ironic Saturday Night Live skit; a satire of McCain instead.

Aside from displaying the evident lack of creativity and wit of McCain’s campaign team, which an authorization of this campaign ad must imply, by far the most alarming failure is how the advertisement relies upon complete lies, as if there is nothing truthful which can be negatively said about Obama.

Unfortunately the only thing worse than this advertisement itself is the thought that it might actually be effective with some voters. It’s good to see that Obama is refusing to stoop to the level of old-school negative campaign politics, but something more must be done to combat the spread of misinformation that these ads display. ‘Playing nice’ isn’t enough. We need regulations which, at the very least, require political advertisements to cite the sources for all of the claims being made. As nauseous as those fluffy drug advertisements are since being required to list all of their side effects, it is at least a step up over the complete lack of regulation that currently exists for campaign ads.

The most prominent effect of such regulation would be to show just how much Republican and Right Wing tactics actually rely upon lies, misinformation and smear to prop their candidates up. The constant use of such tactics only display the obvious fact that Republicans don’t think they could win otherwise. Which is the likely truth.

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