So, attack ads have finally found their way to the municipal election in Qualicum Beach. Predictably they follow the tried and tested recipe pioneered south of the border.
First, you form an anonymous group. Pick a title that sounds nonpartisan, but which implies widespread, grassroots support, even though you could be no more than a couple of cranky friends with ad money. Something like “Citizens United for a Happy Qualicum Beach.”
Select your target, scour their public statements and find one or two that can be taken so laughably out of context and intent that they sound outrageous. Maybe if enough people aren’t paying attention, some will be outraged. Give your target a scary label, something like Gang of Three. That should underline to everyone how dangerous they are.
The advantage of this approach is that you won’t have to deal with complex public policy issues in any kind of depth, or make a serious attempt to engage a well-informed electorate. Remember it’s easier to make people angry than it is to persuade them, and nothing makes them more angry than the right label. Call for balance, which implies that your targets are probably against balance. Probably against motherhood and world peace, too.
The problem is that, in politics, it is pretty apparent that labels often mean the opposite to what they say. How confident should we be about legislation labeled an Act to Ensure Environmentally Safe Oil Tanker Traffic?
So when someone says they want to restore “balance” to municipal government, I’m open to the impression that balance is the probably the last thing they are looking for. The trouble is we don’t know what they really want because they don’t really say. In this kind of ad they don’t have to.
So, as a nonpartisan, vested resident of Qualicum Beach, who loves his community and is unafraid of controlling development (who even supports developer/resident dialogue providing it’s between consenting adults), my vote will probably not be much influenced by the recent Tea Party-ish ads that have contributed so greatly to lowering the level of political discourse in our community.
Ewan CotterillQualicum Beach