My Irish Up: Caring ads

by Mike Corrigan

News Columnist

Rarely does a television ad these days offer anything but a negative appraisal of a particular candidate. And when the ads do offer a positive view, you really wish they wouldn’t:

(Music swells: camera pulls out from the teeth of President Obama, who is grinning that cute little grin of his): “This man cares. He cares enough to help children fund college scholarships, even kids as dumb as asparagus. He cared enough to help local teens get a federal grant to find the short way to get to Level 8 of MYST. Yes, President Obama cares. He cares about you. He cares about whatever it is that you care about, only twice as much, and three times as sincerely. In his spare time this very busy man unstraps dogs from the roofs of passing cars… Did we mention that he cares?”

And so on.

The attack ads are much more entertaining. The music is less saccharine, for one thing. And the graphics can be sensational, typically making the vilified subject look like a cross between Adolf Hitler and some other madman only slightly more popular. Although we’ve all already seen enough pictures of President Obama, most of these ads, curiously, also feature pictures of… President Obama. (He is getting a lot of airtime. The man’s Q-Rating must be through the roof these days. You’d think the Romney camp would complain.)

The funniest thing about these ads, whether they feature Tweedledeedum or Tweedledeedee, is that many of them are now footnoted! It’s like watching an animated version of your freshman year term paper, complete with some of the misinformation you unfortunately left in.

I guess the footnotes are there so that you can check the accuracy of the statements. The trouble is, the quotations go by so fast you’d have to Tivo any particular ad to check the fine print, as it were. And nobody who is sane is also that masochistic.

So, yeah, okay, I Tivo’d one. And there was President Obama, looking as if he didn’t care. The ad basically said that Obama was a sap, who got in on a technicality, ruined Medicare and killed the economy. Also, it added breathlessly, he hoped to create a socialist state because he hated business and jobs and America. It also noted that he was such a failure as president that, after nearly four years in office, he was still trying to get by with a weak mid-range jump shot. Man, I thought to myself, what a loser! 

I might not have caught all the points correctly, but really, does it matter anymore? It went something like that. The great thing was, all of these statements were footnoted! As if they might actually be true! As if anyone worth quoting were actually being quoted!

There were seven footnotes for that one ad. Here’s what I think they said. (I had to go to the magnifying glass for a couple of them, and then the power went out.)

1. The Committee for the Complete Polarization of American Voters.

2. The American Association of AK-47 Users on People Who Disagree With “Reality”

3. Koch Brothers (private conversation; no money changed hands)

4. Inside source, Romney campaign

5. Mitt Romney, 4/12/05

6. “The Audacity of Hope,” pp. 35…39…114…142 (paraphrased)

7. Deliberate misquotation of editorial, Wall Street Journal, 8/1/12

I was a little surprised they were that frank about the mendacity of the last few attributions, but I guess the folks who paid for the ad — whoever “The Committee for Patriotic People With A Lot of Cash to Spend” is — knew that by the time anyone ever found out whose bank account was behind it, exactly, the election would be over. Sure, the “fact”-checking blogs would list all the errors the next day, but it already would be too late. And the television stations just want the revenues, anyway, so they would never pull an ad, especially one that's copiously footnoted. And, just as Agent Scully once said, “According to unnamed sources, the truth is already Out There.”

So, there you have it. Just try correcting anything, once it’s on TV. Or on my Tivo.

Mike Corrigan, long-time Bridgton News reporter and columnist, tries to watch as little television as possible, especially lately.

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