"DIRTY POLITICS: Deception Distraction, and Democracy" by Kathleen Hall Jamieson

"DIRTY POLITICS: Deception Distraction, and Democracy"

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An attempt to determine the extent to which TV has contributed to the manipulation of political campaigns--and what can be done about it; by Jamieson (Communication/Univ. of Penn.; Eloquence in an Electronic Age, 1988, etc.). Jamieson proceeds from an analysis of attack-campaigning (she finds, unsurprisingly, that sloganeering has characterized politics since the days of the Founding Fathers, but that TV heightens its visual appeal) through a consideration of the relationship between news and ads (Jamieson argues that the difference between the two is becoming blurred) to a discussion of news coverage in general (she illustrates the critical role that coverage has played in shaping campaigns). Her lengthiest case study is of the Willie Horton affair, where she subtly demonstrates that ""what is shown is not necessarily what is seen and what is said is not always what is heard."" Thus, much was made in the 1988 campaign of 268 convicts who jumped furlough during Governor Dukakis's first two terms, with the suggestion implicit that all were murderers--but in fact only four were first-degree murderers not eligible for parole, and only one, Horton himself, went on to kidnap and rape. Jamieson describes the techniques of the attack-ad: quick cuts; black-and-white or darkly colored images; shadowed lighting; the voice of a seemingly ""neutral"" announcer; ominous music; a rapid sequence of images that reduces ability to scrutinize information. But the ways in which attack-ads are dealt with--counterattack; prior warning to alert viewers that attack-ads may be expected; the use of humor to defuse them; the willingness to call campaigners personally to account for ads' errors--are, she says, still in the early stages. Familiar examples and few new insights, but, still, a cogent and evenhanded summary of generally available information about the influence of TV on politicking.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0195085531
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press