Political advertising is often considered a deceitful and scheming idea. Advertisers carefully word everything they include in an advertisement to give off a claim that many viewers do not realize is not really there. These false claims are meant to alter the public's outlook in favor of the advertisement. Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton's advertisements are primary examples of the devious techniques that are exemplified in the works of William Lutz and Donna Woolfolk Cross through the use or weasel words, stroking, and euphemisms.
During his first presidential election in 2008 for the Democratic candidate, Barrack Obama launched an advertisement titled Defining Moment. He says he will launch a rescue plan for the middle class and provide a tax cut for ninety-five percent of working Americans and will make low-cost loans available to small businesses. Obama promises to focus on our urgent national priorities by reducing the cost of health care and provide children with the education help they need to compete. In order to raise the money he needs for these promises, he plans to eliminate programs that do not work (Political Communication Lab).
According to Lutz's essay about weasel words, Obama's advertisement is full of words that can force the audience to make assumptions that they should not. In the first part of this advertisement, he promises a tax cut, but never specifies the quantity of percentage of the tax cut. The tax cut percentage could be so slight that it does not make a difference at all, and really would not affect a viewer's judgment. However, this advertisement is designed to allow the audience to assume the cut will be of a large sum and will benefit them. Obama also never declares what he considers to be a low-cost loan or a small business.
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What he considers to be low-cost and small may very well be different than that of a viewer. Obama adds those cunning words 'help' and 'reduce' that Lutz was sure to warn about in his article. These words, like low-cost and small, mean nothing at all and he is not really making a promise to do anything. The word help only means to aid or assist and reduce simply means lessen in amount (Lutz 443). This advertisement could also tie in with Cross's essay "Propaganda: How Not to Be Bamboozled. " Obama is saying anything and everything the public wants to hear him say in order for him to become the more desired candidate.
Cross defines this technique as argumentum ad populum, also known as stroking (Cross 126). Advertisers used strategies included in both Cross and Lutz's essays to scam the viewers into believing he was making this sincere promise to them. An advertisement created by Obama titled Need Education was solely aired on television to attack statements made by opponent and Republican John McCain. This advertisement stated McCain "opposed a law to give women equal pay for equal work " and "he dismissed wage gap saying that women just need education and training. The woman speaking throughout the advertisement claimed that "John McCain is the one who needs an education on the economy " (Political Communication Lab).
The last statement of this advertisement is easily associated with Lutz's essay "The World of Doublespeak. The advertisers are using the phrase "needs an education " as a euphemism. They chose a more appropriate and not as noticeable way of calling McCain stupid and not knowing what he is talking about when it comes to the economy (Lutz 160). This statement alone could alter a viewer's opinion of McCain because they would not want a non-educated man in office.
Hillary Clinton, also a Democrat running for president, aired her advertisement Voice during the 2008 election. Clinton states that she hears everyone in America. They are asking for affordable health care, less foreclosures on homes, more affordable gas prices, and make college more affordable. Clinton claims she will bring more to the White House than just her experience and will bring your voice (Political Communication Lab). The advertisers sneak in words such as less and more all throughout this advertisement. How much is much and exactly low less is less?
The answer is different for every person and Clinton never indicates her meaning of these words. More and less are two prime examples of weasel words that correlate with Lutz's article. These words are meant to fool the audience since they do not have a true meaning and were carefully selected for this advertisement (Lutz 450). By saying she will bring the voice of America into the White House, she is putting into action a strategy defined by Cross. Just as Obama, she is using the argumentum ad populum tactic to convince viewers that she truly is the best interest for America (Cross 126).
Advertisers strategically use these lines of attack to make their candidate seem to be top of the line and clearly the best option for everyone. Understanding the techniques described by both Cross and Lutz that are used in political advertising is crucial to the people of America. If viewers are unaware of these tactics then they are more likely to be fooled when the outcome of these so called promises don't turn out to be what was expected. Educating the public of the manipulating intentions in advertising can save a person from having their opinion decided for them and allow them to truly make the best decision for their country.
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