Home > B2, Learning > Manipulation in a Media-Saturated Nation

Manipulation in a Media-Saturated Nation

The past two trimesters in our Government class we have covered many topics and undergone many discussions. I found that I was most fascinated by the presidential election process. Mainly, I was intrigued by the manipulation and persuasion in the campaign advertisements in which we citizens are so adapted to. In politics, campaign advertisement is the use of paid media through newspapers, radio, television, and other such sources to influence the vote of the citizens. Political advertisements are everywhere. Our society today is a media-involved atmosphere, in which these ads can be seen through all electronic devices. For decades, a large portion of the money raised in the campaign process has been used to purchase television spots as they have deemed the most effective communication tool to reach and manipulate the votes of wide ranged audiences. As technology advances, all media sources become more critical to candidates; they must present themselves well, or lose.

For example, it is said Franklin D. Roosevelt would not have won presidency in our modern era because people would not generally vote for a man in a wheelchair. If he were to appear on television, he might not seem as strong as the voters wish for a person to lead our country. Fast forward to the 1960’s, it can be claimed Nixon lost the presidential election to John F. Kennedy because he lost the television debate; Nixon looked pale and was sweating profusely. Nixon’s poor presentation of himself resulted in a significant impact on the voters and their decision in the voting booth. The way candidates run their election campaign is critical to their chances at winning presidency.

Campaign advertisements can be effective in a vast range of approaches in persuading the voters. Ads can be positive or negative, emotional, and in close elections attacks toward the opponent. Typical ads contain patriotism and broad appeal. However, sometimes ads will reach out to a specific audience. In negative advertisements, the purpose is to strengthen the candidate’s base of voters or change the mind of their opponent’s voters by evoking fear or disgust. These ads usually include false claims, personal attacks, and influencing the voters that they’re the better candidate.

Although most video advertisements on television are only thirty seconds or more, they have the ability of manipulating the audience’s votes very craftily. The emotion seen through advertisements can be produced through the problems of the people: unemployment, lack of healthcare, prescription costs, current issues, and many more personal-leveled concerns. A prime example of an emotional ad is the famous Lyndon B. Johnson television advertisement. Due to its effectiveness, his campaign staff only aired it once. The sixty-second video begins with an innocent little girl plucking daisy pedals in a field. It takes a sudden shift to nuclear bomb explosions in the background and LBJ declares, “These are the stakes, now make a world in which all of God’s children can live or go in the dark. We must love each other or die.” This campaign for the 1964 election effectively displays the amount of emotion used in campaign ads to manipulate, to influence, and to gain the votes of the people.

If most ads are made in angst to influence and persuade voters, then how does the average voter know if political ads are false or misleading? The emotional appeal of the commercials may manipulate the voter into believing claims that may or may not be true, and therefore gain their vote. Campaign advertisements have altered the way in which political elections are configured. Over time, campaign commercials and the presentation of each candidate have become critical to their presidential election. In class, we learned the specific details of campaign commercials and that the candidates presentation is the end all be all to their chances of election.  Through the class work and activities, I have realized the amount of manipulation and persuasion each candidate uses in order to influence the citizens in the voting booths.

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  1. govsaram
    May 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Great post, Lauren! The evidence you gave reflects your argument very well! I would advise, though, in the fourth paragraph, that you change the word effectiveness when describing LBJ’s televised campaign advertisement because you proceed to describe it as a vulgar and shocking. Otherwise, I think you did a great job and connected your blog post to our class discussions perfectly!

  2. catec5
    May 2, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Great job Lauren! The only thing I would ad would be a another example of how campaign commercials have shaped the election process.

  3. govsamk13
    May 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Lauren, this is great! Your examples help create a good argument that is very well related to our class’ study of Campaigns. However, you could elaborate more on the political cartoon you added to your blog and/or give another modern day example. For example, how Barack Obama beat John McCain because of the way he used the younger generation to his advantage.

  4. May 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Nice job, Lauren!

    The question you propose in your conclusion is a great one: “How does the average voter know if political ads are false or misleading?” I’m curious, what are your thoughts about the answer(s)? For me, I suggest preparing you and your classmates to think for yourselves and evaluate sources for truthfulness are key goals of our GOV course and school generally – since helping you to become an infomed voter is essential to the health of our democracy!!

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