Dirty Politics

Dirty Politics : Deception, Distraction and Democracy

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Americans in recent years have become thoroughly disenchanted with our political campaigns, especially with campaign advertising and speeches. Each year, as November approaches, we are bombarded with visceral appeals that bypass substance, that drape candidates in the American flag but tell us nothing about what they'll do if elected, that flood us with images of PT-109 or Willie Horton, while significant issues - such as Kennedy's Addison's Disease or the looming S&L catastrophe - are left unexamined. And the press - the supposed safeguard of democracy - focuses on campaign strategy over campaign substance, leaving us to decide where the truth lies. In Dirty Politics, campaign analyst Kathleen Hall Jamieson provides an eye-opening look at political ads and speeches, showing us how to read, listen to, and watch political campaigns. Jamieson provides a sophisticated (and often humorous) analysis of advertising techniques, describing how television ads use soft focus, slow motion, lyrical or patriotic music (Reagan used "I'm Proud to be an American") to place a candidate in a positive light, or quick cuts, black and white, videotape, and ominous music (for instance, the theme from Jaws) to portray the opposition. She shows how ads sometimes mimic news spots to add authenticity (Edwin Edwards, in his race against David Duke, actually used former NBC correspondent Peter Hackis, who would begin an ad saying "This is Peter Hackis in Baton Rouge"). And Jamieson points out that consultants create inflammatory ads hoping that the major networks will pick them up and run them as news, giving the ad millions of dollars of free air time. The most striking example would be the Willie Horton ad,which the press aired repeatedly (as an example of negative advertising) long after the ad had ceased running. (In fact, it never ran on the major networks as an ad, only as news.). From a colorful, compact history of negative campaigning from Eisenhower to the present, to an in-deptshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 345 pages
  • 160.02 x 243.84 x 33.02mm | 748.42g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 40 half-tones, 10 graphs
  • 0195078543
  • 9780195078541

About Kathleen Hall Jamieson

About the Author: Kathleen Hall Jamieson is Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and is the author of Packaging the Presidency, Eloquence in an Electronic Age, and other books on political discourse.show more

Review Text

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. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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29 ratings
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