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SIOUX CITY – Numerous consumer indices, including the Consumer Confidence Index, have shown positive growth with the onslaught of negative campaign advertisements. Florence Lynn, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center says, “We’re finally seeing a direct statistical correlation between political attack pieces and the healing of the deepest parts of the American psyche.”
“Once despised, these negative ads are now embraced like cool water in the desert, for some reason,” observes Robert Chaney, of the American Psychological Institute. “We don’t understand the connection exactly, but it’s clear Americans have moved from cynical resignation toward empowerment and enlightenment by means of these attack ads.”
Confessed negative-ad admirer Jesse Withers of Des Moines, Iowa, explains he used to shun attack ads, but then he realized “they started warming my soul and giving me a renewed lease on life.” Former attack-ad despiser Florence Milton says her soul had dwindled to the size of a raisin, but then with the wave of negative ads “it grew and flourished once again.” Pat Desmond, Santa Anna, California, admits he now TiVos broadcast content solely for negative ads, playing them repeatedly to lower his blood pressure. None of them could explain any causal connections.
Experts in several fields have stepped into the fray. Elizabeth Harding, neurophysiologist at MIT, contends “watching largely middle-aged male politicians bicker like little, elderly ladies releases certain endorphins in the body which produce something akin to a drug high.” Others dispute her research with the bickering elderly.
Barry Jamison, sociologist at Texas A&M, says Harding’s research can’t explain the recent increase in hope, since negative ads have been around for decades. He postulates that the recent negative-ad euphoria grows out of “a new, collective sense of voter superiority.” He argues that, historically, “it takes voters twenty-two years of voting to realize they are intellectually and emotionally more mature than almost every politician.” For the first few decades of voting, voters tend to be intimidated by the authoritarian tones and millions of dollars handed over to professionally dressed adults. “But then, the repeated patterns of idiocy accumulate and voters have a collective epiphany that they are indeed superior to those twisted freaks running for office.” Jamison says, “the cycle of negative ads have finally pushed several generations simultaneously into a deep sense of superiority.”
Confessed negative-ad lover Janice Stapleton of Phoenix, Arizona, explains she used to doubt and condemn herself all the time for her personal pettiness, but the “attack ads show me grown-ups who are much pettier and tiny-souled than I could ever be.” She has since thrown out all her prescriptions and taken up gourmet cooking and golf. Shelley Fernandez of Austin, Texas, explains her sense of superiority in terms of intellectual acumen. “I used to think I had the intelligence of a fourth-grader, but that’s the level these negative ads work at, and I can easily see through their childish logic.”
Ralph Chenoweth, religion professor, University of Indiana, argues the newfound revitalization from negative ads can’t come from a mere sense of superiority. “Remember, the Old Testament book of Proverbs tells us ‘where there is no vision, the people perish.’” He says we mistakenly thought this meant a positive vision, but now “we’re realizing the transforming power of a negative, bitter, annoying vision.” He adds that negative ads are the vanguard of “a new movement, a new and beautiful collapse of the soul.”
In line with that, Roberta Beckwith of the Chicago Religion Institute says that for too long Christians have misunderstood the apostle Paul’s admonition against “biting and devouring one another.” She argues we too often understand ‘devouring’ in negative terms, but since we’re called to be holy sacrifices to one another, then slaying each other via attack ads is the path of life and resurrection.”
Whatever the ultimate connection might be, most observers agree that American political culture and psyche can only benefit from more and more negative political ads, and politicians of all parties have agreed to heal our souls for the next year.
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