Thursday, December 15, 2011

political deception of the day - Romney French ad

Here's a fun political TV ad. A liberal super PAC called American LP put together this video featuring Mitt Romney speaking French. They added in the text of quotes from Romney advocating for more liberal political positions in the past (i.e. pro-choice, pro-gay rights, etc.).

Deception is happening on a couple levels here.

First, I wonder how many people will think the text is an actual translation and not get the fact that the group is only doing this to tap into American (and more so conservative) Franco-phobia. I suppose it doesn't really matter. They actually don't need the text to make the ad effective. The only thing viewers are going to take away from it is Mitt Romney is speaking French. And a lot of GOP primary voters will not like that.

Amazingly, liberals are turning Romney into Kerry.

Second, is the fact that TJ Walker, the founder of American LP, referred to Romney as the "only sane, rational candidate" on the GOP side and said, "The mere fact that we can show him speaking French fluently, we believe, is going to irritate [Republican] primary voters."

It seems liberals are starting to launch attacks on Romney in this year's version of Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos.

Walker at the very least implies that Romney would be an acceptable president or at least an acceptable candidate and yet attacks him. There is an element of dishonesty in that, to compliment Romney out of one side of your mouth and criticize him out of the other.

Finally, there is the open secrecy of it all. How many voters who see this ad are going to realize that it is coming from the Democratic side and that it was made because liberal groups see Romney as the candidate most likely to be able to defeat Obama next year? It doesn't matter that PACS have to disclose in their ads that they are responsible for the content of the message. "Paid for by American LP" has no meaning unless every voter who sees it takes the time to look up that group and critically examine sender motivation in order to fully understand the intent of the ad.


TJ Walker, Daily National said...

I'm glad you find my ad fun, but why do you think it is deceptive? We feature 100% accurate quotes from Romney stating his liberal positions on issues. We feature 60 seconds of unedited video of him speaking in French. Voters can deice if they like his positions stated in the text or if they like him speaking French. We label that we paid for the ad, but why does it matter? If a conservative group pointed out to me that a democratic candidate I liked had been pro-life his whole career, I would find that useful and helpful info.

Rob Spicer said...

I think I make my interpretation of the ad as a deceptive practice kind of clear in the post, but I'll elaborate a little.

First is the production technique. Text printed below someone speaking a foreign language gives the viewer the impression that this is what the speaker is actually saying. Maybe you didn't intend that, but it's a mistake you are leading the viewer to.

And this also plays on the Franco-phobia. The viewer is led to believe that “Romney didn’t just say these things he said them in French!”

Second is the fact that you admit that Romney is the only sane choice on the GOP side and yet you're doing something that will help all of those less sane choices. As much as I think Pres. Obama would easily beat Gingrich, Bachman, et al. in 12, I still DO NOT want any of them to be one step closer to the White House. I would rather take my chances going up against Romney.

Remember, Reagan was the opponent Carter's people hoped for in 1980. Careful what you wish for.

So you're framing it as "helpful information" but you know more than it being helpful information for GOP primary voters, it's harmful information for the Romney campaign.

Third is the point about sender motivation. Like I said, many voters are going to have the impression that in the context of the GOP primary this is an ad coming from a conservative group trying to help a more conservative candidate when in reality it's from a liberal group trying to undermine a more electable Republican in order to help Pres. Obama in the general election.

Of course the responsibility is on the viewer to do the research. But still …

And you are correct. The quotes are 100% true. But it feels like one of those instances of political discourse where the truth isn’t quite true. Similar to what happened in the 2002 Senate race in Montana

Don’t get me wrong, there is part of me that really appreciates and is getting a kick out of the “revenge for John Kerry” aspect of it all. But more than anything, the issue of sender motivation matters. It is a fun ad, and I’m glad it isn’t ugly, but I don’t like it when Republicans pull their shenanigans (i.e. operation chaos), so I should criticize my own side when we do it.

It’s also a matter of the sort of “open secrecy” of money and messages traveling through outside groups, 527s, etc. Secrecy is a practice of deception and it’s difficult for the public to truly know the sources of the funding for these ads.