Kids As “The Nuclear Option” in Political Advertising

 I just saw a television commercial being used by the Clinton campaign, and wanted to share it. This is not about my own political preferences, but about a moment in the current campaign that should be noted by those interested in politics and media.  

Children have long been a “nuclear weapon” in political campaign advertising.  You can go on and on about how your opponent will muck up the world, accuse them of everything from unpaid debts to adulterating the food supply, but suggest that they might put your kids in jeopardy and you just may start a firestorm. Raising this specter has always been controversial. In fact, in the larger culture – advertisements, news coverage, popular culture – the endangered child has long been familiar and highly charged icon.  

One of the most notorious examples was the so-called daisy commercial created by President Lyndon Johnson’s re-election campaign in 1964. Broadcast only once, the commercial depicted a little girl pulling the buds off a daisy who was about to be annihilated by a nuclear explosion. The implication was that Johnson’s opponent, Barry Goldwater, might recklessly start a nuclear war. The use of the little girl was immensely controversial and the ad was pulled. So check out this ad now being run by the Clinton campaign.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, controversy ensues. I would love to know if children have been “cast” in the recent commercials of any other candidates. And I’d love to know what you think.

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5 thoughts on “Kids As “The Nuclear Option” in Political Advertising

  1. The Clinton lobbed a softball with this ad (it didn’t even mention her opponent’s name). Did I say softball? I should have said meatball – because the media, Obamaniacs, and Clinton-haters gleefully turned it into red meat and have lobbed far worse political claptrap at her.

  2. The Clinton campaign lobbed a softball with this ad (it didn’t even mention her opponent’s name). Did I say softball? I should have said meatball – because the media, Obamaniacs, and Clinton-haters gleefully turned it into red meat and have lobbed far worse political claptrap at her.

  3. There is no right answer. You thought it was a fair, softball asking a fair question, and I saw a calculated, racially coded “fear-grenade.”

    Let’s hear it for the mysteries of selective perception and individual differences. I am the first to admit that my own preferences and characteristics color how I interpret media content.

    For a piece that is closer to my interpretation of this ad, check out Orlando Patterson’s piece in yesterday’s Times. (Registration required).

  4. In Patterson’s NYT piece he compares the scenes of the sleeping children to images from “Birth of a Nation?!” Does he actually believe that the Clinton campaign is so brilliantly evil that they are deliberately tapping into a latent KKK racism of the white American electorate? Who is stretching credulity here? It’s the media obsession with pop psychology at best and projection of its own bias at worst.

    I agree that selective perceptions and individuality is paramount in our interpretations of media content – in my own case, the reason I consider the “fear” spot a softball, along with almost everything else that the Clinton campaign has lobbed at Obama, is because they are nothing compared to all the hardballs thrown throughout the years at Hillary, hardballs like the Vince Foster murder, accusations of lesbianism and sex with her law partners, Chelsea’s paternity, Whitewater, being called a cold heartless bitch, etc. – nothing in comparison.

    Even now, although the Obama campaign has been judicious in their approach, just go to any of the Democratic or liberal political blogs, like C&L, Kos, or Huffington Post, and you will see a level of vitriol and hatred thrown at Hillary by Obama supporters that rivals her long-time enemies in right-wing blogs like Free Republic. Senator Obama may be a paragon of kindness and hope, but his supporters are of a vicious sort, that Hillary’s are not. You can be sure that if Obama gets the nomination, Hillary fans will throw him their support – I doubt Obama’s supporters would support Senator Clinton. We’ll find out soon enough.

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