The Mother of All Fear-Based Political Advertisements

Alright, I am ready to get off my ”kids and fear in political advertising” kick, but thought I should end by sharing the famous daisy commercial.

Take a look at the classic  “vote for me or your kids might be in danger” ad.   The almost unbearable irony of watching this now is the realization that the candidate in this ad who in 1964 was promising to keep kids like me safe, President Lyndon Johnson, proceeded to escalate a war in Viet Nam that killed thousands upon thousands of those same kids.  

Truth in advertising: Barack Obama is my candidate. But I know that some of you who see this blog are my students and it is important to me that you feel free to make your own political choices.

But neither did it seem to make much sense to hide my choice.

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.