FlackCheck.org identified 12 methods of deception in political ads, and they have examples from 2012 campaign ads. Both parties and political action committees run deceptive ads. Visit FlackCheck.org for detailed descriptions of these techniques. If you’re curious about a political ad you’ve seen, FlackCheck.org will cover political ads and point out the deceptions and deceptive practices. They also invite submissions.
| || | Deceptive techniques to watch for:
- Deceptive audio designed to manipulate the viewers’ responses to pictures.
- Deceptive dramatization or misleading images or aspects of images designed to create a specific association or inference.
- Deceptive framing where the first image creates the frame for the second image often leads to false conclusions.
- Glass house attacks by a candidate for a vote or position by their opposition also held or performed by the candidate in their ad.
- Guilt by association that leads viewers to believe that the person attacked is also guilty.
- Forcing assumptions by inviting viewers to hear what is not said particularly when words on the screen have no relationship to the picture. Our minds will create a relationship that the advertisers expect.
- Using reputable sources to appropriate credibility.
- Ambiguity of pronouns used to take opponents’ words out of context.
- Presentation of statements out of context invites misunderstanding and distortion of what the opponent said or meant.
- Using a logical fallacy that assumes because Y follows X that X was caused by Y (post hoc ergo propter hoc).
- Defining terms to ensure that viewers here what the advertisers want even if the language contradicts or misinterprets a candidates’ record.
- Deceptive visuals that have viewers see what is not heard.
- Use of unflattering photos in an attack (visual vilification). The advertisers are counting on viewers’ automatic disgust or dislike.
Our thoughts and emotions are intentionally being manipulated by the ads. While we may know this, it makes little difference on how the ads affect us. We are drawn in by these mini-dramas.(1) Research in 2007 showed that political advertising has the most influence on viewers who are less informed.(2) Additionally, the media covers negative political advertising, which provides free advertising for the candidate and possibly creating false impressions of the campaign among viewers.(3)
(1) Moyers, B. Big Money, Big Media, Big Trouble. aired April 29, 2012, 56:49.
(2) Franz, M. M.; Ridout, T. N. Does Political Advertising Persuade? Political Behavior 2007, 29, 465–491.
(3) Ridout, T. N.; Smith, G. R. Free Advertising: How the Media Amplify Campaign Messages. Political Research Quarterly 2008, 61, 598–608.