Can you be a political party worth voting for if you rely on 'negative campaigning'? I'd like to make it clear that I'm not commenting on specific parties, if anything I'm apathetic about our current system, other than disliking the Conservatives and what they stand for, and racist parties.
This goes beyond the rather facile idea that 'if you say bad things there mustn't be anything nice to say' although, what with the current recession and many parties' reluctance to actually tell anyone what their policies are, there could well be something to that.
Negative advertising plays on people's fear by encouraging them to take action lest their worst nightmares come true. By stimulating a human's fear, you are lessening their ability to make a reasoned judgement. When afraid, humans don't behave how they do under normal circumstances, they feel pressured and are more likely to rush a decision. It's bad democracy, let alone bad ethics.
Martin Sorrell on Thursday's This Week says that parties are more likely to use this tactic during times of a country's economic strifes. That's reasonable in terms of logic - there are more fears to exploit, after all. Hitler was one of many leaders who exploited existing economic problem for his own game, blaming groups of people for problems that are too wide-reaching and complex to be caused by those not in power. I think it's an awful tactic, so cynical and exploitative. I have no conception of what this was like in 1930s Germany, but now, I realise, given all the problems many people face in today's world and ceaseless messages of 'how bad it is for us all', how unfair it is to then put more stress on the country and its residents by stirring the fear pot further.
Although I realise how futile it is, I'd urge politicians to grow a back-bone. You should be going into the job because of how positive you feel about change and helping people, not how loud you can shout about peoples' faults, not about how much you want to cling on to money and power at all costs and not because you don't care about the plight and emotional state of the very people who (supposedly) control your future through voting.
I'm not saying politicians must be all happy, sunshiney, glass-half-full people all the time, I'm saying they shouldn't be so reckless and cynical as to tread on the backs of their electorates while they are already down. I'm sure a lot of it is down to the system - I believe it encourages people to put self-interest first, to keep political heads above water and to cynically compete with opponents that they could learn from if they listened. It probably makes people so bitter they don't have any positivity left in them.
Still doesn't mean they should spread negativity like anthrax over the country and pick the pockets of its dead citizens.