Dismiss No2AV ad at our peril

The general response of the Yes2AV crowd to the No campaign ad seems to be one of derision and mockery.

Some examples from my Twitter spool:

Are we absolutely certain that #No2AV broadcast wasn’t a spoof?

This #no2av advert is intellectually offensive. This is actually wrong

The #no2av advert was even more terrible than I thought it would be. Still patronising and implying voters are idiots”

Only Emily Thornberry MP, never knowingly correct on any issue, put a positive spin on the advert.

It’s easy to dismiss this ad as misleading. It distorts the arguments by presenting them in their simplest terms. It doesn’t even try to defend First Past the Post intellectually. It caricatures AV in the most unflattering way.

Which is all to say: the advert was technically very effective.

The No campaign have no arguments, but they appeal effectively to the emotions of the voters who will swing this referendum. They used Alan B’Astard to mobilise popular hostility to politicians and dislike of the coalition. They used easily understandable metaphors – and there’s a reason why Lib Dem Focus leaflets have successfully used the ‘two horse race’ graphic for years. They portray AV as confusing by showing real people confused by the technicalities of the count.

Is any of this true, or relevant? No. Does that make it a worse advert? Emphatically not.

As Drew Westen argued effectively in The Political Brain, election campaigns that rely on facts, and on actually being right, usually fail. Successful campaigns are those that bypass reason and tap directly into the emotional core of a debate.

In politics, when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins. Elections are decided in the marketplace of emotions, a marketplace filled with values, images, analogies, moral sentiments, and moving oratory, in which logic plays only a supporting role.

The YES campaign needs to have a strong emotional narrative of our own to counter the No attack. We should probably go hard on the expenses scandal and the hostility people have towards the current political system, and on the No campaign being a very rum selection of political dinosaurs trying to save their own careers.

We need to go hard, on TV and on the street, with our strongest emotional appeals. Merely being right won’t win this referendum.

Published in: on April 11, 2011 at 10:30 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Some of us have been banging on about the correlation between the no campaign and the more egregious expenses claims for a while:


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