Suspension of belief

One of the most common deflecting tactics used by interviewees when trying to deflect attention away from something they don’t want to talk about is expressing disbelief that journalists are talking about W when X, Y and Z are SO much more important, and why don’t we talk about what people want to hear about, hmm? Sometimes they might have a point – particularly in elections, journalists can focus on some odd issues (take a bow, Jack Layton’s moustache) that seem divergent from the central issues of the day. But it’s unfortunate, in principle, for journalists to be scorned for doing their jobs – in this case, asking questions about things people would rather not discuss.

Which is whyI was glad I was watching Countdown after the French-language debates, when host Mike Duffy laid into Liberal spokesman John Duffy for trying to deflect questions over a Liberal ad accusing the Tories of wanting to put Canadian soldiers “with guns” into the streets of Canadian cities.

The ad in question has been pulled from the Liberal site, but is featured in a link on the right side here. (Look for the ‘Liberal attack ad about Harper and military presence’; can’t lnik directly to Javascript)

And here is the Duffy v. Duffy clip: here.

You can draw your own conclusions about the ad and the commentary. But a tip of KOB’s hat to Mike Duffy for refusing to back down.



  1. I think we can certainly give Mike the win in the battle of the Duffy’s. He was impressive.

    I have a question for discussion about these “attack ads.” I’ve said since the beginning of the campaign that the Liberals were playing the Conservatives and the press by saying they were going to run negative ads. I never thought they’d do it. It seemed like a smart plan to tell everyone you were going to run a dirty campaign, but then run a clean one and grab attention for the higher moral ground. Apparently, I was wrong.

    BUT – I do have a question that relates to press coverage of these “negative ads.” The Conservatives’ ads haven’t been much more positive. The “Entitlements” ad is pretty negative, calling the Martin government corrupt. Why does the press seem to think the Liberal ads are attack ads, while the Conservative ads are based on policy? Where is the line drawn?

  2. I don’t think much of the press actually has been saying that ‘Entitlements’ was policy-based. I know one of the blogs I regularly read (I thought it was Wells, but I gues not) pointed out that releasing an ad saying ‘They’ll Go Neg’ and then releasing a negative ad was pretty dumb. It’s an opinion I’ve seen elsewhere too.

    It’s one thing to lie or almost-lie in political advertising. Entitlements skirts along the razor edge, as do most of the other Liberal ads (calling Harper pro-Iraq is a bad idea when your onetime defence minister is on the record in Hansard as saying not going into Iraq was the ‘wrong decision.’) I don’t particularly like them, but they are generally considered fair game.

    Strongly implying that the Canadian military presence would be a threat to Canadian cities? That’s a bit different for a number of reasons, one of which is that it’s a good way to (if you’ll pardon the phrase) shoot yourself in the foot should you get elected again and have to lead these guys.

    That’s about as politically neutral an analysis as you can find, methinks. Whee!

  3. The thing about the Conservative ads is they are nothing new. The Tory ads use phrases like culture of entitlement, and corruption. They have been using these phrases since the Gomery report came out.
    The Liberal ads are new attack ads making all kinds of new attacks. I think that has a lot more to do with why they have made the news then any sort of judgement on whether they are policy or negative attacks, but that’s just me.

  4. ….new attacks?

    Andy, which of the following accusations:

    -being close to Bush
    -being anti-Kyoto
    -being anti-gay marriage
    -being anti-abortion
    -being Mike Harris in a Scooby-doo mask
    -wanting to destroy health care
    -wantng to dissolve the social safety net
    -being in an alliance (lol Alliance) with the Bloc

    …was not levelled at Harper during the last campaign or, for that matter, constantly during the last two years?

    I agree that using months-old Globe headlines is not fresh. And, frankly, I don’t think ads being released = news in a non-24-hour-news-channel world, unless you’re dumb enough to mock a candidate’s physical disabilities or play off Canadian soldiers as stormtroopers.

    But new attacks? With the exception of the military ad and the specific Washington Times remarks, that they aren’t.

  5. I pointed out “Entitlements” not because the press called it a “policy ad” but because I thought it was negative, and I didn’t see any press about the Tory negative ad.

    Until I saw the advertising box tucked away at the bottom of the Globe and Mail’s Decision 2006 section.

    There’s no question that the Tory ads are negative and I’m certainly not suggesting the media has any sort of bias in favour of the Conservatives.

    However, it seems that the press has really attached itself to the Liberal negative ads (front-page material, in some cases) and not to the Conservative ads. I think the Tories managed to create ads that, while being negative, were ignored by the press as “attack ads.”

    If an ad is made to be seen, however, perhaps the Liberals aren’t too upset that their hard work is getting free press everywhere.

  6. Well KOB,

    It is true that most of the Liberal attack ads aren’t new. However, the one about the military, which prompted the Duffy vs. Duffy incident is and I had thought because that started this whole discussion that was the one we focusing on. I think it is also worse noting, the press have really picked up on this one not just because its new, but because it is irrational and based in very little fact. I think we might be looking at a case where the press coverage of this ad in particular is hyped because it represents such a serious campaign faux pas. And by faux pas I mean screw up of epic fireable proportions

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