Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Horror Campaign

One of those comments that makes you think, and is appropriate for the season, was offered in a student email. He is a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, the role playing game, and said that there are two kinds of campaigns; safe campaigns where players have to think and face increasingly tough challenges but will survive, and horror campaigns where players' characters will have a good chance of dying. Que, you think, fair enough! The reason he made the comment was he saw an interesting parallel between this idea and the process of selecting candidates and then the campaign for US presidency. Currently it is a safe campaign, the candidates cannot attack each other too much as an attack on a fellow party member could be viewed as an attack on the party as a whole. He is looking forward to the 'horror' campaign, when the gloves come off.

So what does this mean. As the candidates wage their wars on each other, the media collect and transmit a lot of negative stuff that can later be resurrected, exaggerated and given a wider audience by the opposing party's candidate. The gloves will truly be off. But there is a problem here! in dungeons and dragons there must be at least a 50% chance of survival, and this is true of the presidential race. But no-one emerges unscathed. If there is a highly negative, attack, 'horror' campaign, one where dog whistles may be blown that talk in a sexist or racist tone (not inconceivable when so much is at stake), will anyone emerge with a good reputation whether they win or lose.

It comes back to the age old question, does negativity have a positive impact for anyone. For my student, the spectator sport is what is exciting. But for the US electorate they could see a battle where they have to detect who is the least worst character. I suggested the student read the late great Hunter S Thompson!!

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