Attack ads inform voters

By By John Carlock

By John Carlock

There has been quite a bit of talk lately about the presidential campaign attack ads. In the presidential debate Wednesday, a whole section of questioning was devoted to allegations of the campaigns “going negative.”

It seems pretty obvious that no one likes it when a candidate uses attack ads, but it’s not clear why. Most people will say that they just don’t like the negativity, or something similarly nebulous. Upon closer consideration, not only is there nothing wrong with attack ads, but they are a valuable tool that voters should appreciate.

When I talk about an attack ad, I mean an ad which accuses a political opponent of some action (including but not limited to voting for or against a proposition) and condemns such an action.

With this in mind, let’s consider the act of electing an official. When people vote for a candidate, they are saying, “I want you to make decisions on my behalf,” and hopefully they want that candidate to make the best decisions possible. It only makes sense then that positive ads (those promoting a candidate’s own qualities) are good.

Although it is clear that we want politicians to make good decisions on our behalf, the flip side is that we also want politicians to make the fewest bad decisions. Imagine you are considering two lawyers to represent you, each of whom has an impressive (and fairly equivalent) list of cases he or she has won. It would be difficult to decide which lawyer you ought to hire, but if it were known that one of them had an incredibly long list of losses, and in fact hadn’t won a case in 10 years, the choice would become much easier.

Just as in the case of hiring a lawyer, it would be a case of gross negligence to only consider the good decisions a person makes when determining their worthiness to represent you. Attack ads allow you to know of not only the good decisions made by a candidate, but also the bad decisions made by his opponent, and as such are necessary in making an informed vote.

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Editor’s Note8212;John Carlock is the community outreach chair for the U Philosophy Club.

John Carlock