Ah mudslinging. The colloquial term for trying to win an advantage by referring to negative aspects of an opponent or a policy rather than emphasizing one’s own positive attributes or preferred policies (from Wikipedia). Mudslinging has been a part of politics for as long as there has been politics. Generally, mudslinging rears its ugly head during election time; however, with the bipartisan bickering that has consumed Washington, mudslinging has become a daily occurrence. What is even more interesting is the format being undertaken: social media. Just today, three episodes of online mudslinging have occurred.
Former Presidential Candidate Fred Thompson tweeted “Harry Reid: Jobless men = domestic abuse” in reference to the Majority Leader of the Senate’s discussion just days ago about the correlation between joblessness and domestic violence. CNN Political Ticker says that Thompson’s tweet suggests that Reid “might engage in domestic abuse if he fails to win re-election in November.”
Senator McCain took to YouTube for his latest mudslinging endeavor. He released a video linking his J.D. Hayworth – 2010 challenger to McCain’s Arizona Senate seat – to prominent “birthers” Orly Taitz and Phil Berg. According to Urban Dictionary, a “birther” is a “conspiracy theorist who believes that Barack Obama is ineligible for the Presidency of the United States, based on any number of claims related to his place of birth, birth certificate, favorite birthday, or whether or not he has heard the song Africa by Toto.”
And finally, the Democratic National Committee also created a Web video for YouTube calling some Republicans “Highway Hypocrites.” The hypocrite name-calling is in reference to Republicans who voted against the stimulus bill and then promoted stimulus funds in their districts.
So why this flurry of online mudslinging? While we may be used to seeing these types of accusations on television commercials during election time, the new communication channels of Web 2.0 have created fragmented audiences. This fragmentation has ushered in the need for campaign strategists and political advisors to branch out in their political strategies to reach – well, anyone who may be on YouTube in the DNC and McCain example – or those who probably already are right-leaning followers of Fred Thompson on Twitter.
The success of President Obama’s campaign has been attributed to his strategic use of social media, and social media is certainly in use in politics. Mudslinging has been called “as American as Mississippi mud.” While that may be true, are we really ready to be bombarded with callous accusations of political campaigns and candidates through every online venue we frequent?