negative campaigning?

Johannes Zarl-Zierl jzarl at
Sat Jul 29 12:51:46 UTC 2017


On Freitag, 28. Juli 2017 19:43:32 CEST Ioli Papadopoulou wrote:
> Thank you for your comments. This is what I am trying to say: Yes to a
> negative campaign, but in a POLITE and POSITIVE way.

So: no negative campaigning ;-)

I think this debate is missing the point about negative campaigning: the goal 
of negative campaigning is to paint someone in a bad light. It's not about 
pointing out facts.

Let's contrive an example:
„Why wouldn't I support the FSFE? They are all for supporting user rights, 
aren't they?“
- „The FSFE knows about and condones usage of free software by NSA and other 
agencies to spy on citizens. By allowing usage of free software in armed 
drones they support unlawful killings of people around the world.“

This statement is not exactly false. It stretches the truth by glossing over 
the reasons why no-military-usage clauses are generally not endorsed by the 
FSFE. And finally, it adds a highly emotionalized context to the message.

The whole point of negative campaigning is to prevent people from judging by 
the facts. If facts can be used to support the message somehow it's nice 
(because it makes defense harder), but the whole thing would equally work with 
outright lies.

To throw my own ethics over board for a moment, let's consider the advantages 
of negative campaigning:
+ it increases the reach of a message (due to its emotional nature)
+ it increases the reach of a message (because it's usually short and catchy)
+ it puts the opponent into a defensive position

Ethics apart, there are still drawbacks, though:
- it emphases emotions over facts
- it passes the moral high ground to the opponent
- if you "get caught", you damage your own public standing

That said, it's just plain unethical in my book and should not be considered 
on that reason alone. Negative campaigning stands in a direct conflict with 
what we (the FSFE) stand for: informed user choice.

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