Thursday, August 18, 2005
How To Run An Effective Smear Campaign
As the tempest over NARAL's misleading ad about Judge Roberts fades into memory, perhaps there are some lessons they should learn from their mistakes.
1. Pick the right target. No, I'm not saying that they shouldn't have targeted Roberts. They just picked the wrong aspect to attack. If you want to attack a candidate for public office who is running on his military record, you paint him as a coward. If you want to attack a candidate who is known for working with children, start a whisper campaign that he is a pedophile. If you are trying to attack a candidate who is assumed to be pro-life... denouncing him as pro-life probably isn't going to affect him. Instead, praise him for his strong, pro-choice record.
2. Fabricate an alternative record. When the official records don't back you up, or contradict your position, ignore them. Instead, create an alernative record of allegations and recollections that cannot be easily refuted. Have "witnesses" from the smear target's past issue statements and even affidavits which support your allegations. When the target complains that the claims are false, declare it to be a swearing contest, and emphasize that "where there's smoke, there's fire" - "Would all of these people really lie? With this much evidence even [smear target's] most ardent supporters must recognize that there has to be at least some truth to this." Each time the credibility of one "witness" falls into question, produce two more.
3. Don't blink, and don't blush. When you are challenged that the inference that your smear campaign is obviously meant to inspire, stick to your guns. Don't say "We didn't intend that message", and certainly don't admit that the inference would be untrue. (If you care enough about such niceties as your honor and credibility, you shouldn't have entered the smear business in the first place.) When challenged on your message, and you aren't comforable with the outright lie, be evasive and nebulous - "You think his record supports that inference? Well, I can certainly see why somebody looking at the facts would draw that conclusion."
4. Enlist stupid people to help your campaign - while keeping them at arm's length. You know, the type of people who would think it is funny to besmirch a wounded war veteran by wearing "purple heart band-aids" at public events. That type of antic can backfire, so you want to maintain some plausible deniability if there is an adverse public reaction. If you're lucky, the nation's news clowns will play up the bandaid-type story, advancing your smear campaign, without bothering to comment on the cowardice or hypocrisy behind such a tactic.