"Politics is too serious . . .
"Politics is too serious . . .
. . . to be left to the politicians." Charles DeGaulle
I wish I could say last year’s politics was a laughing matter but that would be a big 'no'. My mother always said never talk religion, money — or politics. Boy, that admonition should have really upped its game this past year! With all the negative diatribes wallpapering the internet, newspapers, talk shows and every communications vehicle available, it seems most people never got the memo.
There was hardly an embarrassment of political riches in the long election season that seemed would never end. Oh, there's been a mega amount of embarrassment alright, and okay, riches, too but not in the way the phrase was meant. Yes, talking about the issues that affect us as a nation is our right as a free people — and necessary as a thinking people. But, before serving up a full plate of heartfelt convictions, it might be wise to serve up a good size portion of editing on the side.
Whenever choosing the next leader of the free world tops our list of discussion topics, you bet it’s important to think and question. If you do your homework with an open mind and are passionate in your convictions, it’s natural to discuss and debate. That’s how we grow – but that growth shouldn’t come at the price of our personal code of civility. And there's a glut of Twitter/Facebook posts to prove civility was in short supply. In fact, between a plethora of fake news and posts from zealous opposing sides, the writing was pretty cringe-worthy. Admittedly, the political parties themselves set the example for vitriolic diatribes and continuous personal attacks, But like that old adage when we were kids, 'just because they want to jump off a bridge doesn't mean we have to'. As thinking people, we don't need to continue an assaultive conversation – we can be the grown-ups.
Those of us in marketing and advertising know well the power of words. They sell, they persuade, they tempt and sometimes even shock but there’s usually a limit to where they are effective — and where they are self-destructive. Sure, we know that content marketers are sometimes guilty of trying to scare the heck out of their audience because, well, sometimes scary works in a weird kind of way. Negative advertising might go against everything we learned in Copywriting 101 but the practice has become business as usual in political content. Call me crazy but for 35 years I’ve had a pretty good run injecting humor, inspiration and engagement in advertising copy rather than condescension and insecurity. In essence, positive content that raises the conversation and uplifts the focus is still and always will be in fashion. Oh sure, maybe negative works some of the time, but don’t you want your audience to feel empowered ALL of the time?
With all the crazy in the world, there is much good, too, though you’d hardly know it on today’s roller coaster of negative hype. It's okay and often necessary to disagree - just not to disrespect. Sure a lot of people love horror films and scary bedtime stories but there’s more than enough of that in our world. Why proliferate it in our communication with each other? Thomas Mann once said that “politics has been called the art of the possible’. While that might have been really difficult to see this year, it will only get harder to find that possibility if we don’t rein in the hate and negativity.
Sometimes, that old adage “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything” works, too.