It is said that the eyes are the window into the human soul. But when it comes to Rick Caruso, his negative political ads are. And the view is not good.
As a political consultant, I am no stranger to negative advertising or the creative use of photoshop. Over the years, I have placed the heads of opposing candidates on the bodies of everything from frogs to puppies. But I didn’t do it to be mean. Instead, I used satire to point out that one candidate was a “job seeker” and the other a political “dog.”
The use of humor and metaphor in political advertising is fair play and even enjoyable for voters, tired of the endless stream of recurring ads that flood our airways every election cycle, turning election day into Marmot Day.
However, there is a limit to political advertising that candidates should not cross: Never take the image of a black person and manipulate him into a grotesque, almost demonic figure – darkening and dehumanizing this opponent to the point where viewers cannot even they see their eyes.
But that’s exactly what Karen Bass’s Rick Caruso did, not just in one, but in each of his attack commercials. Maybe she believes that if we can’t see her eyes, we won’t see her humanity, and it will be easier to vote against someone who is not a real person. But his nefarious attempt to disguise Karen’s humanity only revealed the alarming lack of it.
It is instructive to note that while Rick Caruso’s ads are flooding our airwaves, there is another negative ad against Karen Bass, which is gaining significant airtime. This ad, paid for by the Los Angeles Police Protection League, did not deal any blows in its attacks on Karen Bass’s record. And yet, while we can argue about the accuracy and fairness of their attacks, even the police union was sensitive enough to leave the image of Karen Bass alone.
But not Rick Caruso. He feels compelled to take this extra step and depersonalize her physical image as well. You have to ask yourself: is Caruso’s argument so weak that it requires photographic manipulation?
I would like to believe that Caruso’s team, at least, would advise against such an image. Tearing a page from a book against Obama and fueling latent racial fears of political impact will certainly have the opposite effect in America’s most diverse city.Good counselors would warn him that this could open him up to accusations of racism and misogyny.
So why would Rick Caruso ignore their advice? After watching the endless chain of commercials for political attacks on Karen Bass, I can only conclude that Rick Caruso actually wanted his opponent to be portrayed that way. After all, this is the same Rick Caruso who, as president of the Los Angeles Police Committee, called Congresswoman Maxine Waters an insult when she had the audacity to question his motives for firing our African-American police chief, Bernard Parks.
Caruso’s approach to scorched earth is deeply troubling given the surprise election victory of another billionaire developer, a split candidate with no experience in condemning politicians’ career failures. And I don’t have to put Rick Caruso’s head on Donald Trump’s body to understand the meaning.
LA is a city in crisis. From the scourge of homelessness to the rise of violent crime, from unexpected house prices and inflation to the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to rage, Angelenos is understandably on the brink. We are deeply disappointed, desperate for change, and perhaps even willing to compromise our values to consider a mayoral candidate like Rick Caruso who promises to “make Los Angeles great again.”
But we’ve already seen this movie, and politicians control the way they campaign. The only question is, can Los Angeles afford a sequel to “Trump Dumps America?”
John Shalman is an award-winning political media consultant who has helped select dozens of black elected leaders in California. He is a crisis management expert and president of Shallman Communications in Los Angeles. Mr. Shalman is the author of the national bestseller Return from Siberia.
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