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Swiftboating, viral videos and other campaign killers

This video was discussed on a CNN special investigative report called "Campaign Killers". The show highlighted political moments of the past and present and reflected on the effectiveness of negative campaign ads. It was made by a guy just sitting in a coffee shop. He was fired but the campaign was effective.

Here are some questions to be answered after watching the special.

1. What is "mudslinging"? Why do you think that some political candidates and organizations choose to attack opponents in their ads?

2. What is "swift-boating"? What is the origin of this term? Who sponsored the Swift Boat ad mentioned in the program? According to the video, why was the Swift Boat ad effective against John Kerry's campaign for the presidency?

3. Describe the negative ad seen in the video that ran against George W. Bush. What issue was the focus of this ad? Why do you think that some saw the ad as "race-baiting"? Do you agree or disagree with that label? Explain.

4. According to the experts interviewed in the video, why do negative ads often work?

5. How does Mark McKinnon, former media adviser to George Bush, account for the discrepancy between the public's distaste for negative advertising and its effectiveness?

6. What ad does CNN's Campbell Brown point to as "the first swift-boating attempt of 2008"? What is the point of this ad? What do you think of it?

7. What is MoveOn.org? How did the organization get its start? Describe the full-page newspaper ad that MoveOn bought in September in the New York Times. Who was the focus of this ad? Why was the ad controversial? What were the positive and negative political consequences of the ad for MoveOn?

8. What are some of the other ads that MoveOn has produced? What is your opinion of the MoveOn ads shown in the video?

9. Who is Richard Collins? What is the name of the political project that he has started? How would you describe his organization's treatment of Hillary Clinton?

10. Cite examples from the program of the use of humor in negative ads. Why do you think that humor is an effective tool in these ads?

11. Who is Michael Dukakis? What was the Willie Horton ad? According to the report, how did this ad impact Dukakis' run for the White House?

12. According to David Schwartz, chief curator at the Museum of the Living Image, why were the negative ads against Dukakis successful? What words of advice does Dukakis have for anyone who is running for president?

13. According to the video, for how long have attack ads been part of America's political landscape? Were you surprised to learn about the attack ads aimed at Thomas Jefferson? Explain.

14. According to the program, how has television impacted the reach of attack ads?

15. What was the issue behind the negative ad that Lyndon Johnson's campaign ran against Barry Goldwater in 1964? According to the program, why was this ad effective?

16. Who is Bill Hillsman? What kind of candidate does he typically represent? What does he mean when he talks about "contrast ads"? Why does Hillsman think that contrast ads are "a plus to the political discourse"?

17. According to Hillsman, how can a person "make a poll say anything"?

18. According to CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider, what is the difference between commercial advertising and political advertising? What is the Federal Trade Commission? How does this agency protect the public when it comes to commercial ads? Does it have a role in the production of political ads? Explain.

19. How can visual images be used to the benefit or detriment of a political candidate? According to the report, what "tricks of the trade" can producers of political ads use to enhance or damage a candidate's image?

20. Why did Phil Devalese decide to create a negative ad? What alias did he use when making his ad? Who was the target of this ad? Who was Devalese supporting for president? Where did his ad air? How did his ad get seen so many times?

21. What controversial comment by George Allen was captured on the Internet? According to the program, what impact has the Internet had on Allen's presidential hopes?

22. Do you think that attack ads that air on the Internet and television are necessary elements of free speech or have they gone too far? State your rationale.

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