Power of the Negative

06 Jul

At a recent class reunion it was interesting to note just how often our discussion revolved around the mischievous nature of our classmates.  While none of our actions reached the level of being malicious, at least to any great degree,  there did seem to be plenty of fodder from which to chose.

Nearly all of the relayed accounts were promulgated  by those that observed the pranks rather than those committing them.  In great measure the disclosed offender denied any recollection of having committed such deeds.  Being a relatively small class and knowing the individuals involved as well as we all did, it was not hard to imagine that such tomfoolery actually occurred.  In many instances several among us actually witnessed it as it unfolded.

All this lead to a lighthearted camaraderie and warm reminders of just how closely we were tied to each other in those days.  Actually, had we focused on the positive aspects of our classmates, our discussion would have been long lasting indeed.

The point of all of this is to illustrate that the power of the negative is significantly stronger, and often more interesting than bringing up anything positive.  It is much easier to play the oneupmanship  game by building on negative actions rather on the positives.

While such means of highlighting one’s past is mostly harmless in a venue such as a class reunion, in the arena of public affairs that is not the case.  That is simply because the “barb” in the reunion setting is made to strengthen the bond between participants whereas in the political setting it is made to destroy, or at least denigrate their target.

Worse yet is the propensity to shade the truth or even to outright lie seems to be the order of the day.  If not making a boldfaced lie, these politicians are certainly not above taking something out of context to cast a shadow over their opponent.  Once started down this trail, things quickly spiral out of control as each side ramps up and blasts away wildly.

Unfortunately, all sides involved in the political process fall back on this type of operation.  Often they even hire staffs whose only purpose is t0 dig up some mud on their opponent.

What a shame that we, the electorate, put up with this.  Some even relish the practice, especially when it concerns the more salacious attacks.

But what do we learn in the process?  For the most part very little.  Who really cares if one can see Russia from Alaska, or that he voted for it before he voted against it?

Now, if it revolves around an issue that truly relates to the character of the individual, or his or her ability to make well thought out decisions, that is a horse of a different color.  But in those cases well constructed questions will lead to better answers that slinging mud up against the wall to see what sticks.

I suspect it is too much to hope for that a political campaign can be civil as well as informative.  A certain amount of negativity is inevitable.  And raising positive aspects of one’s opponent isn’t very realistic either.

But do we really have to give negativity the amount of power it seems to have?  Without question the power of the negative is tempting whatever the arena of debate.  I guess we’ll just have to live that.


Leave a Reply


  1. Cliff moore

    August 1, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Think you might appreciate Alan Simpsons book “Right in the Old Gazoo” Let’s not leave the press out of this

  2. Cliff Moore

    August 1, 2011 at 7:54 PM

    Good stories at the reunion, and I didn’t even mention your busted driveshaft and greased up mufflers.
    But on the negative note am reading Alan Simpsons “Right in the Gazoo.” He beats up on the press pretty badly, and for the most part well deserved. They are responsible to no one except sensationalism and their paper’s or networks ratings.

    • Robert

      August 2, 2011 at 10:35 AM

      You’re right. The press provides a good microphone for the more liberal among us.
      Thanks for your comments.


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