Playing the Willie Horton card?
May 15, 2001 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Playing the Willie Horton card? The Tories' first party election broadcast claims that Labour has released rapists to offend again. Even a former ex-chairman of the party calls the film "disturbing" for its tacit apportioning of blame, and its similarities to the famous ad used by Bush Sr. in 1988. After Labour's positive but anodyne "we've done nice things, and here's Geri Halliwell" broadcast, are we now set for a dirty media war till June 7th?
posted by holgate (11 comments total)
(A reminder that the first person to publicly play the Willie Horton card was Al Gore.)
posted by aaron at 2:30 PM on May 15, 2001

He did indeed, yes. Was there an ad?

(It's not something I recall, as the UK media didn't report the 1988 campaign until after the conventions. Or at least, not on the main news.)
posted by holgate at 2:39 PM on May 15, 2001

This thread interests me for two reasons. The first is the article and broadcast itself. It seems to me that the Conservative party have lost it completely in this aggressive campaign. My family are almost devoutly right-wing, and yet even they don't think that the country has been hideously destroyed by four years of Labour government. They expect such a destruction any day, but they don't think it has happened yet. If such individuals are likely to find the party political broadcasts implausibles, then what are the more moderate tories going to think? It seems like a campaign clearly based around lies, or at the very least around the RABID deformation of the truth to cast it in the most possibly negative light. It's a dangerous game this - because if it is seen through then the party becomes the party that lies. And if it is not seen through the country ceases to have a positive image of itself and again views itself as a near-third world backwater, which seems to be me to be the main benefit of this Labour government - an enhancement of mood.

The other thing that interests me about this thread is the impact of UK politics on Metafilter. I'm fascinated to see if the next month becomes colonised by election threads much as it did during the US election, and whether or not this causes friction between the European and US contingents. Admittedly this is possibly a question that is better left for Metatalk
posted by barbelith at 2:42 PM on May 15, 2001

He did indeed, yes. Was there an ad?

I believe it was during a Democratic candidates' debate relatively early in the campaign.
posted by aaron at 2:50 PM on May 15, 2001

MediaWatch's take on the Horton ad.
posted by Skot at 3:06 PM on May 15, 2001

First, Mediawatch isn't worth the paper it's printed on...

It's worth noting the history of the "Willie Horton card": while true that Al Gore brought Horton up first in the 1988 campaign in a primary debate, he brought it up with no reference to Horton's race, focusing on the furlough program in general and using Horton as an illustrative example. It was the later ad (by the National Security PAC) that inserted a 'menacing' photo of Horton, one that according to Larry McCarthy of the National Security PAC was "every suburban mother's greatest fear." Whether or not NSPAC was ever working with the Bush campaign to create this ad has never been conclusively proven, but it was the NSPAC ad that was the first use of Horton in an undeniably racial manner- not Al Gore, as was intimated by aaron earlier.

That said, the "Willie Horton card" carries a connotation of race which if I'm understanding correctly is not the situation with Labour's ad. This ad sounds far more like the official Bush ad, "Revolving Doors" that played after the Horton ad ran, made no mention of Horton or race, and used grainy black & white footage of prisoners (16 of 19 were white) in a revolving door to illustrate Dukakis' soft- on- crime record.
posted by hincandenza at 3:35 PM on May 15, 2001

Isn't the same thing happening in Canada? I seem to recall an article in the Globe and Mail about Stockwell Day doing something along those lines.
posted by black8 at 12:22 AM on May 16, 2001

if it is seen through then the party becomes the party that lies.

Isn't that what millions of the electorate already think? Turnout is expected to be lower than ever this time and most commentators seem to be blaming the fact that people believe one side is as bad as the other.
We have Hague caling Labour liars over waiting lists and Law and Order, Blair calling the Tories liars over their budget figures and Kennedy is busy telling anyone who'll listen that the only truthful way to increase public spending is to raise taxes, so everyone else is lying.
posted by Markb at 2:54 AM on May 16, 2001

That said, the "Willie Horton card" carries a connotation of race which if I'm understanding correctly is not the situation with Labour's ad.

Or rather, the Tories' ad. But yes, you're right. The broadcast itself thankfully didn't have any racial overtones: the "reconstruction" of released prisoners re-offending was an all-white affair. But it comes in the aftermath of a couple of stormy weeks in which race was a major issue (or rather, the question of "not making race an issue" was an issue). We've already seen retiring Sir Tufton Buftons wittering about the dangers of "Commonwealth immigration" (referring to those from Africa and the subcontinent, not Australians and white South Africans) and the now-traditional assault on "bogus asylum seekers".

What's most annoying is that it's factually inaccurate: Labour (and its police authorities) deserves criticism for the increase in certain crimes, but not in this case. The rate of under early release is actually much less than the average, suggesting that the prison boards are making fairly sensible choices in who gets released under the tagging/curfew scheme.

What worries me in this case is that the Tories have started below the belt and seem content to stay there. With nothing to lose, I fear for what will follow.
posted by holgate at 2:56 AM on May 16, 2001

The Tories are already behaving like a party with nothing left to lose but the election.
They seem to have allowed Labour to claim the middle-right area of the political field which was once theirs by default, leaving them with only the far-right agenda to differentiate themselves.
Blair is behaving like it's we that should be thankful he allows us to vote for him rather than the other way round, I find this possibly the most distasteful part of the election so far, akin to the arrogant confidence of Thatcher in her 'golden' years as premier.
posted by Markb at 5:53 AM on May 16, 2001

And the Liberal Democrats have left their normal 'centre' position and taken up the left wing view. Basically, Labour and the Lib Dems have just swapped names over the past few years.

Now let's get ready for the Lib Dems ideas. Raise taxes so that more moochers can keep claiming their dole money. Raise taxes so that every single person in the country can get a free university education. Raise taxes so that we can all become a bunch of pathetic leeches on the state.

I don't know if I will be voting in the General Election. I am traditionally Conservative, but Labour have been doing a good job. I might vote just to make sure anyone has a 1 vote advantage on the Lib Dems though!
posted by wackybrit at 10:58 AM on May 16, 2001

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