The “Smear Campaign”
January 3, 2012 5 Comments
A smear campaign is a an attempt to ruin a person or groups reputation. Common targets are public officials, politicians, and political candidates. Smear campaigns are often based on information gained from opposition research conducted by paid political consultants. To a lesser degree, the term can refer to an attempt to damage a private person’s reputation; for example, during a trial, the opposing counsel may attempt to cast doubt on the reliability of a witness.
The concept of the smear campaign is related to the concepts of propaganda, media bias, yellow journalism, and other falsehood. In extreme cases, smear campaigns may lead to widespread persecution, such as in the case of the Dolchstoßlegende before WWII.
Smear tactics differ from normal discourse or debate in that they do not bear upon the issues or arguments in question. A smear is a simple attempt to malign a group or an individual and to attempt to undermine their credibility.
Smears often consist of ad hominem attacks in the form of unverifiable rumors and are often distortions, half-truths, or even outright lies; smear campaigns are often propagated by gossip spreading. Even when the facts behind a smear are shown to lack proper foundation, the tactic is often effective because the target’s reputation is tarnished before the truth is known.
Smears are also effective in diverting attention away from the matter in question and onto the individual or group. The target of the smear is typically forced to defend his reputation rather than focus on the previous issue.
Smear tactics are considered by many to be a low, disingenuous form of discourse; they are nevertheless very common.
The video below shows a smear campaign against Ron Paul in full force. It’s basically a smear campaign highlight reel: