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Demonizing Bloggers is Not a Great Campaign Strategy

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If you’re an incumbent in a tight race in a year that the internet and the grassroots are playing a bigger role than ever, there are lots of strategies you can use to attack your opponent, but you may be in trouble if the worst you can find to say about him is that he’s a blogger.

That’s the strategy which incumbent State Representative Mark Strama has decided to rely on in his latest attack ad, and it doesn’t work terribly well. Making a big issue of his opponent’s use of the pseudonym “Freedom’s Truth” in his online writings, and quoting a few relatively harmless snippets out of context is likely to win challenger Pat McGuinness more votes than it costs him. As smear campaigns go it’s extraordinarily poorly thought out.

It also seems like a really bad idea to invite the kind of response you’re likely to get when you decide that “Bloggers Are Evil” is a great campaign slogan. With all the attacks on the Tea Party and the general hostility of the left to free speech in any form, making the demonization of free speech the lynchpin of your platform in a high-tech town like Austin is positively suicidal.

Worst of all, is that mentioning McGuinness’ nom de blogue is like a free invitation for people to google him and his writings and go read everything he has to say. If McGuinness were some sort of radical far-right nut, that might be a threat to him, but the truth is that his online writings are generally moderate, well-reasoned and perceptive.

Misrepresenting your opponents opinions in an attack ad is standard strategy. Making it easy for viewers to go find them, discover how much you distorted them and then have access to a whole bunch of interesting ideas from your opponent is just dumb, dumb, dumb. Stama essentially spent thousands of dollars to run a free ad for McGuinness’ blog, where sources report that traffic is “skyrocketing.”

And, of course, the blogger also gets an opportunity to write a new blog entry directly in response to your ad. Maybe this is Strama’s new version of the Fairness Doctrine, but as strategies go it seems incredibly boneheaded.

McGuinness was down by a few points before Strama began this ad campaign. I won’t be at all surprised if these ads give McGuinness the edge he needs to win.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • It also seems like a really bad idea to invite the kind of response you’re likely to get when you decide that “Bloggers Are Evil” is a great campaign slogan.

    Speaking of Google, as you do in ¶4, I searched for “Bloggers Are Evil” expecting to find a campaign ad or candidate site associated with State Representative Mark Strama.

    Instead, the only online reference during the past month is to your own article here, Dave.

    Do I take it, then, that “Bloggers Are Evil” is not anybody’s idea of a great campaign slogan, apart from your own?

  • Alan, it’s authorial license. Of course he isn’t using “bloggers are evil” as a campaign slogan. That’s my interpretation of the thrust of his ad. Sheesh.


  • I like the sound of that: authorial license.

    Do you have to take a test to get one of those? I’d like to apply. No doubt it makes a writer’s task easier to be licensed to make stuff up.

  • Arch ConscienceStain

    As a smear campaign against Mark Strama, this one is extraordinarily poorly thought out.

  • Alan, I’m not sure you qualify. You are hereby prohibited from the use of metaphors and limited to 3 similes per article. Anecdotes and parables must be reviewed by the editorial board.

    ACS. You clearly wouldn’t know a smear campaign if it bit you on the ass.


  • Arch ConscienceStain

    Mr. Nalle, your entire body of “work” is a smear campaign. Unfortunately, you smear it on yourself about a half of the time.

  • Hi Dave,

    …general hostility of the left to free speech in any form…

    Do you refer here to the present Chinese establishment? If you do, you have to be informed that the Chinese premier has requested the west in his recent visit to Europe to recognize China as market economy but not as socialist.

    China began backing off from socialist construction long back when Deng-Xiao-Ping took the reins of the Chinese communist party. And Russia began its backward journey when Nikita Kruschev took the reins. Unless we know these truths we may tend to see blurred pictures.

    By the way, according to the market economy standards, it is true that the Chinese government is trying to suppress free speech.

  • Yes, I realize that China is quite active in suppressing free speech, but I was referring to the left in America.

    You only need to look at the behavior of some of the commenters here like the one in #6 who resort to ridicule, name-calling and various other disruptive tactics to try to silence anyone they disagree with rather than engaging in honest dialogue.

    Of course, that’s only part of the problem. Campaign finance laws, excessive media regulation and direct government control of media are much more serious threats to free speech.


  • zingzing

    yes, dave… name-calling and disruptive tactics are exclusive to the left wing. remember that next time you hear someone say obama’s a fascist who wants to destroy america.

    and is direct government control of media a part of “excessive media regulation,” or is that something different? and where do you see this happening? especially the direct government control of media. and which media? all of it? or just specific parts? name some.

    and you don’t like campaign finance laws? do you just think the one with the most money should win all the time? no? but if he/she has the money… shouldn’t she be able to spend it how he/she likes? he/she’s a private citizen… hell, even foreign corporations have the right to free speech in this nation at this point. so what are you getting at here?

  • Dave, #4 is a comment on the content of your article, but not on the writer, as I see. But, in #5 you have directed your response against the commenter.

    If you do not come upon me, let me dare to ask you, “Is it fair to refer the commenter personally instead of proving him how richly thought out your article is?” With respect, please be informed that I’m not used to understand rhetoric and metaphor usage, yet.

  • zingzing

    also, remember free speech when you see tea partiers curb-stomping women.

  • zingzing

    sekhar’s got you there, dave.

  • Dave, #8 and #9 are posted while I am typing #10. You have to see #10 immediately after #7 as I haven’t seen them before completing #10.

    Actually, I do not have much knowledge on American left to say something about it. I see this comment is numbered 13 even before I see #11 and #12.

  • Arch ConscienceStain

    Ridicule? It’s ridicule to point out that you make stuff up?

    And yet you have no problem calling people “delusional.”

    I am in no way obstructing anything. You keep making up junk, and we will keep pointing it out. If more people did that in American politics, we might be a whole lot better off.

  • ACS, you haven’t pointed out anything that I’ve “made up” you’ve just made a baseless personal attack.


  • Yeah, Dave doesn’t make stuff up. He merely exercises his authorial license.

  • Danny Vollmer

    I liked it!! it was fresh and more than opinion.

  • Dave, it might be your opinion that you have been the subject of a personal attack but fortunately it is my call to make not yours and I don’t think it was.

    On the other hand, the first personal attack in this sequence of comments was made by you, so perhaps less whining would be a tad more dignified…

  • Chris, you must have deleted that personal attack. I can’t find it.

    And I don’t believe in censorship and think we can all judge ACS’ merit based on what he writes.


  • Dave, really. Doesn’t the left in America include the ACLU which is all about the freedom of speech and the Bill of Rights?

    As to dumb-ass campaign strategy, you get that when you hire amateurs or decide to do it yourself, which is the same thing.


  • No, Dave, I didn’t delete anything; you are simply wrong (as usual) on these matters.

  • Clavos

    …obama’s a fascist who wants to destroy america.

  • zingzing


  • pablo

    I see dave is up to his usual tricks, some things NEVER change.

  • Blah

    Now that the dust has settled, it looks like it turned out to be a great campaign strategy.

  • I ran across this blog while actually looking for non blog citations and source material for my own blog. I noticed the, in my opinion, excessive disdain for using paraphrasing “authorial license” to get a point across. My only recommendation, Dave, don’t use quotes when paraphrasing without labeling it as such. to everyone else, maybe pointing out how someone can improve impartial journalistic skills rather than trying to tear them down personally would have an overall better long term result.