The “Mob Ad”: Persecution Complexes and a Failure in Messaging, with Some Fair Points in Between

Despite its 2008 successes, 2009 has already been a grim year for Democratic messaging. Yesterday’s “Mob Ad,” which made the rounds on conservative websites, drawing outrage, is no exception.

Regardless of the ad’s factual merits, discussed below, the ad violates a prime rule of messaging, with no discernable excuse: it seems almost calculated to infuriate more people than it’ll convince. There are ways to capitalize on the GOP’s apparent inability to control its lunatic fringe, rapidly becoming its base (birthers, etc.): this ad was certainly not it. Indeed, it’s almost the most offensive way to make a mediocre point. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels. The public relations successes that powered Obama’s election need to be the rule, not the exception. Anything less gives the GOP a chance to capitalize on its own incompetence.

That said, I neither understand nor much respect the GOP outrage over the ad, which appears to stem from the misconception that it targets all Republicans who disagree with President Obama’s policies, rather than just the lunatic fringe. From the ad’s own context it clearly targets only the birthers and other GOP flash mobs, “grassroots,” “astroturf,” or otherwise, bent only on disrupting real policymaking without adding any real substance to the debate. No doubt there are Americans, of any party, concerned or otherwise disturbed by Obama’s policies, and more power to them for raising their voices. Disagreeing with the government is every American’s birthright and patriotic duty, and I would no sooner criticize someone for voicing their opinions, earnestly held, than I would retroactively mock myself for starting this blog. Still, the “Mob Ad” isn’t about them: Twitter notwithstanding, they are not the mob. As you can see by watching the ad, it’s about only the birthers, and people who use Nazi symbols or lynched dolls to make their points, and we should all be able to agree that everyone is better off without them.

Call it DHS-Gate redux, but this is another case of Republicans mistaking a criticism of the fringe for a criticism of the whole. No-one would deny Republican congressmen or constituents the right to raise valid concerns and contribute to the debate on health care, etc. But there are GOP mobs actively frustrating the debate. Not all of the “town hall” mobs are as benign as RedState suggests – again, there are the birthers, the “Obama’s a Nazi” crowd, and more. It’s okay for we Democrats to call them out for the distractions they are, but it’d be more than welcome for the GOP to save us the trouble, by throwing them under the bus themselves, rather than actively helping them. Until they do, it shouldn’t be anathema or a cause for outrage for us to call the GOP out on elements of their side that are hurting the country, and actively making their own party look bad, too. Criticizing the fringe needn’t always implicate the center, and in fact, it rarely does, when done tactfully.

And so we return to the beginning. This ad was not a model for tact, especially knowing, as its drafters should’ve, that the GOP has thin skin. As any first-year law student knows, the defendant takes the plaintiff as she finds him. In building its ad campaigns, the DNC should’ve predicted and avoided this little war, and should in the future scrupulously avoid even the appearance of condescending against dissent.



  1. We first heard from the birthers, with their fake “birth certificate” in hand and with their fake outrage. These are the same under tones that you saw from Republicans during the confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor, “you are not like us” or “you are too different”, “you are not main stream”. And then they act surprised when people do not vote with them, they are lost, no core beliefs, too bad.

    In my opinion the Republican Party has been taken over the most extreme religious right (people who love to push their beliefs on others while at the same time trying to take away their rights) and that’s who they need to focus on if they real want to win. Good Luck, because as they said in WACO, “We Ain’t Coming Out”.

    It’s funny we hear Republicans say that they do not want “faceless bureaucrats” making medical decisions but they have no problem with “private sector” “faceless bureaucrats” daily declining medical coverage and financially ruining good hard working people. And who says that the “private sector” is always right, do we forget failures like Long-Term Capital, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Enron, Tyco, AIG and Lehman Brothers. Of course the federal government will destroy heathcare by getting involved, Oh but wait our military men and women and the Senate and Congress get the best heathcare in the world, and oh, that’s right, its run by our federal government. I can understand why some may think that the federal government will fail, if you look at the past eight years as a current history, with failures like the financial meltdown, Katrina, and the Walter Reed Scandal but the facts is they can and if we support them they will succeed.

  2. … the defendant takes the plaintiff as she finds him.

    Ahem. I beg to invoke the big, whiny baby exception, viz.:

    “Absent specific knowledge of plaintiff’s unusual sensitivity, there should be no recovery for hypersensitive mental disturbance where a normal individual would not be affected under the circumstances.”
    Daley v LaCroix, 384 Mich 4, 13; 179 NW2d 390, 395 (1970)

    1. Haaaaaaaahahahhahahahahahhaha. True fact :). A notable exception indeed, ably titled.

  3. How does shouting down to stop the conversation of the healthcare debate at town hall meetings, endears them to anyone. Especially when the organizations that are telling them where to go and what to do and say are Republicans political operatives, not real grassroots. How does shouting someone down or chasing them out like a “lynch mob” advanced the debate, it does not. So I think the American people will see through all of this and know, like the teabagger, the birthers, these lynch mobs types AKA “screamers” are just the same, people who have to resort to these tactics because they have no leadership to articulate what they real want. It’s easy to pickup a bus load of people who hate, and that’s all I been seeing, they hate and can’t debate. Too bad.

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