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0825 Political Advertising

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 825: Political Advertising.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 825. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. Go there, download a Learning Guide, improve your English faster than ever. You can also like us on Facebook at facebook.com/eslpod, and you can follow us on Twitter @eslpod – what else?

This dialogue, in this episode, is about advertising in politics. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Hilary: The election is still two months away and I’m already sick of the political ads. Look at these flyers we got in the mail just today, not to mention the canvassers ringing our doorbell nonstop!

Bill: It’s worse if you watch TV, with attack ad after attack ad. It’s gotten completely out of hand.

Hilary: What happened to campaign finance reform? After years of talking about it, we still have lots of political action committees using soft money to finance media campaigns.

Bill: You can’t even call them media campaigns anymore. They’re more like smear campaigns. I’m fed up with all of this propaganda.

Hilary: You know what we should do?

Bill: What?

Hilary: We should take a vacation until the election is over…in Thailand!

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Hilary – not Hillary Clinton, no relation – Hilary saying, “The election is still two months away and I’m already sick of the political ads.” The “election” is the process of selecting someone for a public office typically. In a democracy people vote in the election, and the person with the most votes wins. Hilary, however, says that the election is still two months away, meaning it’s two months from now. She’s already sick of the political ads. “To be sick of (something)” means to be tired of something. This is different than saying “I’m sick.” When you say “I’m sick” you mean you are physically ill, there’s something wrong with your body – or perhaps your brain. I think that’s my problem, the brain problem! Anyway, “to be sick of (something)” means to be tired of something; you no longer want to hear it or be part of it. Hilary is sick of political ads. “Ads” is short for “advertisements.” “Political” relates, of course, to typically government offices – government offices and their elections. So, “political ads” would be advertisements you would see on the television or hear on the radio, usually about one person who wants to president or senator or whatever the election is about.

Hilary says, “Look at these flyers we got in the mail just today.” A “flyer” (flyer) here means a piece of paper that has writing on it, often some sort of picture or photograph, that’s used to describe either an event, or in this case, a certain political “candidate,” someone who is trying to get elected to a job – a political job. Hilary says, “Look at these flyers we got in the mail just today, not to mention the canvassers ringing our doorbell nonstop!” A “canvasser” (canvasser) is a person who goes from one house to another, knocks on your door, or rings your doorbell, and tries to convince you to vote for a certain person or perhaps to support a certain political cause. The “doorbell” is an electronic device that you can press that makes a noise and that noise indicates there’s someone at your front door – the front door of your house or apartment – who wants to get in or to talk to you. The verb we use when we make a sound with a bell is “ring,” and so we have the expression “to ring a doorbell.” To ring a doorbell “nonstop” would mean continuously, without stopping, without a break. Anything you do nonstop is something that is done without interruption. When we talk about airplanes flying from one place to another nonstop we mean they don’t stop in another city in between, they go directly from one place to another.

Bill – no relation to Bill Clinton – Bill says, “It’s worse if you watch TV, with attack ad after attack ad.” An “attack (attack) ad” is a very usually negative political advertisement that criticizes very strongly one of the people in the election; usually one person will be criticizing the other person. They may be attacking their political positions, or they may be criticizing their personal behavior. American elections – unlike some elections in other countries – is often very influenced by these personal issues. Bill says, “It’s gotten completely out of hand.” The expression “out of hand” (hand) means out of control, there’s too much of something, it’s gone too far. These attack ads have gotten completely out of hand, they’ve become too extreme, they’ve become something that doesn’t have reasonable limits anymore.

Hilary says, “What’s happening to campaign finance reform?” The expression “campaign finance reform” has three words: “campaign,” which refers to the process of someone trying to get elected to a political office; “finance,” which refers to money; and “reform,” which refers to trying to change things. Putting those three words together you get a term that is used to describe people’s efforts in the past several years in the U.S. to try to make elections more fair. Nowadays if you have a lot of money you have a better chance of being elected to a political office. Campaign finance reform tried to equal the contributions, mostly by having the government give candidates money to run for political office or limiting the amount of money you could spend. It hasn’t been very successful in the United States, but we won’t talk about that right now.

Hilary’s asking the question, “What happened to campaign finance reform? After years of talking about it, we still have lots of political action committees using soft money to finance media campaigns.” Three terms there: first, “political action committees” are organizations that take their money and buy advertisements or try to influence the public about either a certain political issue or a certain political candidate, someone who’s trying to become governor or senator or president, whatever the elected office is. Political action committees are not under control of the person who’s running for president or running for senator – who’s trying to become president, for example; political action committees are independent. “Soft money” is money that is donated to a political organization, but not directly to the candidate. So it’s money you would give to a political action committee, which we often refer to by its acronym “PAC.” You give money to a PAC, and that way you can avoid any legal limits on the amount of money you can give directly to a candidate. Part of campaign finance reform in the United States involves limiting the amount of money any one person can give another person to run for office – to try to win an election. But if you give money to a PAC, you can avoid that limit; that’s why we call it “soft money,” it’s easier to move around. “Media campaigns” refer to television advertisements, Internet advertisements, radio ads; all of those are part of media campaigns.

Bill says, “You can’t even call them media campaigns anymore. They’re more like smear campaigns.” “To smear” (smear) as a verb means to say something false about someone else, to say something bad about someone else that is not true, and by doing that you hurt that person’s reputation. You make people think that that person is a bad person; that’s to smear someone. So, a “smear campaign” would be an organized, we might say “coordinated,” effort to try to make another person look bad, especially in a political campaign – in an election campaign. Bill says, “I’m fed up with all of this propaganda.” “To be fed up” is a phrasal verb meaning to be very frustrated, to be tired of something, to not want to have anything to do with this anymore. You just want it to stop. Bill says he’s fed up with all of this propaganda. “Propaganda” (propaganda) is biased information that only gives one side of the story, or one perspective. Governments often use information to try to influence people, to create a certain impression, and when that information is either false or one-sided – that is, it doesn’t give a proper perspective, a proper view of the whole situation, we might call that information propaganda.

Hilary says, “You know what we should do?” Bill says, “What?” Hilary says, “We should take a vacation until the election is over,” meaning we should leave, take a vacation until after the election is finished. “We should take a vacation until the election is over…in Thailand!” meaning they should go to the country of Thailand, they should leave the country so they would not have to hear anything more about the political campaign. Unfortunately, nowadays with the Internet it’s almost impossible to escape from the news of your country even when you go to another country.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Hilary: The election is still two months away and I’m already sick of the political ads. Look at these flyers we got in the mail just today, not to mention the canvassers ringing our doorbell nonstop!

Bill: It’s worse if you watch TV, with attack ad after attack ad. It’s gotten completely out of hand.

Hilary: What happened to campaign finance reform? After years of talking about it, we still have lots of political action committees using soft money to finance media campaigns.

Bill: You can’t even call them media campaigns anymore. They’re more like smear campaigns. I’m fed up with all of this propaganda.

Hilary: You know what we should do?

Bill: What?

Hilary: We should take a vacation until the election is over…in Thailand!

[end of dialogue]

Dr. Lucy Tse works nonstop to provide you with the best possible scripts. We thank you, Lucy.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
election – an event when people vote for political representatives or new laws

* Who do you think will win the presidential election?

sick of – tired of something; not wanting to have or do something anymore because one has had too much of it

* I’m sick of hearing you complain about everything I do!

political ad – an advertisement encouraging people to vote for a particular candidate or to vote for or against a new law

* The new political ads show ordinary citizens explaining why it’s important to vote for the new law.

flyer – a piece of paper with text and images, often used to describe a product or event

* Somebody gave us a flyer for the new restaurant that opened recently down the street.

canvasser – a person who goes to homes and businesses to educate people and ask them to vote a particular way or to donate money to a particular organization or cause

* A canvasser knocked on the door and asked us to sign her petition.

doorbell – a small device on the wall outside of a home next to the front door that makes a loud ringing noise when pushed

* Please don’t use the doorbell, because it will wake up the baby. Just knock.

nonstop – without stopping; continuously; without a break

* The TV is on nonstop in their home, from the moment they wake up to late into the night.

attack ad – a very aggressive political advertisement that explains why people should not vote for a particular candidate

* Do you think it’s fair for attack ads to talk about candidates’ family life?

out of hand – out of control; having exceeded the limits; too much of something; too far

* The party got out of hand and the teenagers destroyed much of the home.

campaign finance reform – efforts to make politics and elections more fair by changing how money is used in “campaigning” (efforts to be elected)

* If campaign finance reform is successful, anyone should be able to run for president, not just wealthy people.

political action committee – an organization that accepts many donations and uses the money to help one person be elected or to help a law get passed

* Do you think she would have won without the help of the political action committee?

soft money – money that is donated to an organization, not to the candidate, so that the money is not tracked closely and is not subject to as many legal limitations

* Candidates can accept only a few thousand dollars from individuals, but there are no limits on how much soft money can be used to fund their campaigns.

media campaign – coordinated efforts to use television ads, newspaper articles, magazine stories, radio ads, and the Internet to get people to vote for a particular candidate or law, or to get people to buy a particular product or service

* Politicians are experimenting with new ways to use the Internet in their media campaigns.

smear campaign – coordinated advertising efforts to make another candidate look bad, especially by talking about the candidate’s mistakes and/or family life

* The latest smear campaign focuses on the candidate’s divorce.

fed up – very frustrated and tired of something; not wanting to have or do any more of something, usually because one has had too much of it or because it has become too extreme

* Ms. Pappenkorf is fed up with students who don’t do their homework assignments on time.

propaganda – biased information and materials that present only one perspective or that use statements that are false or only partially true

* The USSR and the USA used a lot of interesting propaganda during the Cold War.

Comprehension Questions
1. According to Hilary, what are the canvassers doing?
a) They are telling lies.
b) They are coming to the house.
c) They are sending a lot of mailings.

2. What is Bill’s opinion of the TV ads?
a) They’re too expensive.
b) They’re too aggressive.
c) They’re too hands-on.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
out of hand

The phrase “out of hand,” in this podcast, means out of control or having exceeded the limits with too much of something: “These bills are getting out of hand! We have to start spending less money.” The phrase “out of hand” also means without stopping to consider another person’s opinion: “They denied our request out of hand without even listening to the details.” The phrase “out of (one’s) hands” means beyond one’s control or influence: “We’ve done all we can, but the final decision is out of our hands.” The phrase “on hand” means available and ready: “Our technical support staff is on hand 24/7.” Or: “Do you have any pain medication on hand?” Finally, the phrase “by hand” describes something that was made by a person, not by a machine: “Did you sew this by hand?”

fed up

In this podcast, the phrase “fed up” means very frustrated and tired of something and not wanting to have or do it anymore, usually because one has had too much of it or because it has become too extreme: “Everyone is fed up with waiting for Jeremiah. Why is he always running late?” The word “fed” can refer to the federal government or, if it’s capitalized as “Fed,” to the Federal Reserve: “Why did you decide to work for the feds?” Finally, someone who is “well-fed” has plenty of food to eat, while someone who is “underfed” or “poorly fed” does not have enough to eat: “Agriculture in this country produces enough food for everyone to be well-fed, but the problem is distribution.”

Culture Note
Push Polling

Some political campaigns use “questionable” (in doubt; controversial; not fully accepted) “tactics” (ways to do something) to “sway” (influence; persuade; change the opinions of) voters. “Push polling” is one of those questionable tactics.

“Polling” or asking people to respond to a series of questions, usually over the phone, is “quite” (very) common during political campaigns. “Pollsters” (people who conduct polls) call people “randomly” (with everyone having an equal chance of being picked) to ask for their opinions about candidates and laws before an election. The pollsters analyze the results and “draw” (make; reach) conclusions about which candidate will win or whether a law will pass.

With “push polling,” the pollsters are not trained in “quantitative analysis” (analyzing numerical data to reach a conclusion) and they “hardly” (barely; very little) look at the results of the poll. The questions are designed to sway potential voters through “innuendos” (things that are implied, but not stated clearly) and “leading questions” (questions that cause a person to want to reply in a particular way).

Push polling might involve a questions like, “If Candidate A had an ‘affair’ (sexual relations with someone outside of marriage), would that you make you more or less likely to vote for him/her?” Or, “Leading organizations like X, Y and Z have criticized Candidate A’s position on B. Do you agree?”

Push polling also “differs” (is different) from scientific polling in that it usually involves a very large “sample size” (the number of people who are asked questions in a poll) and the number of questions is very small. That way, the pollsters can “maximize” (make as large as possible) the number of people whom they try to sway.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - b