This week will be a quiet week blog wise as it’s exam week at work.
However I want to kick start my section on political tricks. We’ll start with something easy: the push poll.
A push poll is an insidious way to smear a political opponent without actually having any evidence. It will usually take place between a ‘pusher’ and a random voter (the ‘target’). The process involves the pusher slyly suggesting or inferring that a political opponent has committed an immoral or illegal act without ever directly stating they have done so.
Example of a push poll:
A push poll may work like this (in a telephone call):
PP (The ‘Push poll’ caller): “Can I ask you what you think of Party XYZ?”
Person (The ‘target’): “They’re OK, I think”
PP: “I see, and what would you think of them if I were to tell you their leader is a convicted bank robber?”
Person: “I would think a lot less of them. That would be terrible!”
PP: “I see, OK now next question….”
I’ve purposely made this example less subtle than a real push poll would be, so as you can see, there is an inference made of criminal behaviour without an outright accusation. This can be produce a subtle, often unconscious but highly effective change in perception on behalf of the target person. Such an inference is often enough to damage the opponent’s credibility
Of course a push poll can work in many forms, often more subtle than this example but the core idea is consistent: plant negative images, ideas and thoughts about your opponent inside the mind of your target.
Usage of push polls:
Karl Rove, a key figure in the Iraq War debacle, led push polls against John McCain the 2000 US elections.
Push polls can be performed in other ways other than direct conversation. Here is an obvious push poll type smear aimed at Nigel Farage. I left a message on this blog pointing out what they were doing. Needless to say, they rejected it.
Defending against push polls:
If you are the smeared person, seek legal advice. If that is not feasible, the I guess you have to take the same advice as you would if you were simply debating with someone using push poll tactics like our friends who smeared Nigel Farage, above. Simply call them on it. Say something like: “Why are you suggesting Politician X has an illegitimate child? Do you have any proof whatsoever? Why would you say this without proof? Are you trying to plant misinformation to smear someone? Is this the type of tactic you resort to because you cannot otherwise?” and so on.
Of course you could respond with multiple sentences rather than multiple questions but the questions are slightly more aggressive and if your opponent is using smears, then you should aggressively defends yourself. This defence works in my opinion because push polling – like so many dirty tricks – is a psychological technique and relies on the target or victim not fully understanding what is happening, even if they know something is not quite right. By fully exposing the technique taking place, you negate its efficacy.
Notice there is nothing astute about the defence. It is simply exposing the opponents tactics and breaking them down bit by bit. In the long run, you could use the opponent’s dirty tactics against them. Use a recording, photocopy or whatever medium you have of the smear and disseminate with a note explaining how push polling works, an example of the lie being told, a clear rebuttal and a conclusion that this is the depth your opponent sinks to.
That completes class one of political self defence. Would you like some homework?
PS Needless to say, Popular Alliance do not do push polls.