Throughout history, politicians have been dealing with attacks, both policy and personal, but political campaigns would soon enter a new world with the television. Many historians credit Lyndon Johnson's campaign with the first television advertisement attack in the Daisy Ad. Since then attack ads have been more widely used and have moved into the personal realm. The past two campaigns were particularly harsh. After seeing this, I started to pontificate as to why personal attacks take place, not just in the political world, but in other professions:
1. Jealousy: The attacker looks at his/her opponent and either feels inferior, and feels the need to take that person down a few notches so the attacker may end up feeling superior.
2. They view the opponent as a threat: In examining their opponent, they see a coherent message that is receiving a positive response, they see an articulate speaker and they see someone who can revolutionize the political world (the same can be said for other professions). The success of the opponent may do eventual harm to the attacker...and this was the primary justification the media and Democrats went after Sarah Palin with the ferocity they did in the 2008 Campaign.
3. It's in their nature: The attacker may be so competitive and so driven that he/she wants to win and be superior at all costs. As a result, that person will use the "Don't Stand on the Tracks when the Train's Coming Through" theory to any opponents who stand in the way of superiority.
Now that we see why they may take place, there has to be a way to answer them. While I'm thinking of politics in writing this blog, strategies can be applied elsewhere
1. The person being attack MUST respond and cannot ignore them. This is what I refer to as the "S*** on a Wall Theory." You can constantly fling it against the wall and if you do nothing to protect it, some of it may fall off, but some of it may stick. This was a major weakness of the media operation of the Bush Administration. Because his team did not appropriately answer or respond to his critics, they were able to define him and even though he did win re-election, they so strongly defined him that his second term was much less effective than his first.
2. In responding, one must have an offensive and defensive response. They cannot simply go out and defend themselves, they have to put their opponent under the microscope. In today's political campaigns, resources such as Twitter and Facebook and personal websites are the most appropriate forums to defensively respond to attacks via status updates, tweets and press releases. The offensive response comes from bringing up questions about the opponent. Since the first attack was drawn by the opponent, the person now has free reign to appropriately retaliate. In politics, it can usually be done through paid ads, free media and defense by friends/allies.
3. Ask your friends/colleagues to defend you. Many times they will be happy to do so. In campaigns we see the use of third party ads who not only defend, but they go on the offensive. And in talk radio, Mark Levin, to his credit, is the most ardent defender of his allies and friends like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and speaks loudly in their defense when they are attacked. But remember this, if you enlist your friends in your effort of defense, you will be indebted to them...that's not a bad thing, but as per my beliefs of loyalty, it is required.
4. Know everything about your enemy and don't be afraid to release some of that information. In a campaign, you pay good money for good opposition researchers, but in today's world where you can have information in the snap of a finger, one must be proficient in the use of the Internet. And with that proficiency there must be the ability to find information in an expedient manner. Take that information, store it and use the element of surprise to release it (or have a 3rd party release it) if an opponent attacks. It will change the subject and it will challenge the validity of the attacker, and in the end, you win!
Without giving too much away, readers will see much of my personal attack analysis played out in the events that take place in The Calling to Lead.
Again, this does not just apply to politics but to other professions and areas of life. In life, you will have people that do not want you to succeed and they will try to take you down a peg or two. I am reminded of something Rush Limbaugh said on his show last year: "The best way to overcome fear is to face it head-on." It is imperative not to run in a corner and cower when being attacked as this denotes fear and a lack of confidence. Instead, face the attackers head on and begin to resolve the problem on your schedule and in your time frame. If you truly believe in yourself and are confident in yourself, this is a no-brainer.
In the end, appropriately responding to personal attacks will build character as the person is standing up for what they believe, shouting their pride in themselves and their stance, not being afraid to do so. It will make a person stronger as they are able to face their attackers head on, garner support for their position and defeat their attackers' methods. Furthermore, it gives the opportunity for a person to better articulate themselves to the world, especially since this articulation is occurring under pressure.
Personal attacks have long been a part of humans' everyday lives, but one must have a coherent strategy they must practice in combating them. In the end the attacked will win not only the battle, but the war.