The ‘Dangerous’ television advertisement was released during the 2016 Presidential campaign by the Donald Trump camp. This Presidential race is considered one of the most controversial and “dirtiest” in history, partially due to the abundance of highly insensitive and personal character attacks that occurred. The objective of the ‘Dangerous’ advertisement was a targeted character attack on Clinton. It attempted to display Clinton as professionally incompetent and personally or physically unfit to take upon the Office of the President of the United States. The premise of such claims is based upon a myriad of crises, including nuclear and military, that are threatening the security of the country. The ad claims that during her tenure as Secretary of State, Clinton failed to manage or prevent many of these extenuating threats. Therefore, by logic, it is unlikely she would be able to competently address them once President, particularly with failing health.
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The advertisement was presented as visual media, backed with imagery. The clips were montaged to create a dark, glitch, and retro effect. Visuals displayed terrifying video clips of foreign weaponry, war, and terrorism that concern most Americans. Furthermore, Clinton is shown as ill and frail. All this is to support the main theme of the advertisement. The visual media was supported by dramatic music which could be associated with built-up tension. Furthermore, the narrator’s voice-over used short sentences with highly descriptive imagery which relayed a sense of threat and desperation. The primary technique used by the creators of the advertisement is association. It is attempting to associate Clinton with the direct cause for the emergence of security threats. Furthermore, it relies on emotional advertising and, in a way, manipulation. The advertisement evokes fear and disgust and then attempts to manipulate an emotionally vulnerable viewer into blame for the opposition.
The information presented in the advertisement is accurate to an extent. However, the way it is portrayed that remains potentially inaccurate and deceives the viewer. The list of national security threats is an accurate representation because these crises have been the central parts of the US foreign policy and have been routinely analyzed and discussed in the mainstream news cycle. However, their representation as immediate and unavoidable threats remains up for debate. The personal attacks on Clinton’s tenure as the Secretary of State and her health are also partially accurate but serve as a controversial topic of discussion. Indeed, during and after her tenure, Clinton was repeatedly challenged for the way she chose to act during many crises. She has had to testify before Congress on several critical issues, including the infamous attack in Benghazi. However, the question of health remains a mostly private topic that is speculated in the media. A few reports emerged during the Presidential campaign of Clinton feeling unwell and even fainting. However, it was always explained due to extreme conditions such as fatigue or heat. Overall, it is highly unethical of the Trump campaign to target Clinton’s health as the premise of being unfit for office without presenting sufficient evidence.
In general, the advertisement was effective. The use of fear and the controversy around personal character attacks on Clinton helped the ad gain popularity. Trump was able to gain the support of a targeted demographic ranging from conservatives to a large portion of the population (even Democrats) that distrusted Clinton. Despite Trump’s campaign focusing strongly on domestic socio-economic issues, it was able to manipulate foreign policy threats against Clinton due to her highly controversial tenure as the Secretary of State. By creating a sense of fear and urgency, the ‘Dangerous’ advertisement fulfilled its objectives.