A targeted smear | #teacher | #children | #kids

U.S. Rep. French Hill doctored and misrepresented a photograph of state Sen. Joyce Elliott in a Facebook advertisement he restricted last week to a targeted audience.

The ad’s one-page message was captured in a screenshot that was sent to the Elliott campaign and distributed widely thereafter. It accuses Elliott of wanting to defund the police, shut down prisons and go soft on riotous looters.

The accusations are as misrepresentative as the photo.

Elliott wants the police to act differently, particularly in relations with Black communities. But that’s not defunding police or reducing police protection. It’s trying to make the world better.

She thinks we need rehabilitative prisons instead of the for-profit private ones designed for low-cost warehousing toward which Republicans want to move.

She supports protest, but holds the fairly standard view among upstanding law-abiding people such as herself that criminal conduct on the margins of that protest is not to be tolerated.

The photograph in the closed-circuit Hill attack ad shows Elliott in headwear and dark glasses with right fist raised.

She holds a sign. You can see only the top of the sign and it appears to be blank.

Some of Elliott’s Republican colleagues in the state Senate would tell you–only off-the-record until Nov. 4, probably–that she’s a rather nice woman.

But this photo makes her look menacing. Its intended implication is that she’s protesting the police and cheering for police defunding and looting.

When revealed un-cropped, the photo is clearly from last November. It shows Elliott, a teacher, joining a crowd of concerned citizens in a one-day teacher and student strike in support of restoring local control to Little Rock’s schools.

Her sign has words: “On strike for my students.”

A teacher on a one-day strike for return to local control of local schools is not all that menacing when you think about it.

I rely on the screenshot because I haven’t seen the ad directly. I’m not supposed to see it. I’m not a Donald Trump voter in Saline or Faulkner County.

The point is for targeted Trump-inclined recipients to get the preposterous idea that Elliott was throwing bricks through windows around the state Capitol last June, or at least raising a supportive fist for those who were, and now threatens to go to Congress and destroy a nation that Donald and his enabler Hill are trying so hard to save.

It’s probably a better tactic for Hill than bragging about voting to kill equitable health insurance for persons with pre-existing conditions.

The only surprise in any of this is that the banker Hill chose to get his own hands dirty rather than let U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton fight his battle, as the young senator did with his flush political action committee two years ago to attack Clarke Tucker in Hill’s behalf.

This is a classic story of how smear politicking is being cloaked and honed in the digital age.

Hill freaked out because a poll showed Elliott within 1.5 points of him based on strong support among women and more support in Faulkner and Saline counties than a progressive Democrat might be expected to enjoy.

As Cotton’s PAC did two years ago with ads accusing Tucker of somehow condoning violent illegal-immigrant gangs, Hill’s campaign advertising people availed themselves of data and analytics to find Trumpians in those counties who are only occasional voters. They probably got the list from Cotton’s PAC.

They targeted those people on Facebook for a dubious attack ad that regular people don’t see. They paid a relatively small sum to Facebook to run the ad up this private-audience flagpole for a couple of days to see if maybe those targeted and pliable people could be manipulated enough to go to the polls to help rescue Hill from a Democrat doing better than he thought she would.

This, by the way, is how new-age digital advertising has maimed regular media advertising.

Let’s say that, in the olden days, you had a Toyota Tacoma to sell. Newspapers could only sell you a classified ad printed in the paper going to everyone, including tens of thousands of readers having no interest in a Toyota Tacoma.

Facebook, on the other hand, can direct your ad to people who Facebook knows from Big Brother’s personal data trove to have been looking recently for a Toyota Tacoma. The advertiser wastes no money on uninterested eyes. He is not limited to circulation area.

I know all of that because I made the mistake of searching online for a red, late-model Toyota Tacoma. I can now tell you where every available red Toyota Tacoma is worldwide.

Technology is improving and imperiling our world at the same time.

One thing it’s clearly imperiling is accountable, transparent, fair-minded politics.

One thing it’s clearly improving is the stealth-smear menu of options for a scared incumbent Republican congressman in Little Rock.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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