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EDITORIAL

Frozen smiles

POLITICAL advertising campaigns reveal what political parties think of their potential voters; what they see as their frustrations, fears and desires. The Slovak National Party (SNS) does not hold the intellect of its potential voters in very high regard, to judge by the billboard campaign it launched recently.

POLITICAL advertising campaigns reveal what political parties think of their potential voters; what they see as their frustrations, fears and desires. The Slovak National Party (SNS) does not hold the intellect of its potential voters in very high regard, to judge by the billboard campaign it launched recently.

As one might expect, the SNS believes its voters suffer from an acute allergy to all things Hungarian. One of the party’s billboards features the slogan “From the Tatras to the Danube only in Slovak”. Another billboard features a cartoon of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in a sinking boat next to the slogan “We have been protecting the Slovak land for 140 years”. For the racist and frustrated the SNS offers a billboard featuring a run-down block of flats with satellite dishes and poses the question “How long will we pay for the Gypsies?” You get the idea.

The good news is that according to the recent Polis opinion poll, fewer than 5 percent of voters now endorse the SNS and its unique brand of crassness.

Judging by Smer’s campaign, it seems confident that no matter how intense voters’ disillusionment with politics gets, it can count on an army of supporters who will respond to its vague promise of “certainties” (these, Smer’s slogan tells us, are what we “deserve”). Robert Fico’s victory seems all but assured no matter how dirty the cage of Gorilla, the document consisting of alleged transcripts of wiretaps of meetings between various Slovak politicians and a businessman conducted by the country’s SIS spy agency, and no matter how many more secret documents emerge before the elections.

There are depressingly few political billboards or TV ads which appeal to the viewer’s intellect, and if voters were now surveyed about the parties’ election programmes most would probably struggle to recite more than their billboard slogans.

Some have expressed doubt about whether these political ads work at all, and whether it pays for the parties to pour so much cash into the banal images which will continue to decorate the countryside for months.

The story of 99 Percent – Civic Voice, however, suggests that the ads do work. The party’s massive TV ad campaign seems to have secured the party, which is apparently backed by businessman Ivan Weiss, who in the past was linked to the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ), an approval rating of 6.9 percent, according to Polis. The endlessly repeated slogan “You too are the 99 percent” seems to have worked.

The party, which appeals to people’s frustration at austerity measures and their disillusionment with politics, has yet to explain clearly how it is funded or how much money it has spent on its campaign. Weiss said the money is: “Private funds which we are investing. We can very clearly tell what kind of funds these are. These are funds which we are sacrificing so that we can change something in the country; funds for which we could buy a hundred-million-worth of villas. None of us have them,” SITA reported.

The party craftily piggybacks on the image of the international 99 Percent movement and has been trying to secure voter sympathy through continuous reference to the “Gorilla story” and verbally panning “established politicians”, whom it calls Gorillas.

There is now a whole sub-culture of political discourse emerging on social networking sites where party members, spokespeople, sympathisers, crew, aides and cyber-freaks share links to the messages of their preferred politicians, or endlessly re-paste messages containing vitriolic criticism of their opponents.

Sometimes it is difficult to tell how much of this is paid work, to promote bread-givers or future employers.

The social sites nevertheless truly mirror the disillusionment of part of the nation, at least that part which actually uses social networks as opposed to sitting in pubs and letting off steam with a beer, to use another stereotype.

The number of entries online suggesting that people might just stay at home on March 10 has been growing. And though the comments are witty and make people smile, their smile may freeze when they imagine that this is how they will have to vent their frustrations with politics for the next four years – or possibly longer.

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