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Monday, November 3, 2014

The First Attack Ads on the Screen: Courtesy Irving Thalberg!

The election season uproar over negative campaign ads returned this past weekend.  But it may surprise most people to learn that the first attack ads on the screen date back well before TVs were in any homes.  Yes, it happened in 1934,  with faux newsreels produced by MGM's saintly Irving Thalberg to defeat the Democratic nominee for governor of California--none other than ex-socialist writer Upton Sinclair (who swept the Democratic primary on August 28 leading one of the great mass movements,  End Poverty in California).  The final attack ad/newsreel focused on caravans of migrants allegedly flowing into the state from back East via rail.

The leftwing Sinclair threat inspired GOPers and business interests to invent the modern political campaign as we know it today--run by a new breed of "campaign consultant" and advertising experts and with all sorts of dirty tricks and creative national fundraising.   It's all detailed in my award-winning Random House book (and now ebook) "The Campaign of the Century" and you can watch some of the Thalberg newsreels in video below:

1 comment:

cadavra said...

Actually, it was Thalberg's boss, Louis B. Mayer, who loathed Sinclair and produced the ads. Thalberg was pretty much apolitical as far as his job went, thinking it was "bad for business."