Mud slinging

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Mud slinging is an extreme form of Demonising the Opposition, often falling short of libel by using inferences rather than outright attacks. Tune into any campaign ad during an election year to see it in action.

Mud slinging refers to ad-hominem rhetoric, vague allegations, false accusations or a general focus on negative representations of an opponent in speeches, media quotes or attack ads. It is a practice more common in politics than in mud wrestling, where audiences usually demand actual grappling.

Some cognitive psychologists suggest mud-slinging pays. People are more likely to remember negative information, and negative representations of an opponent can divert attention from a speaker's weaknesses, say proponents of Behavioral Decision Theory. Appeals to emotion, the theory suggests, influence behavior as well as do reasonable approaches. The election of the Austrian-born action movie hero and body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger in the California gubernatorial recall election offers evidence of the power of mud-slinging, behavioral decision theorists say.

"Not only did (California Governor-elect Arnold) Schwarzenegger have enormous name recognition but his campaign’s focus on the alleged failure of the incumbent governor and his use of simple, eye-catching slogans based on his action heroes helped him sweep aside voter reservations regarding his political inexperience." Europa, 29 October 2003