We them and the virtual universes of the tv political advertisement
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We them and the virtual universes of the tv political advertisement

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We, them and the virtual universes of the tv political advertisement

Tomasz Olczyk
Institute of Applied Social Sciences, University of Warsaw

Each electoral year televised political advertising becomes a more and more important part of political campaigns and it already is the most expensive means of political communication in modern electoral campaigns. Therefore its form and content, especially an often overlooked question of realities created in political commercials, are worth detailed analysis. These realities, especially definitions of „we,” „them” and „universes” created in political commercials, just like all other aspects of substance and form in political advertising are determined by persuasion, the primary function of this instrument of political communication. On the basis of this statement the author presents rhetorical and narrative models, as well as techniques and mechanisms of construction of persuasive representations of reality. The article concentrates on core elements of these representations such as „we”, „them” and „constructed universes.” Conclusions presented in this article are based on the content analysis of televised political ads aired in Polish electoral campaigns in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009, with the main focus on paid political commercials of Law and Justice and Civic Platform. Theoretical framework of the analysis is based on framing theory enriched by some elements of narrative theory, rhetoric and self-presentation. The article analyses such framing devices as inclusion, exclusion, amplification and narrative structuring, and describes the role of these processes in creating „dystopian” and „arcadian” versions of reality in political ads and building associations between these opposite realities and main actors of political narratives, such as „we” and „them”. The last part of the article explains the meaning of the term „virtual” in the context of realities created in political commercials.

Television political commercial is one of the most import ant and undoubtedly one of the most expensive measures of communication in contemporary election campaigns. Similarly like every other aspect of the form and content of political advertisement, the definitions of “us” and “them” and the images of the world generated in them are subdued to the goals of the electoral persuasion.

Basing on this statement, the author presents both rhetorical and narrative models, techniques and mechanisms of building the persuasive images of reality in television political advertisements with specific consideration of the key elements of these images, such as “us” and “them” and “the states of the world”. Thesis presented in this article are based on the results of the analysis of paid political adverts of two biggest political parties: Platforma Obywatelska and Prawo I Sprawiedliwość. Theoretical foundation of the paper is the conception of frame analysis connected with elements of theory of narration, rhetoric and self-presentation. The detailed analysis will be applied to the mechanisms of exclusion, amplification, hyperbilisation and euphemisation of the relations between idealized (both n positive or negative sense) images of “us” and “them” and the Arcadian and dystopian versions of reality and the accompanying processes of narrative structurization of the world image. In the last part of the article I’m showing the use of the term „virtual” in reference to the images of reality built in television political commercial.


Television political commercial is quite new, not so often research phenomenon in Polish political Communications. It would seem that the first issue should be researched in this article, should be the meaning and the role of this kind of social Communications. To say it with other words – this part of the article should answer the question why the political TV spots and the virtual worlds which follow them, should be analyzed at all. The partial answer is to be found in the very definition of the television political ad. The classical definitions basing on the analogy with the commercial advertisement point out that the political ad should be any form of paid political communication (Piontek 2002:127). Emphasizing the special character of the European – including the Polish – elections statute, which offers the political parties that comply specific requirements free broadcast time for the emission of elections programs, one should point out another aspect defining both the content and the form of it (Kaid, Johnston, 2001: 1 i 165; Piontek, 2002: 172). Lynda Lee Kaid i Christina Holtz-Bacha (1995) in their analysis have singled out this element and showed in their comparative study the examples of the techniques of political communication in the Western democracies. In their opinion TV ad „grasps all of the programs controlled by the parties or the candidate, for which the time was given or been paid for (Kaid, Holtz-Bacha, 1995: 2). The factor of full control makes that the form and content of the television political ad can be subdued to marketing strategies much stronger that the other instruments of political communication. In the social-anthropological view the analysis of the political ad offers then a one of its own inside look in the creation of the mind of the voter, which is the very direction to the creators of the election campaigns?

This really quality argument to the meaning of the election spots can be supported with import ant quantity elements. Television political advertisement is (in our country) the most expensive instrument of political communication. In this context one should note the process, which started in 2000, of constant increasing of the expenses on television electoral campaigns and, what followed, this form of communication became the most important position on the list of expenses in evey Polish electoral campaign (Olczyk 2009: 32).

What’ important, it would seem that there is some kind of a connection between the expenses on the TV ads and the results of the election (see pictures 1 and 2)

Pict. 1. Expenses on the TV ads and the results of the election in 2005
Source: Elaborated on the basis of the date from Państwowa Komisja Wyborcza and the Krajowa Rada Radiofonii i Telewizji (2005)

Pict. 2. Expenses on the TV ads and the results of the election in 2007
Source: Elaborated on the basis of the date from Państwowa Komisja Wyborcza and AGB Nielsen

Including in the many year long discussion on the real influence of the TV ad on the electoral decisions is not the goal of this article. For our subject one should definitely see the connection and especially the fact that the leaders of the biggest political party should seem to see it too, spending more and more money for this form of communication and, what’s follows, directing the attention to its content and form.

Summing up this part of the article one should state that the „us” and „them” and the virtual worlds built in the television political campaign seem to be an important object of study, when the ever-growing financial, marketing and election costs of the communication form which is their vehicle, are considered. After the thesis been substantiated, I should move to the showing of the theoretical basis of the analysis included in this article.


This article is basing on the Assumption that both the virtual worlds created in the TV political ad and their most important “inhabitants”, or “us” and “them” are the products of the framing – selection, amplification and structurization of the represented reality. These processes – and also, to some extent the structures being their product – are subdued to the realization of the persuasive function of the electoral TV spots, therefore they are regulated by the key mechanisms of persuasion. The description of the virtual worlds demands an abbreviated presentation of the mechanisms, preceded by a characteristic of the essence of the definition of a frame and the theory of framing.

The very concept of the frame was popularized in sociology by Ervin Goffman (1986). The main representative of symbolical interactionism used in his work, Frame Analysis… from 1974 the conception of the “frame” for marking the schemes of interpretation used by the individuals for giving the meaning to the “raw pieces” of events, which happen to them in social interactions (Goff man 1986: 10-11).

The best explanation of the frame in everyday life we have in the subtitle of Goffman’s paper „Essay on organization of the experience”. The frames should then be understood as a specific type of structures organizing the social experience of the members of interaction, the schemes letting them to see and recognize things faster, identify, categorize and interpret social situations more accurate. The frames should serve the everyday uses as ready, fast and effective answers to the following question: “What is really happening here?” (Goff man 1986:10-11).

What connects the structurization, organization and interpretation of the everyday interactive experiences with the rhetoric of television TV ad? To see some light in this situation it is necessary to refer to the field of science not connecter to the political persuasion on the first sight. On the occasion one should also note, that the idea of frames was popularized in many different and far away fields, as for example sociology of social movements, research on artificial intelligence or the theory of perspective.

The biggest development – both theoretical and practical and methodical – this concept has noted on the field of the medial analysis of the informative news, when s being treated as a rightful research paradigm (Entman 1993, D’Angelo 2002). The idea of the frame occurred very fruitful in the research of the informative media because their creators, similar to the “common” members of everyday interactions, try to create the comprehensible and meaningful interpretation of the events basing on the filtering and structurization of the stream of “pieces” of information reaching them. The journalists construct the phrases not only for self-use but, above all, for the receivers of their communicates. The interpretative structures have to be fitted to the demands and possibilities of the receiver, demands of the chosen media and the specific informative genre, the hierarchy of values of the info-entertainment industry and – what’s really important – the possibility to conversing the informative communicate both to the content and to the structure.

The necessity of fulfilling every step with the obligation of the “communicativity” on top makes one assume that the frames in media communication, in comparison to the frames used in direct interactions would be prone to hyperbolization or some kind of idealization (in the Goffman understanding of the world). The research of the frames and the framing processes in informative media were developed as a method of analysis the effects of the media on the receivers. In other words, it was analyzed, how the assumed schemes of interpretations of showed events are coded in created and emitted communicates and how these very structures are influencing the recognition of the broadcasted events and problems on the spectators. Because of the framing, however, intentionally or unintentionally, some propagate the specific definitions of the broadcasted events, the role and responsibility of the members, diagnosis of the reasons and, what’s follows – the moral evaluation, means of changing the situation or prognosis of its future (Entman 1993:53; Norris, Kernand Just 2003:10-11).

In case of the communicates of persuasive function, as the political TV spot, the intentional imposing of the definitions of the situation does not leave any doubt. That is why the general theory of framing used for the analysis of the television political spots is easy to lead out form the conceptions of the informative media already used and tested on the field of analysis. By connecting the most used and repeating elements of defining the flaming, his phenomenon can be described as the process of selecting and amplificating (exaggerating and reducing) of different fragments of broadcasted events, their hierarchization and prioritizing and giving them a cohesive meaning with help of inscribing them in a fabular, narrative structure (Entman 1993: 53; Norris, Kern i Just 2003:10-11; Olczyk 2009: 237-242).

The narration is a very important part of the frame, influencing its life and persistence and simplifying the coding and decoding of the media. According to Drew Westen (2008: 147), dealing with neurocognitivistic aspects of political communication, the political narration should have a clear, understandable, easy to remember, tell and transmit fabular structure, clearly defined protagonists and antagonists with main virtues, who weigh up all the pros and cons. The narration should be cohesive also, it should have central elements which influence the imagery and emotion and which can be easily illustrated and referred to in the process of communication.


The above-mentioned theory of framing before we can use it to analyze the political persuasion demands the answer to two main questions: what should be framed in this kind of media and what rules apply to the process of framing. Some hint in the answer to this question should be the functional difference between the persuasive and informative communicates. The main function of the pre-electoral rhetoric is undoubtedly the persuasion, what thanks to the identification of persuasive mechanisms ruling the processes of selection, amplification and narrative structurization of reality in this kind of communicates allows constructing the model basing on the general mechanisms of persuasion, described by Stanisław Barańczak (1975). Especially important is the mechanism of simplification of the decomposing of values, the mutual world and language and the non-alternative receive. The mechanisms will be shortly described together with key elements of the model, beginning with the latter.

The proposed model of framing is based on the presumption that the key cathegories the framing processes are orbiting around are: “us”, “them” and the “states of the world” (understood as order of social and commerce parameters of realities of our country). “Us” and “them” function in the narrative structure of political persuasive media as actants (Hawkes 1988: 114) influencing the changes of the “states of the world”. In narrow understanding the actants should be equated with political subjects, competing in the electoral campaign (in analyzed examples they are PO and PiS). In broader understanding “us” and “them” are also other actors or the social objects existing in the media, being in some relations in narrow understood “us” and “them”.

The list of such objects can be long and diversified. It can include the groups or social cathegories, as the rentists, liberals, elites, specific people or even countries, as Germany and Russia. In this case these additional objects for most of the time are the tools of positive self-presentation, acting as “the reflected shine” (Leary 1999: 42) or the negative presentation of the opponent, acting in the mechanism of the “guilty by the connection” (Capella, Jamieson 1997: 99).

Such a binary division of the actants is justified with the mechanism of simplification of decomposing of the values and the mechanism of the mutual world and language, which product is the black and white vision of reality constructed in the broadcasts and accompanied with the opposition to the good “us” and bad “them” (Barańczak 1975).

The justification of this dualistic diversion can be researched in many sources, even in the very character of political narrative structures (Westen 2008: 147, Marshall 1997: 231), in the grammar of persuasion (Łysakowski 2005), or in functional theory of the discourse of electoral campaign (Benoit 1999).

The abovementioned mechanism which helped to come down of any complicated and ambiguous lists of values to a binary opposition of good and evil, like the one referred by the already quoted Barańczak (1975) worked in every persuasive media and leads to the second assumption of the model of persuasive frame – the thesis that every “state of the world” in persuasive media can also come down to two” one explicit and positive, or an Arcadia and one explicit negative, or a dystopia. The logic of binary simplification and opposition lest one to formulate the following rules of rhetorical and narrative mechanics of the model of framing the reality in political persuasion:

  1. Actant „them” activates dystonia;
  2. Actant „us” activates Arkadia;
  3. The condition of the actant’s real ability to summon the state of the world is the power;
  4. The self-definition of the actant as having power in the given time determines presentation of the time as Arcadian or dystopian
  5. The most important dividing Line in the narrative structure of the frame are the periods of having the power or being in opposition.

This assumptions and, above all, their uncompromising character are strengthened by another persuasive mechanism listed by Barańczak (1975): the mechanism of the non-alternative revive. In this mechanism, “on every of specific states of the process of receive and on every “level” of this receive – from the language to the world outlook generalizations – the persuasive measures are directing the listener in such a way that in every moment he had only one choice: without any alternative and without any choice” (Barańczak 1975:53).

In this place I would like to move to the description of the abstract, model rules were realized in television political ads of the tow biggest Polish political parties.


The shortest possible summarization of the images of reality and the “us” and ”them” actants” in TV ads of the two biggest political parties in Poland, emitted in 2004-2009 is shown in the picture nr.3.

The period to 2005 was described in the analyzed campaigns by the both parties in quite a similar way, though there were some differences in details, stylistic and specific content showed in the comment. This time was created in PiS spots as a dystopia, made by broad defined “them”. This image of reality was very common in the information sent by most of the parties starting in those elections. The Dystopia was constructed by selecting and amplifying factors such as: the rate of unemployment, financial emigration, poverty and undernourishment (especially the kid, see Olczyk, 2009: 302-342).Additionally in the commercials of PO and PiS the situation of conflict between the country and the citizens was very emphasized together with its mirrored image – between the elites and common people.

As broadly understood “them” there were, therefore, politicians, rich people, criminals… As “us” – retired people, the youth, businessmen and so on.

As “them” in narrow understanding Platforma and PiS put rather SLD or each other – with two exceptions, which will be elaborated in a more detailed way below.

Constructions as “us” and “them” and virtual dystonia of 2005 are rather united with the assumptions made for the model showed above. Neither PO nor PiS had power in the period before the elections, so it’s obvious to recognize these times as dystopia, created by less or more precise “them”.

Pict. 3. The structure of the frames in television political commercials of PO and PIS. Source: the author’s work

In 2005 there were two of rather important exceptions from this general rule. PiS emitted two spots attacking the tax propositions of Platforma Obywatelska. In the most famous one, known as “the refrigerator spot” the future dystopia which was to be created by PO with the line tax was illustrated with suggestive images of a refrigerator, medicine cabinet and children’s room , where, because of the tax, most of important things were disappearing. All of this happened in an apartment of “common Polish people” and a family “like thousands other”. PiS, using its leader, Lech Kaczyński, categorically heralded: „I will not let to lower their level of life, because in the next Parliament we will oppose the tax bill <three times fifteen>”. In the second spot “Anna”, introducing herself as “supermarket worker”, was stating:

“I’ve heard about the proposition of the line tax <three times fifteen> According to it my income will be 632 PLN. And the VAT for food and medicine will be increased. So my expenses will increase too. Now it’s the proposition of PiS. Very important thing: Vat for food and medicine will not be increased, and I will have a tax exemption for my little ones, so my income will be 857 PLN! It’s 225 PLN more! For me it’s easy. I’m voting for Prawo i Sprawiedliwość”

In these two commercials the technique of amplifying the future dystopia with help of visualization the individualized life of “common Polish people” is clearly visible. The construct of the opposition between “us” and “them” is also very visible. In this very opposition “us” narrowly understood is connected with “broad us” – crowd of commoners, represented by “common families” and “supermarket workers” – whom “them” will do harm. On the third picture one can see that the diversification of the virtual worlds created in commercials of two biggest parties happened in 2005. From this moment the visions of reality, built by PiS and PO became contradictory. In the municipal elections, Wight months after the victory of Lech Kaczyński in the run for the residential chair, PiS emitted a spot where the lector with enthusiastic tone, said:

„There is a new Day and more and more people are going to work. The production of Polish industry increased nu 19 %. Our families can buy more. Inflation is the smallest in Europe. We feel safer. The police men left their office and are on the street. We’ve kept our word – we’re building the better Poland.

The image of Poland as the country of deep dystonia, created in the campaign of 2005, also by PiS, changed in the image of Arcadian reality by the Simple flaming measure. This measure was based on inclusion and exclusion parameters of reality, referring to assumed definition of the situation. As one can see, in abovementioned spot there is no word of unemployment, social minimum or undernourishment. Instead we have many other factors of positive connotations: low inflation, increase of industry production, safer streets.

According to the predictions of the theory of framing the persuasive media, PiS as a party, which „us” is n power, builds this period of time as the Arcadia. Amongst the broad spectrum of factors the creators of the persuasive media are selecting rather these factors which connect in the cohesive image of the “paradise on Earth”. This phenomenon was increased in the campaign from 2007, which in PiS edition was referring to the ideal type of narration of the ruling party. Even in August, before the election campaign was officially started, the people could see three TV spots by PiS realized in typical for this type ode d scheme of “scenes from real life”, where “common people” are praising a product (most often washing powder, painkillers i.e.). In these commercials the actors playing “common people” – “Halinka’s mom”, her daughter and husband Stanisław, an unidentified businessman and some retired married couple – are telling stories, using not statistic measures but histories from their life, transition from dystopia to Arcadia with help of PiS. The dividing line where the trajectory of personal/family biography of every of the portrayed persons changed the direction from dystopian to Arcadian, was identical in every spot: “two years ago”. Every person was emphasizing the better financial situation and positive and increasing change in the less countable parameters of their lives. The “unidentified businessman”, owner of the small shop, was saying this:

Two years ago I thought about closing my shop, people didn’t have money, and the hooligans were destroying my shop window. Now they are afraid of the police, the unemployment is lower, people are earning more and my business is getting better and better. Hope returned to the people like me. The government understands that Polish business is Worth the Money. It understands problems of people like me. I trust them, because they’re changing Poland for better.

In the commercials of PiS from 2007 the image of Arcadia is built in a consequent and explicit way – either with help of statistic measures or individual life stories of the people. The narrow “us” of PiS was connected with the broad “us”, “common Polish people”. According to the predictions of the framing theory, the image of potential future without the PiS in power was dominated by the vision of potential dystopia, which will be a result of “them” returning to the Parliament.

Sometimes the future was showed as a horror.. like in a spot named “The scandal”, where dangerously looking characters are banging to the glass door, trying to get in, when the lector speaks:

2002 the Rywin scandal! 2003 Starachowice scandal! 2004 Pęczak skandal! 2005 Kwaśniewski gives amnestion to Sobotka! The Prime Minister Kaczyński closed the door to corruption. We thought the times are gone, by they want to come back. Only the Prime Minister Kaczyński can stop them. Vote for Prawo I Sprawiedliwość!

In the majority of the spots creating the vision of the future, PiS was building the image of its main opponent as an inept, ineffective and dangerous political party. The key ex ample of such an action was an ad known as „For health!” where – as a result of the denationalization of the hospitals which in dystopian future was to be done by Platforma – the desperate requests of the woman calling the ambulance to her dying husband are not listened to by the dispatcher, because she doesn’t have a credit card, which should be used to pay for the rescuers.

The whole campaign of PO was built on a contrast (also the visual) with Prawo I Sprawiedliwość. In this contrast PiS was “them”, responsible for the dystopian presence, and Platforma was showed as “us”, who lead us to the Arcadia as soon as they will have the power. This scheme was visible on the very beginning of the campaign, which was started with a series of negative, black and white billboards, where on black background there were expressions like: “Aggression”, “Slander”, “Contempt” with a over title “Rules of PiS” and the subtitle ”PiS in power and the Polish people are embarrassed”. The second part of the campaign was a series of blue billboards, where one could find expressions like “Peace”, “Building”, “Respect” and the slogan of the party “For the better life”.

The paid television commercials of PO were constructed with the similar scheme, where the presence, where PiS is in power is described with sad, black and white images, and the future with colorful pictures, illustrated with joyful music. In the first series of the spots the statements of Tadeusz Rydzyk and Jarosław Kaczyński were contrasted with the statements of Donald Tusk, Bronisław Komorowski and Julia Pitera.

The best example of such contrasting of the sad PiS dystopia and the paradise-like, colorful pictures of Arcadian future was the spot know as a “Short film about life”:

„During the last two years the situation of the public sector has drastically worsened. The doctors and nurses have to work in several places to make a living. The teachers don’t have the money to make end meet. The patients don’t have the money for the medicines. Hospitals go bankrupt. In this year only 8 kilometers of the highways were done in time. In the last two years almost 14 thousand people were killed in traffic accidents. During last two years almost 2 million Polish people emigrated, looking for work.

Tusk: Soon they will return, because the work will give good money. Doctors and nurses will heal people and earn good money. The teachers with good wages will teach our children. And policemen with good wages will secure our safety. By safe roads we will have safe stadiums and pools. Is this possible? If Ireland did it, why Poland shouldn’t? Polish people are a great and wise nation. Poland can also have a commerce miracle. We Just have to win this election.

Similar like in case of sudden transition from dystopia to arcadia in PiS ads of 2006 and 2007, now also one thing is drawing the attention in particular – the selection of completely different factors of reality. In dystopian characteristic there is a financial emigration, but instead of the unemployment or the poverty one says about the slow rate of building the highways, traffic accidents and the problems of public sector.

In 2007 PO was in power and according to the theory of framing in the television political commercial, in the ads of PiS the situation of our country was described as a dystonia. Before the next campaign – to the Europarliament – the Prime Minister Tusk was reproached with lack of realization of Arcadian promises, and in the very campaign the dystopian events were being selected: the bankruptcy of the shipyard or corruption scandals.

The most prominent spot in PiS campaign in 2009 was the advertisement “Show the yellow card to the government”, where the main role played the same actress who played win the former advertisement “Short movie about life” of Platforma Obywatelska. One could hear then:

„Two years ago me and my friends voted for Platforma Obywatelska. We believed, that <soon doctors and nurses with good wages will heal us and teacher with good wages will teach our children> Friends were proud that I helped to win Platforma. Soon we started to doubt the Prime Minister’s promises (…) Today I see that our lives are no better and everything is terrible expensive. My friends can’t afford to pay the more expensive credit. My department has lately fired two girls. I don’t understand, why the shipyard workers are being beaten and why the Prime Minister plays football all the time. I want this government to take care of its business and that’s why in this election I’m going to show them a yellow card and vote for PiS.

This time the dystopian Visio was created and amplified with help of factors such as inflation, unemployment, increased costs of credit, conflict with the shipyard workers.

Summarizing the abovementioned evolution of images of reality showed in television political advertisement of two biggest political parties one can say that more and more they become cohesive with the assumptions of persuasive mechanic and the theory of framing. Thanks to the selection of specific elements of described reality the parties can create in the same time in their persuasive media completely different definitions of reality and responsible actants of „us” and „them”. These definitions are strengthened with the audiovisual component of political spot, their narrative aspects (real life stories) or specific genres (horror, fear ad). The easiness of creating contradictory, exaggerated and in the same time persuasive images of reality as it would seem the television political commercial has, leads to another issue: virtual status of these images.


The last issue that needs definition in this article is the „virtual reality” used in the subtitle, and especially its meaning in the description and the receiver of the reality built in the TV political ad. In common language the virtual reality is not connected with TV persuasive communicates but with artificial reality created by the computers, video games, simulations and so-called cyberspace.

The dictionary meaning is “(theoretically) possible, able to exist”. In what sense these worlds created in TV ads can one name virtual?

The first element that we should direct out attention to, is the relation of the created reality to the truth. Even quick analysis of the quoted ads shows that theist form makes impossible or makes very difficult to confront their content to the truth, so – the falsification. Amongst the described by Jerzy Bralczyk (2004:18-35) means of escaping the falsification in commercial he lists some that can be used in the political ones: words of modality, clearly subjective evaluations and characteristics, statements without the verb, unidentified adjectives in higher grade, adjectives in the highest grade, statements about the future, metaphors, literary statements and quotes (see Olczyk 2009:186). On should now emphasize that these methods are used in political ad not only very often, but usually in a cumulated way. The effect of this accumulation in the “games with the truth”, modal verbs, imperatives, future time is not only making any truth test impossible but , above all, giving the logic of the political ad some features of the specific kind of ambiguous or dissolved logic, where the rule of non-existent centre doesn’t exist.

Strongly connected with this phenomenon are the immanent non-fullness and not fully specified logic of political advertisement communicate. Rodericka P. Harta (2000:129) observes that the television electoral spot is „aggressively entimematic” – to say in other words it has the character of rhetorical syllogism, or the “conclusion” with one lost premise, which can be a premise of obvious or feigned obvious character.” (Ziomek 1990:31).

The world created in political advertisement one should then understand as a possible world which cannot be defined as true or false because of the logical specific of the communicates, that created him. The problems of this kind are deepened with the semantic and logical status of the images, or speaking generally – the characteristic of the visual aspect of the advertisement, especially its persuasive force, being much more powerful than the force and meaning of the verbal aspect. In addition, the key elements in “video-rhetoric” of the political advertisement, such as images, music and genre construction are not subdued to the truth tests. The meaning of the visual or the non-verbal component of television political advertisement leads straight to the second, close to the “common”, computer understanding of the term “virtual reality”.

To explain the second view of the virtual reality one needs the term “pseudo-environment” and simulacra. The author of the first one is Walter Lippman (1965: 10), who considered pseudo-environment as a special kind of simplified model or a representation of reality, which people under the strong influence of the media, are building “in their heads”. The pseudo-environment is a type of a filter which intermediates between minds of the people and the “real reality” and letting the people manage with complicated, ambiguous and liquid reality (Lippman, 1965: 11).

What’s more important, for a long time before television and the popularity of the term “virtual reality”, Lippman observed that the image is the basic element of the foundation of “pseudo-environment” and this is the very order of “images in the head” is for the people the main source of stimulus to act in their real environment. The image which is the foundation of modern civilization together with the element of political audio-visual rhetoric makes that the border between the pseudo-environment and the real environment of actions is getting more and more illegible. Jean Baudrillard (2005) claims that the modern civilization and the culture entered the era of simulacrum, where between the images and the represented reality has no real essence. The product of the simulacrum is the hyper-reality or the unrealistic reality without any support but at the same time more Real that the reality itself, for which, according to Baudrillard, we don’t have any direct access.

At this state of analysis of the term of “virtual reality” in the political advertisement one can say that this technique of political communication builds from the non-falsified sentences and images constituting “their own reality” a possible world, which cannot be confronted with its real counterpart with help of instruments of logic.

The persuasive force of the commercial communicates and, above all, their visual component, adds to the situation that the constructed reality may seem much more real and authentic than its “real” counterpart. The virtual concept of the created world of political advertisement is not only its logical status and immanent potentiality. The world of political advertisement is not only the possible world, it’s also an artificial reality or the simulation of the real reality. The idealization in political advertisement is an element of mechanism of non-alternative receive, leading to persuasion and efficient communication. The persuasion media in their strive to unambiguity and limiting the alternatives of the spectator generates the idealized vision of reality where there’s no place for nuances, interpreting doubts or hesitation.

In summarization one can say that the whole instrumentarium of verbal and visual rhetoric of political advertisement which helps to create the non-falsified vision of reality, in the same time has to convince the audience of its credibility and authenticity. The virtual reality presented in the political advertisement is a kind of simulation, idealized artificial world which in most important aspects is subdued to hyperbolization strengthening the persuasive force of the communicate and ensure that its reading is unambiguous and cohesive with the intention of its maker.


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FAR 2011 No. 3 (26) July-September

Rhetoric and political polemics



(Instytut Polonistyki Stosowanej UW)