Become an A&B portal user and receive giveaways!
Become an A&B portal user and receive giveaways!

In defense of the "political ad hominem"

08 of December '23

Like a boomerang on the occasion of successive election campaigns, the topic of "political advertorial" returns. Polish cities, even those with a landscape resolution, were able to merge into one big election poster. This phenomenon has not been without criticism.

The second monthly parliamentary elections are slowly approaching - most of the spatial signs of the event, in the form of posters, banners, billboards or flyers, have disappeared from our landscape. The remnants of the posters, which have been rotting under the snow, may delight those whose passage through any Polish city during the election campaign brought them to tears. Their joy will be short-lived, however, as local government elections are on the horizon, and immediately after them, elections to the European Parliament. Political games will also not forgive the appropriation of space, to which external media serve.

On the occasion of each election, the "Internet commentariat" throws memes and posts of outrage at the digital space for its chaos and disrespect for voters with an aesthetic sense. However, before adopting this viewpoint, it may be worth considering a defense of political advertosis.

In defense of "political advertosis"

Calling for a defense of this phenomenon is an exceptionally difficult challenge for me; I have never ceased to be an apologist for landscape resolutions, welcoming any information about their adoption in successive Polish cities. When Krakow partially relieved itself of the advertised kitsch, I didn't stop circling the city, enumerating the carriers that have irretrievably disappeared. Their role, however, is different for an election campaign.

Outdoor media, even in the world of digitization and the metaverse, are an integral part of electioneering - partly to "mark the electoral terrain," to remember the image of candidates or candidates or even subconsciously to link it to the election slogan or the color scheme of the committee's logo. Thus, for those running in the elections, it is in a sense to be or not to be, because a campaign aimed at the Internet excludes a sizable portion of those who do not use this medium, and outdoor activities in the form of distribution of leaflets and newspapers, are permanent - their lifespan is as long as voters will hold the received election material in their hands.

Thecandidate perspective is one side of the coin, perhaps less important from a civic-election perspective. Can the proverbial staining of the city yield any democratic benefits? "Political advertosis" is a feature of any developed democracy (compared to the advertising chaos we can boast of as a local genius loci) - we will notice it in places that in Poland are often regarded as spaces of inspiration in terms of city order and aesthetics.

When I traversed Bergen, Norway, a few years ago, it was enough to walk a few blocks away from the center to see the face of one of the Norwegian Labor Party's candidates multiplying not in dozens, but in hundreds of election posters. From a similar perspective, I recall viewing architecture from the Red Vienna period, where local neighborhood council elections were marked by the obscuring of the value of the distinctive red of one of the first social housing estates with small banners, stickers and posters.

In conclusion, advertisements in the form of banners or posters are an integral part of election campaigns, but their value is also a constant reminder of the celebration of democracy and civic agency. However, in order for them to fulfill these functions in any way, another element is needed.

element without chaos

The defense of "political advertisements" should not imply a defense of advertising chaos - not only because it is ugly, but above all it restricts democratic processes. Although the appearance of outdoor media is subject to the provisions of the electoral code, violations of the code do occur (as shown by the example of one of the candidates in Lubuskie Voivodeship), so restrictions are necessary. The problem of "political advertosis", in my opinion, is not its existence, but the failure to regulate it and the lack of drawing consequences against those who violate democratic rules in the race for power.

Nor do I deny the chaos, my defense of third-party media is not merely idealistic, it is a cry for the rules to be followed and guarded - not only by the PKW, but also by NGOs. Why is this so important? In such a polarized society as Poland is today, one can imagine two paths for the influence of politics on space - complete disregard and removal of election ads from space, or preservation of divisions in urban space. The latter scares me more.

welcome to the city slash

In 1985, Gerry Anderson, a radio presenter working for BBC Northern Ireland, decided to solve the problem of naming a Northern Irish town in a creative way. "The Troubles," as the conflict between the Catholic Irish and Protestant British communities is called, ongoing in Northern Ireland, has brought not only inherited trauma, several thousand casualties, but also division on even the most symbolic issues. Located northwest of Belfast, the city is called two names by its residents - Derry by the Irish, Londonderry by the British. As a radio personality, Anderson understood well the need to abbreviate any name during radio broadcasts. Instead of Derry-Londonderry, he suggested the name Stroke City, which literally means Stroke City.

This is hard to understand without being there. Trying to catch a bus to Stroke City and asking every station employee for directions, I mentioned both names. Ukosnik City is the site of a particularly violent crackdown - the famous Bloody Sunday, when the military and police opened arms on protesters, killing fourteen townspeople. Only the Good Friday Agreement, reached in 1998, opened the way for the demilitarization and appeasement of the region, and led to the Nobel Peace Prize for John Hume and David Trimble.

However, a walk through the City of the Ukashnik perpetuates a constant sense of fear, uncertainty and nervous political strife. In one of its neighborhoods, Bogside, which I visit mainly because of the TV series that was filmed here, one's eyes are drawn to the many murals dedicated to the memory of the victims of Bloody Sunday, but also to the signs of vivid trauma in the form of IRA signs, posters with an AK-47 rifle, or the rebel greeting Tiocfaidh ár lá (pl. Our day will come) used by the terrorists.

w Bogside na każdym znaku znajdujemy nie tylko murale poświęcone pamięci ofiar krwawej niedzieli, ale również żywą traumę

In Bogside, at every turn we find not only murals dedicated to the memory of the victims of Bloody Sunday, but also living trauma

photo: Wiktor Bochenek

our common existence

The town of Ukośnik is an example of how excessive polarization turns into a permanent appropriation of space, which definitely affects the surrounding area longer and more negatively. It's hard for me, since my brief stay in Northern Ireland, not to get the impression that in a society as polarized as Poland is today, despite partial post-election relief, the absence of outdoor carriers would only end in a brief period of aesthetic order, which would quickly turn into political appropriation of space to a degree hitherto unknown, even given the transgressions of the outgoing government.

In defending political adpossession, I am not trying to defend chaos in urban space, but a certain respect from which we may be moving away with non-compliance. The answer, however, will not be to eliminate them completely. This is, of course, purely a subjective, fear-driven opinion, trying to be a voice in the discussion.

Wiktor Bochenek

The vote has already been cast