Scholars speak out against ‘unethical’ McCain discourse

The latest rhetoric of Sen. John McCainâÄôs presidential campaign has been met with harsh disapproval from some of the countryâÄôs leading communication studies educators. More than 140 communication studies professors and chairpersons around the country signed a written statement, released Oct. 23, condemning the perceived use of racial overtones by the McCain/Palin campaign. The statement initially denounces both the McCain and Sen. Barack Obama campaigns for giving âÄúblatant misrepresentationsâÄù of their opponentâÄôs positions. It goes on to say that there is a âÄúqualitative differenceâÄù in the amount of unethical campaigning between the two presidential candidates. It criticizes a number of recent McCain campaign tactics, including the linking of Obama to professor and âÄúdomestic terroristâÄù Bill Ayers. Statement lead writer and University of Minnesota communication studies chairman Edward Schiappa said he and other signatories believed the McCain campaign has been âÄúgoing over the lineâÄù in the past few weeks. âÄúWhen something of this significance is occurring, you can no longer remain silent,âÄù Schiappa said. Seven University professors, including Schiappa, signed the statement. University communication studies professor Ronald Greene said he and other professors in the department were made aware of the document upon its completion, and were given the opportunity to sign it. Pennsylvania State University communication arts & sciences head James Dillard , who also signed the statement, said there are limits to what constitutes âÄúconstructive and honestâÄù public discourse. Despite the documentâÄôs emphasis on the McCain campaign, those involved in the writing of the statement insist itâÄôs a matter of communication ethics rather than partisan politics. âÄúI donâÄôt think itâÄôs partisan,âÄù Dillard said. âÄúI would like to believe that the group of people signing the statement, if they saw the same kind of bad behavior on part of the Obama campaign, would point that out as well.âÄù âÄúIf there was a case to be made that Obama palled around with terrorists,âÄù Schiappa said, âÄúwe wouldn’t be writing this document.âÄù Political science regents professor John Sullivan said itâÄôs not unusual for a candidate who is behind in the polls to begin more negative campaigning. Sullivan said some of the negative ads McCain has put out could have the opposite effect on him, if theyâÄôre shown to be trying to âÄúsubtly manipulateâÄù viewers. The McCain campaignâÄôs Minnesota headquarters declined to comment on the document.