When James Madison penned the First Amendment to the Constitution in 1789, “Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….,” it was an effort to protect citizens against the power of government. Our country had experienced a long war which was fought to ensure freedom from oppression.
Times have changed. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, there weren’t advertising agencies vying to get lucrative business from clients in the political arena. Hmmm, I wonder what Jim and the ‘pro-Bill of Rights’ guys would think if they had to listen to political advertising today.
‘Core political speech’ falls under the First Amendment and therefore does not censor the ‘opinions’ of citizens. Candidates and their staffs, use that premise, to say whatever — be it truth, semi-truth or not truth at all. Too often, it is couched in language IMPLYING FACT. You ask, “Isn’t there supposed to be a ‘truth in advertising’ standard?” Yep! There sure is, but somehow when it comes to politics, it’s fairly easy to fly under the radar of that guideline. Do you really think this is what Madison intended?
IT’S CAVEAT EMPTOR TIME AGAIN!
Face it, advertisements ‘pitch’ candidates. That’s right, candidates are selling themselves to us, or discrediting their opponents in an effort to sell themselves to us. Let the Buyer Beware.
This appears to be the one time, politics has become ‘non-partisan.’ Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and pundits alike, want the right to put their ‘spin’ on truth. Here’s how it works. Generally, the ad begins with a nugget of honesty, which is then manipulated using indiscernible and dubious logic to convey something that isn’t remotely accurate. The ads are played over and over, ad nauseam, the theory being that if you hear it once, it’s possibly true; if you hear it twice it’s probably true; and if you hear it three times it MUST BE TRUE!
You can check facts in ads at sites such as Politifact.com and FactCheck.org. I particularly like Politifact.com because it rates comments as follows (the last one is my favorite):
2) Mostly True
3) Half True
4) Mostly False
6) PANTS ON FIRE!
We’re all busy just trying to live our lives, so the majority of people will hear what is said and not check a thing. Even more depressing is the first thing heard is often the one thing remembered.
Fortunately, you can control much of this with the aid of your DVD and remote control mute button. That’s what I do. And if I’m busy in the kitchen, cooking up a spectacular recipe, I turn off the radio and TV and listen to music. No background crap for me, and I get infinite pleasure knowing that the candidates have spent a fortune on advertising which is wasted on me.
However at the end of the day, I still give pause and think about James Madison and how much this country meant to him. Our fourth President of the United States was a man known for his ethics, integrity and honesty. I don’t think he would like politics as played out today. If you’re in the vicinity of Montpelier, Virginia, and you feel the earth-shaking, it just may be James rolling over in his grave.