Monday, October 25, 2010

Political Malnutrition

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been truth-testing this season's political ads and, as one of the newspaper's columnists observed last week, there hasn't been much truth to be found.

The architects of our society's third stage of ownership, their minions in public office and apologists in academia like to say that all these ads are good for us, even going so far as to call them multivitamins for democracy. The more advertising the better because it creates a more informed electorate.

Excuse me, but how does a steady diet of scurrilous claims, half-truths, character assassination and outright lies leave us one bit more "informed?"

I know, I know, the comeback of the third stagers is that voters are smart enough to see through lies and figure out who's telling the truth and who's not.

But what if no one is telling the truth? Are slander and deception and duplicity and crookedness still politically nutritious?

Lying is not new to politics. What is new is the ever-expanding ability of candidates and their surrogates to do end-runs around traditional truth meters and deliver unfiltered lies directly to voters.

In the past, politicians delivered their campaign messages through a medium. When they told a whopper, there were trained journalists who researched the statement's validity. If it was found to be untrue or even highly misleading, the claim was often never reported to us. If it was reported, it came to us with the appropriate background information allowing us to judge its truthfulness. No more.

Now if you have enough money you can bypass the truth testers and buy your way straight into voters' living rooms with a pack full of lies. You won't be held accountable. You'll even have judges bless your deed and some professor somewhere will say what you did was actually good for democracy and a godsend to the voting public.

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