Have political ads become an unethical game of finances?
Natasha Tetley / firstname.lastname@example.org
October 25, 2012
Filed under Opinion
Every four years America gathers to either re-elect a president or eject one from office via ‘’work-almost-every-time” majority vote. Much like that other really important American sporting event that happens on a semi-regular basis, the casual onlooker will be focusing primarily on the commercials.
Love them or hate them, political marketing and advertising campaigns are the mother of all such campaigns. Before the Volkswagen was a “lemon,” there were men vying for the top office of our country. And ever since America went and became a democracy, that man had to begin competing for the attention of the masses. Enter political advertising.
Ads are good things. They take on many forms—print, television, radio—and they allow candidates to court their constituencies with ease and with pointed strategic cunning.
Ads can be bad things, though those things are typically products of a casual, less informed body of individuals who dismiss ads as annoyances. Often, such criticisms will include mention of an over-saturated market, overstuffed airwaves, frivolous messages and obvious blurring of the truth by opposing candidates.
“It’s not about supporting the over-saturation, it’s about supporting a society where the media is a tool of communication,” says Nicholas Ware, graduate instructor in digital media at the University of Central Florida.
“The benefit of any media is the dissemination of information. It’s unfortunate that some platforms are based on empty rhetoric, but that’s not the fault of the ads. Ads are something that people become accustomed to seeing. As a politician, you’re basically speaking to people in a language that they’re understanding.”
Ads can be really good things. The nature of political campaigning has evolved alongside the advancement of technology and an important function of modern ad campaigning is the ability to literally reach the masses. Ads spread messages quickly and with little effort, essentially doing the work of hundreds of localized canvassing teams expending a fraction of the time and effort.
“It’s the most effective way to reach the largest number of people,” says former Florida Representative Dick Batchelor. He says people are just “tired of hearing the negative messages.”
Sometimes, ads can be very bad. The controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case of 2008 resulted in the Supreme Court decision to allow unlimited funding for political ad campaigns. From the ashes of that landmark case rose this political season’s most popular alphabet soup: the super PAC. These political action committees are individual entities that pump money into the support of their choice candidate.
According to the New York Times, the decision would be “the likely death knell for a cornerstone of the post-Watergate campaign finance reforms intended to limit the influence of money in federal elections.”
Regardless of the threat of political influence belonging to entities with incomprehensibly deep pockets, the burden of choice remains on the individual voter. Now that organizations are allowed to inundate the public with their own opinions, it has become the ultimate responsibility of the individual to consider the worth and legitimacy of the source.
Similarly, attack ads should, at best, provide the public with a glimpse into the true nature of a politician. These messages are suggestions and provide vital insight into the character of a candidate; they are not replacements for personal research and awareness. Does a candidate have an affinity for going on the offensive? He or she is more than likely either threatened or has run out of things to say.
“It’s not necessarily in our best interest to restrict the kinds of messages that can be sent,” said Ware.
Each ad helps us cultivate our opinion on a potential elected official for better or for worse. That’s a very good thing.
As they say, “You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
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