Political Advertisements: An (Un)neccesary Evil

August 25, 2010

A story on CNN a couple of days ago stated that this year, political advertisements are expected to reach a cost of 4.2 billion dollars…and it’s a midterm election! The same story went on to report that despite the common protests people make about hating “negative” ads, it’s been shown time and again that those are the ads that work; they stick with people and influence more decisions than people want to admit.

I decry the lack of education on the issues in regards to making political decisions here on RATDOTL quite often, most recently here. In continuation with that, and thinking about that astronomical waste of 4.2 billion dollars, I’m taking the position that we as the general public have no need for any TV political advertisements. Perhaps that seems to contrast with my complaint that the public isn’t educated on the issues before making decisions; maybe on the surface, but not in actuality. When have any of us learned anything useful about a politician or a political issue from a television ad? Even the ads that aren’t “negative”–and give a campaign long enough and all ads turn negative in some way–still gloss the truth, are still hyperbolic,  are still misleading.

4.2 billion dollars! I keep coming back to that; that’s a lot of money to be wasted in one year. Of course, we can cherry pick a lot of “wastes” if we want to–I mean, “Vampires Suck” raked in 12 million in one weekend with, as Matt Stevens over at E! online called,  “lame, lazy movie parodies aimed at attention-deficient tweens.” But those were tweens spending their allowances on diversion, so we’ll let that slide. This 4.2 billion dollars, on the other hand, is being spent by “public servants” and those who want to be public servants. If making this country a better place were truly the goal of these nice folks, there are much better places to dump that kind of money. You can accuse me of naivety now, I do understand that if they want to be in this system as we have it they have to play the game to get in–no one’s going to elect someone they’ve never heard of and most people hear of politicians by watching TV, unfortunately. If the person running for office wants to make changes from the inside, they must first get inside and to do that they have to spend this kind of money.

So, that’s why I think all political TV ads should cease. The public should find other, better ways to learn about the issues before making a decision. The news should (and can) report on those issues and on what the politicians are proposing be done about them, but quick, snappy, vitriolic smears are not needed. The fact checker websites that dissect those ads keep very busy disproving those false stats and claims but only a small percentage of people who see the original ads ever go to such sites to find out which claims are actually true.

Of course this would only be a first step in cleaning up the immoral waste of capital that campaigns go through. Needed even more than this is drastic campaign finance reform–it’s far past time to end situations in which companies and special interest groups can finance a victory and then get repaid with votes and favors…but hey, it’s the US and money is king. Money’s the blood that flows through the machine.


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