Advocacy Advertising Anomie
I watched a half-hour of local news the other night, and I was stunned by both the number and nastiness of the political ads being run wall-to-wall during commercial breaks. From the content of these negative ads (or contrast ads, as they are sometimes euphemistically called by their purveyors), you get the feeling that the opposing sides of the political debate are largely living in alternate realities. A candidate described in one ad typically bore no resemblance to that same individual as depicted in an opponent’s ad. I really wonder how much (if any) useful information undecided voters will actually glean from these spots. Maybe the ads will have some mobilizing effect on partisan supporters, but it’s more likely that most voters will simply tune it all out earlier than ever before.
I also noticed the remarkable proliferation of outside advocacy group ads included in the commercial blocks. This phenomenon is currently a hot topic of discussion both locally and nationally. The debate over whether it represents a genuine exercise of free speech or a distortion of the process by outsiders will likely rage on until Congress passes new campaign finance reform, and/or the whole financial disclosure issue emerges from the courts with a different outcome (and even that probably won't end it). I know it’s a real source of frustration for some of the campaigns. No matter how well they do with their candidate’s fundraising, they are still getting overrun by the money these national groups are dropping in the state.


Posted On: 10-15-2010 16:39:51 by Jim Splaine
It would have happened regardless of the US Supreme Court decision, and no matter what kind of other laws we have -- it's just like in other years, only with more intensity this year since so much is at stake -- groups all over the place on all sides are advertising. If the groups aren't trying to buy elections, self-funded candidates are. We need more media attention, and more voter critical thinking, about what is said in the advertising, and where the candidates and parties really stand. Complaining about the money spent won't get us anywhere -- it's happening, it will continue to happen, so we need to reduce its impact by the media doing a better job asking questions. Fortunately, it seems that this cycle that is what the media is doing more of than ever. That's a good thing.

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