Truth in (Campaign) Advertising

I tried to watch the conventions Wednesday and Thursday night… I really tried!

Despite my predisposition to scepticism, especially about political promises, and even more specifically about those made from within a rigid ideological framework, I  tried to watch with an open mind. I like to decide for myself, and I was especially curious about traces of influence from Ayn Rand”s noxious “philosophy” in Ryan’s economic plan.

I was astonished by Paul Ryan’s blatantly deceptive assertions. He stood there and told one after another. I am reminded of Napoleon and “the big lie” in Orwell’s Animal Farm. Just tell a big lie, an outrageous lie, and if you tell it often enough and with enough conviction, people will forget the reality, they will believe!  This article linked above is by Joseph Doolen and does not claim to analyse all the lies, just the six most egregious.

On the Salon website, Joan Walsh calls the lies brazen, and says the NRC speech was stunning for its dishonesty.

Another Salon article chides the mainstream media for apparently ignoring or condoning this:

It was an attempt to break the mainstream political press. CNN is constitutionally unable to say “that was a load of tendentious bullshit.” Wolf Blitzer, who isn’t paying attention to the speeches and wouldn’t understand them even if he was, sort of figured out (probably because a producer in his ear told him) that the speech had some whoppers but more important to him was that the man on the stage said things that the people in the crowd seemed to enjoy so it was a Good Speech.

On May 16, The Economist ran this article about truth in campaign advertising. It seems to hold to a different standard from what we expect as truth in any other kind of advertising. “All’s fair in love and war”, right?

MITT ROMNEY’S campaign site has a simple statement of principle at the top: “We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in.” If Mr Romney actually believes this, he must think America a thoroughly depraved and immoral country. The US government has spent more than it has taken in for 76 of the past 100 years, and 26 of the past 30…

This brings me to the point of this post, which I’ve been a long time getting to. It is this: As we watch the presidential campaigns, how much effort do we put into critiquing what the candidates actually stand for or are likely to do, and how much do we put into critiquing the stuff they put out in their propaganda?..

Mr Romney’s slogan employs a classic Republican approach: hold out a simple, sweeping principle that voters understand and embrace, even if you don’t actually believe in it yourself because it wouldn’t really be a good idea. In the long run, the repetition of these bogus principles by political leaders rots the timbers of the body politic, but in the near term it’ll probably be okay, because most likely nobody will be able to implement them…

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