With political advertising being less factual and accurate and more disparaging to opponents, what we have is tantamount to a boxing match absent of a referee and rules. The equivalent of a bar fight where everything is a weapon and head butting and kicks to the groin are accepted (and even expected). An informed citizenry can happen only by chance alone under these conditions.
Compounding the situation is the lack of journalists who will (immediately) bring to light falsehood—not correcting an inaccuracy is support of its accuracy. The longer a falsehood goes unchallenged the more it is assumed to be true. If journalists are unwilling to uphold their responsibility to ensure that truth, decency and fairness prevail then they must step out of the ring.
Making false claims about a product/service in advertising is not tolerated—it is called truth in advertising, and we expect it. Yet in political advertising, where it can destroy the very fabric of society, it is allowed. According to the Federal Trade Commission to protect consumers advertising should be truthful, non-deceptive, fair and supported by credible evidence. In political advertising are we not consumers of information? Where is the FTC when you need them?
If a person will lie to get into office then he/she will do the same once in office—it is the way he/she rolls. Accordingly, if a person can’t be trusted to tell the truth then how can a discerning public in good conscience elect him/her to the highest office in government to represent them in the world and to lead the nation?
Journalist failing to represent a free and independent press and people failing to demand credible support for claims and assertions reflects an unthinking, incurious and gullible citizenry. It is a citizenry that is easily deceived by manipulative and deceptive people who play on peoples’ hopes and fears. A citizenry that is sorely misinformed.
A recent case in point is the frequently communicated idea that the U.S. is over regulated and thus unfriendly (and an unwelcoming) place in which to do business. The unfounded solution that is advanced is that to improve the economic climate in the U.S. we need to eliminate regulations and even agencies designed to ensure fairness and safety. Unfortunately the facts don’t support this: Yet such facts don’t get in the way of falsehood becoming belief.
That people actually swallow the stories they are told is quite troubling! Why? Because a society of the people, for the people and by the people—our democracy—requires a discerning informed public who can effectively determine who is best qualified to lead.
Having an effective leader requires that that elected person actually embody the essence of leadership. Leadership is not the expression of self-interest but of selflessness (the concern is always for the collective We of society) and the enactment of the highest of values–truthfulness and trustworthiness being noteworthy manifestations—in all one’s actions.
With the destructive combination of demagogues in pursuit of political office, the lack of both responsible journalists and a critical thinking citizenry, then a free and democratic society cannot possibly be sustained. It is time that we the people demand more from both those seeking to inform and to lead us as well as from ourselves!