DeBlog: Why Do Political Ads Purposely Distort?
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – How can politicians put together commercials that are full of distortions and lies? Why do politicians and advocacy groups create such ridiculous commercials? Don’t they feel guilty distorting the truth just to scare voters into getting on board with their positions?
Ann Mans e-mailed me asking: “I’ve been watching the anti-gay marriage ads for Tom Emmer. Did the state of Mass. REALLY teach first and second graders about gay marriage like the commercial says? As a teacher, this is a bit hard to comprehend!”
Pat Kessler did a Reality Check on this on Tuesday.
From Pat’s story: “A Massachusetts couple did go to court to stop one teacher from reading the children’s book “King & King” about a gay couple, to their second grade child. The court ruled against them. But in Massachusetts, like Minnesota, it does not mean gay marriage was, or will be, taught to children.”
One teacher read one book in one school. And the MN Family Council and the National Organization for Marriage thinks it’s OK to create an ad saying “When Massachusetts did this, gay marriage was taught to first and second graders.”??
By that logic you could argue that Maple Grove, Minn. schools are teaching kindergarteners that cats can speak, because they read The Cat In The Hat in class. It’s insulting to voters. I e-mailed the Family Council Wednesday morning to get a response to Kessler’s Reality Check, and no one got back to me.
There are rational reasons why you can argue against any number of issues, but by going to the most extreme, silly scare tactic, advocacy groups make a mockery of the entire process.
It’s perfectly legal for political candidates and groups to lie in TV ads. It’s illegal for General Mills to lie. Political ads are regulated by the Federal Election Commission, and because of the First Amendment free speech protection, it’s pretty hard to pass laws restricting political lies.
Minnesota has a law banning false political ads, [here it is] but it’s nearly impossible to enforce. Prosecutors have to prove that candidates knew the ad was false (that’s a tough standard) or that they acted with “reckless disregard” for whether it was true or not. Again, nearly impossible.
So these kinds of ads may not be illegal. But they are immoral.