Truth in advertising doesn’t hold true for political ads.
Democracy takes effort and with it brings easy questions but hard answers.
Question: Say I want to run a political television commercial; do I have to tell the truth?
Let’s say there’s a guy running for Mayor. He’s popular and he has strong political instincts and the guy knows how to read an audience. So, what can I say about him to knock him off his game?
Answer: Anything I want!
Question: Really? Come on, I can’t lie can I?
Answer: The Annenberg Public Policy Center said in summarizing the position of both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission in regulating TV ads and the Supreme Court in upholding the First Amendment, “Candidates have a legal right to lie to voters just about as much as they want.”
Question: Let’s say I want to say a particular candidate took “illegal campaign contributions”. The contributions were illegal because the people who gave them to him violated the campaign spending laws, not because the candidate did anything wrong. Despite this can I make it sound like the candidate is a criminal?
Answer: The “say anything rule” is clear. Back in 1972, the FCC made a TV station in Atlanta, Ga., run a commercial from a white racist running for the U.S. Senate. His disgusting ad said the “main reason why n—-rs want integration is because n—–rs want our white women.”
The FCC said if the station takes any ads from candidates in that race, they have to take all ads and as long as they are not obscene, you can say anything in a commercial.
Question: Listen, TV commercials are regulated. You can’t say that fried chicken makes you skinny, so how can I say that this guy is using “loopholes” to get away from disobeying the law, when it isn’t the truth? Even the head of the Campaign Spending Commission said this guy was legal and obeying the law. But you say I can still say he is “politically bankrupt?”
Answer: Fire away! But there’s an exception. If you are advertising a business you have to watch out. The FTC (Federal Treachery Commission), in 2004, penalized Kentucky Fried Chicken when it tried to claim that fried chicken could be a part of an effective diet program. It made them pull the TV ads and made them submit all advertising for FTC review for the next five years.
But, and there’s always a but, political ads are wrapped in free speech!
The Supreme Court takes this seriously. Here is what it said in a 1971 libel case: “it can hardly be doubted that the constitutional guarantee of free speech has its fullest and most urgent application precisely to the conduct of campaigns for political office.”
Question: Holy shit, so I can lie in my ads but will it do any good?
Answer: Dishonest political spots work all the time. TV viewers just think that all ads are the same and if you put it on TV, someone is checking to make sure it is true.
Don’t we all think that if an ad appears on TV that there must be some truth to it and doesn’t this so-called truth in advertising lull us into a false sense of security?
So, the question then arises if I have to twist and distort someone’s record to win or blatantly lie to get votes and win, how will I be able to look at myself in the mirror when it’s over?
That’s a question that can only be answered by the individual. Unfortunately, in the worst case scenario, that question never entered Biden’s, or his boss Obama’s, mind!