Among the things I do when not pretending to be a political commentator or actually doing my job at the library is I pretend to be a web designer. I’ve put together a few small websites (honest, Kyle, yours is coming together!), and try to keep follow the latest developments on css presentation, interactivity, and web standards on the online forums, journals, and the blogs of the industry leaders.
One of the biggest names in the industry is Jeffery Zeldman. But Jeffery also shares some good common sense thoughts on politics on occasion. Recently he made a plea for a very common sense idea in political advertising.
It is illegal to make false claims in a TV or radio commercial unless you are running for political office.
If you’re selling toothpaste, your claims must be vetted by legal and medical professionals. But not if you’re selling a candidate.
If you’re selling a candidate, not only can you lie about his record, but more to the point, you can lie about his opponent.
…Lies, and a candidate’s embarrassing efforts to brush them aside, fill the news cycle and constitute the national discourse. And this terrifying and morally indefensible rupture from reality persists even when the country is on its knees.
If networks refuse to accept cigarette advertising, how can they readily approve dishonest political advertising? Cigarettes kill individuals, but lying political ads hurt the whole country. No democracy can afford this, let alone when the country is at war, and under existential threat from terrorists, and in economic free fall (“A Modest Proposal,” Zeldman.com)
The entire post is well worth a read. The idea isn’t novel, but it is certainly worth pondering. There isn’t any way to ban lying, as truth is so often in the eye of the beholder. But requiring campaigns to have some coherent evidence upon which to base their claims (as well as having a media willing to take up their vital role to our Democracy as the fourth estate and aggressively challenge the statements of the campaigns and their supporters) would do a lot to improve the situation.