We’re all concerned about the vast amounts of money being spent to get your vote. It’s getting crazy, especially since the Citizens United court ruling.
But the problem isn’t the money, and it isn’t the advertising that the money buys. The problem is that the advertising works! The advertising works because people aren’t responsible for their own thinking.
A great example is the recent California Initiative for a cigarette tax.
Without debating the merits of the specific initiative, it’s interesting that the advertising against was sponsored by out-of-state tobacco companies. It’s stated so at the beginning of the ads.
Here are some other “red flags” that people seemed to miss:
1) The ad copy complains about the tax, stating it as if it were a tax on everyone, not just on cigarettes.
2) The statement that no money from the tax will go to “Cancer Treatment” obfuscates the fact that it will be going to “Cancer Research”
3) All the “hot” words peppered throughout- “bureaucracy,” “fine print” and the like. We hate bureaucracy and fine print- we don’t want to vote for that…
It’s not only conservatives though- this is what advertising is all about- “Hey! Look Over Here!! (and don’t look over there).” Most people know that they’re not going to get, or be, the hot female model if they buy that car- but they don’t seem to know that they’re being plugged in by certain hot words (fnord) in political discourse. And they don’t seem to know that they’re being sweet-talked, sometimes by entities that couldn’t possibly have their best interests in mind (tobacco companies? oil companies?)
So our job could be to shake people awake- do what we can to help people to think critically about what they’re hearing. And that starts at home, with ourselves.