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cockswain's avatar

Should misleading or untruthful campaign ads be outlawed?

Asked by cockswain (15249points) September 17th, 2010

Most of these ads are misleading and untruthful, more so now than I can recall. Since there is a requirement for truth in advertising for selling products, and since elections are very important, should the ads need to be truthful? Biasing voters with lies seems very immoral to me. Assume for the sake of argument that whatever fictitious overseeing body would be trustworthy and unbiased.

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25 Answers

zen_'s avatar

Then there would be no advertising.

Carlsberg. Probably the best beer in the world.

cockswain's avatar

They could just talk about their stances on issues. I know, crazy idea!

tedd's avatar

The political landscape as we know it would implode.

Attack ads and ads that “adjust” the truth to fit a politicians desired look/position/etc have been with us since… well since they started advertising for politicians. Seriously you should see some of the cartoons of Lincoln from the late 1850’s.

Austinlad's avatar

Whom would be trust to decide which ads are misleading/truthful and which are simply dramatized, exaggerated or overemphasized, which is the soul of adveryising.

Cruiser's avatar

No, but IMO a tax should be levied on those that believe these ads. Our budget deficit would vanish overnight.

MrItty's avatar

I don’t know about illegal (I don’t like the idea of “freedom of speech – but only if you don’t lie”). But I would absolutely love it if one or more network made a pledge that they won’t air any candidate/party’s ad without a certification from a non-partisan group (like factcheck.org) that the ad does not contain any false statements or false accusations.

cockswain's avatar

@Austinlad That’s why I said in the details to assume there is an unbiased overseeing body, just for the sake of removing that variable from the crux of the discussion.

@Cruiser I like that idea.

@MrItty The freedom of speech point is really the big debate. Maybe we can reasonably make the case that gov’t officials be held to a higher standard. I know, more crazy ideas! Also, I like that site, as well as politifact.org.

UScitizen's avatar

What you are suggesting is regulating freedom of speech. And, at that, freedom of political speech. This is an extremely BAD idea. It was tried by the Soviets, the East Germans, and it appears that it is now being phased in here in North America. The government of Canada is far ahead of the United States in silencing the voices of their citizens. The United States appears to be pedaling hard to catch up.

stratman37's avatar

Who cares about the ads, if we could only get the politicians to stop lying!

marinelife's avatar

Much of it is spin.

cockswain's avatar

@UScitizen Just saying they shouldn’t make up lies about the other candidate? I don’t think I’m advocating a return to Soviet/East German thinking, that’s quite the leap.

wundayatta's avatar

I think the Republicans would be opposed to this idea, since it would cut off their access to TV.

You see the point I’m making? Truth is different depending on how you look at it. In fact, truth is a myth designed to make us believe we can know things for sure. We can’t. Even factcheck.org can’t be sure about calling truth or lie on many of the things politicians say. This is an unattainable dream, and probably an undesirable dream. Far better to let people lie their asses off and have other people catch them out.

skfinkel's avatar

Of course this should be outlawed. But, who is going to support this? The Supreme Court has allowed corporations to donate unlimited funds to candidates without actually saying who they are. I think we are going in the wrong direction, as far as good campaigns go.

Thammuz's avatar

Yes they should. They won’t, but they should.

Or rather, in the case of politicians, they should reat electoral promises as binding contracts, if by the end of the term they’ve not been fulfilled, jail and fine for fraud.

It’s so insane it could actually work.

Thammuz's avatar

@jaytkay Also a good idea, and they should be at least as prominent as the slogans on the ad.

weeveeship's avatar

Legally, there is a certain standard for slander and libel for most people and then there is one for celebrities. Celebrities are in the spotlight, so most things you say or write, true or not, about them can be fair game.

Products, however, must advertise using factual information or the manufacturer can get in trouble for fraud.

phoebusg's avatar

Misleading ads should be banned. Abusing cognitive (human) errors to pretty much force someone to choose something is like abusing a disabled person – and we’re all cognitively disabled.

This point is illustrated very well by this TED talk by Dan Ariely.
http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_asks_are_we_in_control_of_our_own_decisions.html

Definining untruthful on the other hand is a very hard case. When it comes to material surrounding an ad. A product however should always be portrayed as is, and with all warnings etc somewhere in the ad – where noticeable but not in the way. It’d nice to keep ads creative. Although personally I’d just prefer a table with all my options. Which is what I do anyway before I buy something.

cockswain's avatar

@phoebusg “Definining untruthful on the other hand is a very hard case”

Oh, I know this situation would be really litigious and lawyerly if it were real. For the record, I see nearly no chance of such a situation ever coming to pass. The people that could make it happen are the people that were elected running negative ads. I would just like it if one guy could say, “Hi, I’m John Hickenlooper, and I stand for xyz” and his opponent just said the same thing. None of this back and forth with the deceitful personal attacks.

@weeveeship Good point on slander and libel. I wonder why it’s never applied? Most ads seem at best half-true, and at worst complete lies.

@Thammuz Having campaign promises be binding contracts would be nice, but now we’d have another layer of gov’t overseeing what is supposed to theoretically already be the top layer of gov’t. That could get unendingly messy. But I like the idea of accountability.

Really a lot of this just comes down to voters educating themselves from proper media outlets. What a changed nation we’d be if so many people weren’t so predisposed to laziness and apathy.

laureth's avatar

I read somewhere that the founders pretty much thought that lying in campaign speech was to be expected, and that our educated populace would quickly discern any untruths. Sadly, we’re not that educated anymore, it appears.

Here’s FactCheck’s take on the matter.

Thammuz's avatar

@cockswain I come from one of the laziest countries in europe, if not the world, and i can assure you, a people convinced that its vote is important is much more of a danger than an apathic one. Why? because people are shit. i wouldn’t trust my neighbours with a pair of scissors, let alone a vote worth as much as mine, if anyone refrains from voting it’s most likely a good thing.

In fact, the only two democracies to ever work properly were the greek and roman ones, democracies where a large percentage of the population wasn’t allowed to vote because they were, essentially, poor and uneducated.

Nowdays this distinction via income is not possible anymore, mainly because rich and educated are no longer as tied together as they were in those days, but i think the idea is still sound.

I don’t want a two bit steelworker to have a say in the nation’s budget, and i don’t want a professional horse masturbator working hand in hand with my brain surgeon. Let those who are competent in the subject do their job. Now, how you determine who is competent, is entirely another problem, but figuring out whee the issue lies is a step ahead at least.

Another thing, which applies to referendums, and should really be implemented ASAP, is to have a small 10 questions true or false quiz, randomly generated out of, say, a thousand questions, on the ballot.

Your vote is worth 10% less for each error. This way, people who only vote because they’re told to would have almost no impact on the decisions took in a referendum, and people who genuinely give a shit would see their commitment rewarded.

One could do the same with the programs of two electoral candidates, but that would mean something only if the canddates were legally forced to respect those commitments.

cockswain's avatar

But a horse masturbator may just love what he does…

I think I agree with everything you said, and I think some sort of current events/IQ test would be a great idea to maintain voting rights. As you imply, who gets to make the final determinations on these things would be the tough part, but I like the idea. When I take the time to read many sources of info on a subject, seeking out the least biased material I can find, discussing topics with people, then carefully choosing when weighing all info available to me what I consider to be the wisest voting decision, then some asshole cancels my vote by thinking “well I sure can’t vote for a nigger” that seems like a flawed system.

I guess I don’t entirely agree with the statement “people are shit”, but I do agree with the statement “half to maybe most people are shit”

My wife took a Native American studies class last year and was telling me (and I don’t recall which groups of tribes practiced this) that each vote gave the elected official that percentage of power. In other words, you could have many parties in their version of Congress, some whose vote carred 50% weight, others maybe 5%, 21%, 18%, depending on what percent of the votes they got. That sounds like a good system.

@laureth Nice article.

Thammuz's avatar

@cockswain In other words, you could have many parties in their version of Congress, some whose vote carred 50% weight, others maybe 5%, 21%, 18%, depending on what percent of the votes they got. That sounds like a good system.

Sorry, it doesn’t. That’s the systen we have here, people end up voting the two main parties and then you’re back to square one.

mattbrowne's avatar

It is in Germany. People get sued sometimes for this over here.

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