It’s political ad season and no one is immune. As yet none of the drug companies have developed a vaccine which might decrease the likelihood of infection, or at least lessen the symptoms. I largely inoculate myself from the baritone voiced snake oil sales people who lie about politicians on the radio and TV by ignoring radio and TV. You can also reduce the effects by simply employing either the channel switching mechanism or the volume control switch. Both of these can be found on most modern remote controls or perhaps a steering wheel near you.
Whatever cleverness you put to use to avoid radio,TV and even internet ads, it is unfortunately pretty likely you will still encounter political ads thanks to the unfailing dedication of the good people at the USPS. I’m not what the campaign masters would call a persuadable voter and that cuts down on the number, but even I still receive a lot of this high gloss hype.
Political mailers, like drug ads, carry a disclaimer. Drug ad disclaimers are required to list possible side effects. So, for example, even if there is only a one half percent chance you legs will fall off as a result of your taking that cough medicine, they are required to inform you of the possibility. Political ad disclaimers on the other hand merely need to tell you which pusher paid for the glossy pieces of heavy paper that are encumbering postal workers and cluttering up your mailboxes,
As an aside, I think warnings on drug are only fair. Sadly the disclaimer also indemnifies the drug pushers from your lawsuit, should your legs indeed fall off. After al,l you were warned. No matter that the warning was printed in a font size no one can read, or spoken so fast no one really heard the part about limbs dropping off.
Since you will no doubt come in contact with political mailers I thought some tips on how best to proceed once you do
The most charitable thing to do with a political mailer is to carry it carefully by one corner to the nearest trash can and drop it in. Sure it’s a burden on the landfill but it is going to end up there anyway. No point in leaving it lie around to infect you or others Unless of course you are an aficionado – as I am – of the muddy marketing machinations of political campaigns, and you have a highly effective, up to date well tuned horse shit filter.
If you do venture to look one of these mailers over make sure to follow appropriate safety measures. I recommend you wear tall rubber boots, have extra strength headache medicine, and whiskey on hand. A barf bag my help avoid messes. Big grains of salt and a healthy sense of skepticism can’t hurt.
Procedures are slightly different for ads by and about candidates versus those regarding ballot initiates but the first order of business is the same. Go first to the disclaimer and see who pushed this shiny piece of paper on you.
When it comes to ads advocating for your vote on a candidate. If it came from anyone other than the candidate,throw it out without further ado. Your support or non support for the group is immaterial. Lobbyists and political action committees have far too much influence in our election system already. Reading this nonsense only encourages them.
If the piece is from the candidates committee or a political party there are two rules that will save you a lot of time. Rule one – assume anything a candidate says about the other candidate is a lie. Rule Two – assume anything a candidate says about themselves is also stretching the truth, just in the other way. the more strictly you adhere to these rules the less severe your symptoms will be and the better it will be for everyone. Finally, If the ad has anything negative to say about the opponent it’s not worth your time. Positive campaign ads have largely gone the way of the woolly mammoth because we seem to prefer the negative ones. Do everyone a favor and stop it.
Ads for initiatives and referendums are a different sort of animal. The same safety measures are advisable and again you can save a lot of time by going right to the disclaimer. You probably wouldn’t be shocked if the banana growers association endorsed a measure that would require bananas be part of every school lunch. You also shouldn’t be surprised when cigarette companies oppose a measure that might lead to less smoking, or when coal mine pac opposes clean energy standards. There is really no point in reading any further unless you think these groups are really giving you the facts. If you think that, you are not equipped for this exercise.
The problem is that many of the groups that turn out this crap give themselves sweet sounding names that are designed to obfuscate what the group is all about, or worse yet makes themselves sound like they care about you. Freedom pac comes to mind here. So, rule one of referendum ads. If the purpose of the pac is not completely clear ignore everything else on the ad and find a trash can. No, there is not point going to the web and looking the group up. their website is a lie too.
If you have properly applied the above guidelines you should have few if any political mailers left. So, how do you use these remaining few to help you make a decision? Simple, you don’t.
Do what you should have done in the first place and throw them all out. If you want to find out which candidate best matches your priorities, ask the candidate. If they are inaccessible or don’t answer your questions that ought to be enough to inform your decision. Don’t ask the easy question and don’t settle for horse shit and misdirection. Keep your filter up and watch for well disguised lies. Never let a candidate answer a question by telling you only what his or her opponent thinks.
Go to the candidates web site. They are likely to have positions statements on the things that are important to you. Take along a grains or two of salt of course. It is not like they are going to put the bad stuff about themselves here.
Referendums have sponsors and the sponsors have web sites. Better yet rely on voter information booklets sent out in many states. These allow proponents and opponents to make the case for their position on the matter with a little less spin.
Democracy functions far better if people are informed but political ads are a terrible substitute for research. Spend some time researching rather than relying on the high gloss hype.
Photo credit Pixabay user Bboellinger