BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
How often have we begun an oral comment with those words: “There ought to be a law …?” When we view a political commercial, does it ever evoke that comment? When we observe political pundits peddling their gab on the television tube, do we ever propose that there ought to be a law?
Are there too many commercials, especially political ads? Yes? Well, thank the deregulators for that. Back during one of those deregulating administrations the Federal Communications Commission rescinded a rule limiting the number of minutes of commercials per half-hour. They said something like, “Free market competition will control this. People will not watch the station that takes the most in commercial time.”
Like most such pronouncements deregulating business, that market justification was a lot of baloney. It seems that networks have an unwritten code for airing about the same time in commercials, and an uncanny ability to schedule them at the same time – an empowerment somehow enhanced since the advent of the hand-held remote control. [An open agreement, of course, would be a violation in restraint of trade.]
But you are right – there ought to be a law about that. But just try getting one passed. Notice how hard it is to pass regulation bills lately? Big government is good for consumers, but bad for business.
However, there is another glaring problem with political commercials. Nobody holds these to any standard of truth or fairness, like we are supposed to have legally with other advertising. Shouldn’t somebody have such a responsibility? Politicians seem to be able to say just about anything about anyone or anything, not necessarily their opponent, and get away with it. Should they be able to do that?
We notice that most Republicans are running against President Obama to whom they attribute egregious offenses, motives, and outrages as factual. We notice also that they run against “Washington,” or some other vague but dark and evil entity, which is threatening horrible and heinous acts against us. They are able to get away with various lies, misrepresentations, and weird conspiracy theories about Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and the “liberals” doing harm to our country, even robbing our children. Should they not be required to offer proof or evidence of such allegations? Should they not be limited to that which is factual or validate opinions?
Should there not be some non-partisan group to view and put a stamp of ethical standards on political commercials? Maybe something like the Good Housekeeping Seal or the UL stamp on appliances and electrical stuff?
When nearly 40% of Republicans think the president was not born in this country despite clear facts, is that not proof that somebody has been lying to them? There ought to be a law.
Free speech should not really be an enabler for people to lie. At least, not to more than two people at a time – three’s a crowd. Remember?
Should opinion not be separated from facts? Should any offer of opinion validation in ads or by political pundits not be disclosed with some sort of disclosure as to who supports that organization and what the organization’s political orientation has been? For instance, when one refers to the Heritage Foundation, the CATO Institute, the Club for Growth, or the Public Expenditures Council in Oklahoma, should one not have to disclose who the major donors or class of donors are that support the bias of these groups? Should they not all be labeled as “Republican think tanks supported by business and corporate interests?”
Removal of limits from political donations by the Republican court will bring new money, big money, into play this election. There will now be all kinds of political groups with high-sounding names. There ought to be a law requiring disclosure of supporters. Oops! There would have been a law, but Republicans blocked it in the Senate with a filibuster.
Should pseudo news channels like Fox even be allowed on the air? If so, should they be allowed to use the term “news” to represent what they do? Should they not be prosecuted for ever having used the slogan, “fair and balanced,” for their network? If allowed to broadcast should they not have to register a disclaimer, at least every 15 minutes, reminding viewers that this is not a news program but a presentation of the network owner, staff, and advertiser bias? Should there not be a law requiring them to tell the truth? OK, so this law would force Rush Limbaugh off the air. Great!
We see and hear political pundits representing differing points of view on various networks, and this is all well and good. But should these pundits not be confined to telling the truth? We have seen some of them sit there and tell bald-faced lies, totally in conflict with known truth. Whoever may be trying to debate a liar is at something of a disadvantage. Why should we allow pundits to deliberately state untruths? Should there not be a law?
Well, OK, so we now agree there ought to be some “truth laws” out there. All we have now are libel and defamation, and that is limited civil protection for private individuals, not criminal. But if we had “truth laws,” just how could they be enforced? How about a government commission? Yes, the FCC could do more, but any political board is going to have bias problems.
We need a kind of non-partisan truth commission which operates something like Snopes.com on the Internet, but which is empowered to demand facts and commandeer time on any offending medium to give its findings of verity and force corrections of improper verbalizations made on that network. Such a law would make networks more responsible for self regulation of content they send out to the public.
The public has a right to know the truth. There really ought to be a law.
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Enid, OK and is known, on occasion, to plant his tongue firmly in his cheek.