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October 30, 2006

Comments

Mallaby and other columnists in major newspapers have their own public role, and it has its own responsibilities.

Does it? Seriously. I realize we're told this all the time (mostly by newspapers themselves). But I'd say the only responsibility to which newspapers will consistently respond over time is the responsibility to make their owners money. And usually that conflicts with their purported other responsiblities.

That doesn't mean that things can never be better than they are now, but I do think it's unlikely that big corporate profit-driven papers will ever be better than they are now. What would help is other models for gathering and distributing information.

Jon S: But I'd say the only responsibility to which newspapers will consistently respond over time is the responsibility to make their owners money. And usually that conflicts with their purported other responsiblities.

Which is one reason why the Guardian/the Manchester Guardian has an excellent reputation (within the UK, at least) for honesty and public responsibility: it's owned by the Scott Trust, and has been since 1936.

The sentence that jumped out for me was:

"There are powerful reasons trust tends to decline and accountability advances."

As if trust is to accountability as matter is to anti-matter--they can't occupy the same space at the same time. As if accountability were the opposite of trust, rather than an important precondition of trust. As if trust must by definition be blind. And deaf. And unable to tie its own shoelaces.

Jon: But I'd say the only responsibility to which newspapers will consistently respond over time is the responsibility to make their owners money.

To which they will, or to which they ought?

Jes: Which is one reason why the Guardian/the Manchester Guardian has an excellent reputation (within the UK, at least) for honesty and public responsibility

But not for speeling.

Has someone done a survey of political advertising and shown that most of the negative ones are Republicans'? I can't say I've paid a ton of attention to the ads, but my limited experience has been that I see negativity launched in both directions. Granted, neither side near me has approached the level of "Democrats want to abort black babies" or the bimbo ad or what-have-you, but it's not as if all I see is Republicans painting the Democrats bad while the Democrats talk positive on themselves.

So I'm wondering if there's been some kind of study done on this that I'm not aware of, or if it's just perception competition.

Knot,

There are two kinds of negative ads - some are just tough, so-and-so supports this, voted against that, said a third thing. That's all fair game. The other kind might best be described as fallaciously ad hominem. The first set of ads are probably used fairly evenly by both parties. Can anyone come up with a Dem example of purely nasty, non-issue based personal ad?

Knot, I'm sure nothing has been done like that because the definition of 'negative' in relation to ads is impossible to define.

I like the 'vote or die' spot :)

We have elections too in november, but our ads and campaigns on the whole are rather boring. The most negative one is an animation where our labour leaders 'angels' (three female politicians from his party), like charlie's angels, save old people's homes when our premier cut's back on their budget and gives the money to president Bush.

I like the spot from 'green/left' best (though I won't vote for them). The sign's are party program points (like "we DO respect creation" for the kissing couple, and "hands off our homosexuals" on the cop's sign).

But the election atmosphere here is very different. Since there are more parties there are online 'voter help applications' where you can click on what's important for you and can read in the results which party is closest to your opinions.

I am rather convincingly a liberal democrat (have been for years) but some of the major candidates got recommendations for other parties than their own, which is kind of funny.

Can anyone come up with a Dem example of purely nasty, non-issue based personal ad?

sure!

Fread Head is going after his opponent because she wrote a "racy" romance novel. more fun, here.

s/Fread/Fred/

Fred is running for state comptroller. I'm sure there's a dogcatcher running negative ads somewhere, but it doesn't relate too strongly to the national parties.

Fred is running for state comptroller.

warning: goalposts must not be moved while the game is in progress.

Mallaby didn't think hard enough about what he was writing...

I'll vote for this explanation, although I think the real point is that he is thinking harder about how to sell a point of view in the current short news cycle as opposed to having a clear consistent point of view over time.

I don't think Mallaby spends much time worrying about the public trust in media writing. I am a convert to the view that so much of big media is more about selling a point of view in the current news cycle rather than having a consistent or reasonably defensible one over the long term. They just want your attention and assume they can get it more readily with the best drivel of the moment. This assumes that most media consumers have short attention spans and no competing options to point out the baloney.

That assumption may have been true for a long time, but much of big media seems behind the curve on the power of the Internet to dredge up their old baloney, and also the ability of Internet media to refute the new baloney in real time.

Mallaby -- an old dog not learning new tricks.

cleek: I stand by my statement that "the worst ads are overwhelmingly Republican". Head seems like an idiot, and his ads are way dumb, but: not only is he running for a comparatively minor office, but his ads are not nearly as bad as they get, since he actually provides the "evidence" that allows us to judge whether his opponent is a pornographer. (I opt for no.)

The worst ones, to me, are those that bear no relation to the truth. The sex call ad, the 'Sherrod Brown didn't pay his taxes for 13 years' ad (when in fact the state had failed to record his payment for over 12 of those years), the one about how someone wants to establish a Department of Peace, the one about how whoever it is is supported by NAMBLA. Some of those are flat-out lies; some are just utterly disingenuous and designed to mislead (which becomes especially clear when you consider that most of these were not taken down when the evidence that they were lies was presented -- hard-to-question evidence like the State of Ohio's paperwork on Sherrod Brown's tax claim.)

I have no doubt that some Democrats, somewhere, have run some horrible or stupid ads. Head is clearly one of them. But absent evidence of anything that compares to the GOP's efforts, I'll stick with my claim that the worst ads are overwhelmingly (not 100%, but overwhelmingly) Republican.

I should also say: of course I'm against Democrats who do this. It's bipartisanly bad.

It's interesting, (at least to me) Chris Wallace was interviewing Harold Ford and mentioned the '15 percent lie', which refers to polling anamoly of black candidates getting 15% more support in polls then what they actually get on election day, which I knew, but I thought when Wallace first said it that there was some rule that it was ok to lie about 15% of your opponent's positions.

but his ads are not nearly as bad as they get, since he actually provides the "evidence" that allows us to judge whether his opponent is a pornographer

Pooh asked for an example, and I provided one. maybe it's a slightly lighter shade of really dark gray, when compared to the absolute worst we've seen so far this year. but it's still nasty and irrelevant to the 'issues'.

and, i don't know what it would take to convince me that i wouldn't see Head's name in the list of Bad Republican Ads, if Head was a Repbulican.

I'll stick with my claim that the worst ads are overwhelmingly (not 100%, but overwhelmingly) Republican

and i'll agree with you (and your qualifiers).

It's a small sample size...but here in Minnesota CD2 3-term Republican John Kline is running against former FBI agent/politcal neophyte Colleen Rowley. Every day for the past week I have arrived home to find in the mail slick, colorful ads telling me all the horrible things Rowley has said or will do if elected.

For example: Saturday's mailing was a huge piece titled "Rowley has called a Marine a Nazi". What happened is back in February a volunteer staffer posted on her website a photoshop of Kline, a former Marine, as Col. Klink from Hogan's Heroes. The picture was quickly removed.

Again just one CD out of 435 but an example of an incumbent Republican (currently up by 8% in polls) using negative ads.


I should also say: of course I'm against Democrats who do this. It's bipartisanly bad.

We had a thread earlier about "faux evenhandedness" - this is the real thing: it is true that running on a platform of lies about your political opponent is bad whichever party does it, and it is also true that it's mostly Republicans who do it in current US politics.

But, thinking also about what Hilzoy said in Just A Note, it's not because Republicans are especially wicked, nor is it just because their party is especially weak right now.

Running a negative ad about your opponent which is nothing but a lie, and a lie easily proven to be a lie (that is, not only is it not true, but it can be proven that the person who told the lie knew it wasn't true) can become part of the media story about you, not about your opponent. "John Kline is so desperate not to lose he claimed Rowley called a Marine a Nazi". "George W. Bush is so desperate to win he claimed John McCain had a mixed-race illegitimate daughter". "Bush/Cheney so desperate not to lose they claim Kerry's war record is a lie".

This doesn't seem to happen - certainly not on the widespread mass media scale that it would need to happen on - and never (as far as I can see) when it's Republicans running the lying attack ads. The Bush/Cheney campaign's strong links with the Swift Boat Liars were easily verifiable, and the Swift Boat Vets stories were easily-debunked lies. If the MSM had been fulfilling their watchdog role, this ought to have been a campaign catastrophe for the Republican Party - in a time of war, a President with a dubious service record, campaigning as a "war President", has a series of campaign ads mocking and lying about his opponent's excellent service record. Yet somehow, the RNC got away with it - even to the extent that they could distribute Purple Heart bandaids at the RNC in New York and not be subject to mass villification from the media, with photographs of the recently wounded veterans the RNC publicly mocked.

One reason, I think, for the preponderance of Republican lying attack ads is that Republican politicians are by now convinced that the media will let them get away with anything without making it part of their story.

Whereas Democratic politicians are, mostly, still and rightly warier: if they run attack stories about Republican politicians, they need to have them based on facts. (Of course, it helps that there are so many nasty facts about the Republicans floating about.)

Someone (I think it was OCSteve, but I'm not about to go back and check) said that the media didn't have to have a watchdog function. I think it does, though, and this is just one of the reasons why it does.

But I'd say the only responsibility to which newspapers will consistently respond over time is the responsibility to make their owners money.

If the only responsibility the media holds is to make its owners money, then why are the rights of the press written into the constitution? Why would it receive special mention if it were just another business?

Amanda, Jon S said that this was the only responsibility they would respond to, not the only one they had.

I swear I posted a comment earlier.

lj (and Jon), I misread -- I'm not without my faults :) My apologies.

Amanda,

Freedom of the press refers to the printing press, not the media. The first amendment protects the right of all of us, whether newspapers, magazines, TV, blogs, etc., to print what we wish without being censored by the government.

Or, at least, it did prior to McCain-Feingold.

Andrew:

Freedom of the press refers to the printing press, not the media. The first amendment protects the right of all of us, whether newspapers, magazines, TV, blogs, etc., to print what we wish without being censored by the government.

Or, at least, it did prior to McCain-Feingold.

Care to explain how it is that McCain-Feingold prevents any of us in any way, whether in newspapers, magazines, TV, blogs, etc. from printing what we wish without being censored by the government?

Or, at least, it did prior to McCain-Feingold.

And now... what? Now you, or I, or amanda, are legally barred from from printing what we wish?

I don'tunderstand the anger over Feingold-McCain, because I don't understand how limiting a political campaign from being able to raise as much money as it possibly can from whatever sources it possibly can is a limit on its First Amendment rights.

Nor do I understand how limiting personal contributions to a specific campaign to $2000 limits one's freedom to express one's political, social, philosophical, etc. views.

Can someone give a personal testimoney about the chilling effects of McCain Feingold? What political point of view have you been unable to express since McCain Feingold passed?

Hm. I guess that's more of an issue on the right. Interesting.

Wikipedia review.

Text of McCain-Feingold (PDF).

Per the law, 'issue ads' are banned within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary. This means any communication that does not directly endorse a candidate. For now, the FEC has decided that the law does not apply to blogging, but having decided that it does not, the FEC has also established that it believes it does have the power to apply the rules to bloggers, something I consider a dangerous precedent.

I have not personally been prevented from expressing my viewpoints by the law, but that is because a) I'm going to do so regardless of what the law says and b) I'm too small to be noticed. But to suggest that McCain-Feingold does not restrict speech is, to be charitable, an interesting reading of the law.

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