Daily Archives: September 15, 2004

The Utne Reader och alternativa progressiva nyheter

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The Utne Reader är en ypperlig källa för alternativa progressiva nyheter. Tidskriften grundades för 20 år sedan av Eric Utne, och innehåller specialskrivna artiklar men även artiklar från andra tidskrifter om nya trender och ideer.

En av artiklarna handlar t.ex. om lagen har en skyldighet att skydda väljarna från rena lögner som sprids av kandidaterna. Det har varit republikanernas främsta vapen de senaste åren:

Candidates have a legal right to lie to voters just about as much as they want,” writes Brooks Jackson, director of the Annenberg Political Fact Check. There are laws that protect consumers from misleading product pitches, but few laws to protect voters from misleading campaign ads. Miss Cleo, the TV psychic, was fined $5 million and forced to pay $500 million to callers to her telephone psychic service, callers who were under the impression they were getting a “free reading.”

So what happened when 1998 Ohio gubernatorial candidate Bob Taft aired an ad falsely accusing his rival Lee Fisher of “cutting crime-fighting employees by 15%?” The bipartisan Ohio Elections Commission did everything right: they met and made a speedy decision well before the election — they ruled that Bob Taft’s ad was in violation of the state law against false campaign ads. And then they issued their punishment: a letter of reprimand. Taft won the election.

Situations like this occur all over the country, and Jackson reports that it’s because of a combination of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and the Federal Communications Act, which says that if a broadcaster airs one candidate’s ad, it must air the opponent’s ad as well. This means networks are legally bound to air ads, even when the ads contain lies or outrageous content. Jackson provides the appalling example of J.B. Stoner’s 1972 ad in Atlanta, Georgia, which contained free and gleeful uses of racial slurs. The FCC forced Atlanta broadcasters to air the ad.

Does the First Amendment guarantee candidates the right to say whatever they want? Yes, says Brooks Jackson. The Supreme Court ruled in 1971 that “it can hardly be doubted that the constitutional guarantee (of free speech) has its fullest and most urgent application precisely to the conduct of campaigns for political office.” We all agree that freedom of speech is extremely important in America, but, Jackson writes, it has made it very difficult for states to make and enforce laws about campaign ads.