If you’re like me, you’re already pretty sick of paid political advertising. Right now, it infests every commercial break, it drips from internet banners, and it even spoils front yards as election signs pop up like acne across the face of American.
It is the responsibility of every voting citizen to inform himself or herself about the issues and candidates at hand, but I would argue that in order to do this we also have a responsibility to ignore all forms of paid political advertising.
At their best, these ads are one-sided and useless, red-herrings carefully spun to pander to selected demographics. At their worst, they are deliberately created to engender voter apathy, rampant cynicism, and embarrassing misconceptions.
We can do better, America.
We need to get our information from reliable sources, and preferably from a variety of sources. In this age of direct mailing lists and ranting pundits, people tend to gather all their knowledge from the party they’re already going to vote for. In fact, most people will un-friend someone on Facebook who expresses a different political opinion, which only further isolates our political viewpoint.
This environment makes not for a well-informed public: it creates a breeding-ground for fanaticism and ignorance.
So where do you get your news? I say, watch the debates. Read newspapers and listen to the radio. (Heck, you could even watch your local news, but I wouldn’t trust that clown-parade farther than I could spit a Pulitzer, which is the closest any of the local hacks would ever get to that prize anyway. Still, they’re better than your average blogger like me.)
Wherever you get your news, get it from a variety of sources, then compare viewpoints and reporting angles. Talk to your friends and family, even if—especially if—they have different opinions. Ask them honest questions and be open-minded to their answers. Start the discussion with “Let’s agree that we’re not going to change each other’s minds. I just want to understand your side a bit better.”
Then join with me in cutting out the paid ads. It starts with the mute button on your TV during commercial breaks. It doesn’t matter if the commercial is for a candidate you like or not—silence it. The next step is to toss out all political mailers unread, and modestly avert your eyes from those garish yard signs.
We are America, and we can do better. Doing better means being smarter than the marketers who are trying to sell us our own votes. They can buy our airwaves, but they can’t buy our brainwaves.
Join me in voting smarter; join me in boycotting paid political advertising.