Saturday, January 06, 2007

Misleading Deception?

Perhaps you don't believe that the millions spent by so-called "independent expenditure campaigns" for so-called "issue advocacy" ads are not "deceptive," and intentionally so. I do.

Like I said, it usually depends on one's political point of view (and whether one's preferred ox is the one being gored). As for myself, I don't make a distinction between Swift Boat Vets for Truth and or any of the others. They are lying when they say what they are doing is "issue advocacy." While many people are happy to believe in that lie when it suits them, and others (like our courts) like to pretend they believe, I choose not not to participate in this particular suspension of reality.If you do, go for it. Won't change the fact that it remains a lie, though.

Oh, alright. We use deceptive in different ways, I think. I usually think that it means intentionally misleading in terms of its content.

I agree with that. What we don't seem to agree about is that the actual content of these ads is deceptive from beginning to end. We all know what the ad means even though they supposedly don't come right out and say it. That is "deceptive." Those ads are the lie, and the content is an integral part of the lie, I believe.

You seem mainly focused on the fact that these groups are taking advantage of legal loopholes that may not be appropriate for their goals. I think that's right, as far as it goes, but since I oppose McCain-Feingold and other limits on the amount of available political speech, I don't have a huge problem with 527s and other groups finding creative ways around those restrictions.

No, I object to pretending that they are not doing exactly what they are doing: lying on federal forms, presumably under penalty of law, saying that they are not what they quite obviously are. It boggles the mind that we are all so sold on the concept that finding legal loopholes is acceptable behavior that we have lost sight of the fact that we as a society, through our government, are institutionalizing outright deceit, and encouraging the formal filing and acceptance of false statements.

This is what we've come to? Anything and everything is acceptable provided you have sufficient funds to find an obscure legal loophole that allows you to pretend something that any rational mind over the age of 12 recognizes as a complete fabrication? How sad.

It's ok that George Soros publicly promised to spend $15,000,000 of his own money to defeat George Bush, and then did, despite our laws limiting him to $2,000 like the rest of us just because he could spend millions more in legal fees, if needed, to construct an artful edifice of compliance and avoid any potential legal consequences for spending $14,998,000 more than the law allows? (I don't mean to pick on Soros here - I'm sure some GOP fanatic did the same thing.)

I submit that laws that are deliberately not enforced for partisan political reasons, and laws that have no hope of being enforced because they are purposely written to be unenforceable (save against the average American) breed widespread disrespect for all laws and undermine the foundations of our republic.But campaign donation limits are not just an unmitigated joke, they are the the leading edge of an ever-increasing infringement of free speech in all areas of life.

This headlong rush to apply this restriction or that restriction, or a just little more here and a little more there, to make the political arena somehow clean and fair is not a regrettable failure that only requires a bit more fine tuning and regulation, it is an unmitigated disaster that has allowed such frightful violations of free speech as campus speech codes to flourish, and absolutely terrifying concepts as forcible thought control and re-education to become acceptable in some quarters.

What I was talking about when I addressed Simon's comment was the idea that we ought to be allowed to regulate deceptive content in political advertising -- by which I mean deliberate lies. Maybe that's a fine distinction, but I think it is an important one.

Deliberate lies are still actionable in this country, or at least until the "It might as well be true. Because it would have been true if it happened" crowd gains control. Someone lies about you in a campaign? Sue them.

But allow pre-emptive censorship of political campaign ads? Never. Regulate political ads? Who? How? What? When? Do you really want some political (or bureaucratic) hacks deciding what is or is not a lie? What is or is not acceptable? No, thank you. I'd rather have lies than "sanitized for your protection" claptrap approved by nitwits who believe that they are superior to the poor dim-witted and ignorant American masses.

Probably the two greatest gifts contained in the Constitution of the United States are the preamble, "We the people...," and the astonishingly clear, concise, and unequivocal First Amendment. 'Tis a pity that so many are still so frightened by the people and so willing to stand by as their government slowly and quietly strangles their personal freedom in the name of civility, fairness, equality, the children, public safety, or national security (to name just a few that come immediately to mind).

To our eternal shame (undoubtedly, as this trend shows no sign of reversing), we are willingly frittering away our freedom as we engage in Quixotic quests to quell the windmills of our minds.

(Excerpts from exchanges with Marghlar at Althouse. )

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