Blatant lies in political ads

Rachel Maddow’s Blog brings up an interesting point, in light of recent Romney statements (including an attack ad) that, using the most charitable interpretation, misrepresent the truth entirely. What can be done about these ads? Is this defamation? I have to think that actual malice is pretty easily shown here. One of these ads (the early voting one) is pretty much the exact opposite of the truth. This can also be compared to what Harry Reid has been doing regarding Romney’s taxes. I have to think he’s showing some reckless disregard as to the truth…although it’s entirely possible that the truth is his defense, seeing as the Romney camp is completely disinterested in proving him wrong.

I was really disheartened to see the story about the welfare ad aired on CBS news this morning as if each candidate had a legitimate viewpoint, rather than actually exposing the lies as they are. I find today’s political climate wholly depressing if candidates can get away with this kind of behavior. If anyone can just go on TV, make stuff up, and have mainstream media present it as fact, is our system beyond repair?

The two cases are not equivalent. Reid may or may not be telling the truth about his source, and his source may or may not have told the truth to him (or may have been honestly mistaken*). The Romney ad, on the other hand, is simply a flat-out falsehood, either a deliberate lie or a statement made with reckless disregard for truth.

*The premise that Romney’s old cronies at Bain Capital would have heard about Romney’s tax situation has the ring of truth – guys in the boardroom probably brag about finding loopholes the way guys in the locker room brag about having a threesome with the head cheerleader and the homecoming queen. The question is whether the story heard by Reid’s informant was mere “Dear Financial Times: I Never Thought This Would Happen To Me…” bluster.

To put it simply - Your System is Broken

I live in Singapore - here, the media environment is rather oppressive to say the least.

BUT - when I look at what passes for commentary in the states I actually think the Singapore govt has a pretty damn good philosophy.

Something needs to be done about the utter stupidity and disregard for the truth that happens in American politics.

Highly unlikely.

One good thing is that the mainstream media don’t just sit there and repeat bullshit as facts. Example.

Not sure how many Pinocchios Romney deserves for his latest ad, but four sounds about right there as well.

This is a case that saw New Zealand dealing with such matters - yeah, the law and history is a bit different. But in this case the rights of comment against public figures were curtailed a little. I seem to remember another case that was taken against The Listener, but I can’t be arsed searching for it…

So? Can commentary, etc., in Singapore media be trusted as truthful?

Depends upon who you talk to, and your definition of truthful.

What you can be sure of, no outright lies are printed.

On the other hand, they are pretty bad at investigating and are often just reprinting official statements without verification (not that they are able to verify as they is no access to official information other than what the govt wants to give them)

John Mace, you don’t think actual malice can be shown there? I think making a false statement in order to try to take someone else’s job from them is the definition of actual malice.

No, but if you can find a precedent in case law, that would be persuasive. Surely you don’t believe that “lying” in political ads was invented this year, do you? There should be hundreds of cases successfully made if you are correct.

I honestly can’t think of a lie that’s been told in past elections as demonstrably false as the early voting in Ohio issue. Swiftboating comes close, but I don’t think that hits the same level of falsehood (it’s certainly not as easily proven), nor do I think it reaches the same level of malice, as it wasn’t the candidate himself speaking the lies. I also think that the rumored South Carolina push-polling about McCain’s “illegitimate black child” in 2000 could potentially have reached that level, but I’m not sure if it has even been proven that actually occurred. Can you think of a case where a candidate has made a point of stating the exact opposite of the truth over and over again, as it is in the case of the attempted Ohio early voting expansion? I cannot.

There’s also the issue as to whether the negative publicity involved in bringing such a suit would be worth it for the candidate in question. For example, McCain wouldn’t have done anything about the abhorrent alleged push-poll back in 2000, as it was intra-party and he likely did not want to alienate those who now controlled the party.

I’m curious about the ads where incumbents are using language to give the impression that their opponents are incumbents; do they fall afoul of any laws? Should they?

GOP freshmen run away from incumbency

Having Utterly Failed In Congress, GOP Freshmen Are Now Trying To Deny They’re Incumbents

So now we are obliged to define “actual malice” in campaign ads, as opposed to classical sleaze?

It’s too complicated for me. I’m gonna hole up someplace without media access for the next few months.

“Barak Obama destroyed the moon.” —Mitt Romney

Per Politifact

Barack Obama - 46% True or Mostly True; 17% False or Pants on Fire

Mitt Romney 30% True or Mostly True; 27% False or Pants on Fire

Democratic National Committee - 38% True or Mostly True; 7% False or Pants on Fire (No Pants on Fire)

Republican National Committee - 25% True or Mostly True; 25% False or Pants on Fire

The system has been broken for some time and blatantly-false negative ads are nothing new.

-This post brought to you by The Swiftboat Veterans of American and Willie Horton.

Here is an explanation of malice as it applies to public figures. For Romney or Obama to sue the other he would have to prove the other knew the statement was false or made it with reckless disregard for the truth. That one’s very difficult to prove to start with. But looking further at the court ruling in *New York Times v Sullivan * you will see that there is a distaste in the court for anything that would stifle strong advocacy in political speech.

Did ya hear the one about Helen Gahagan Douglas being a 'Pink Lady" soft on communism?

Of course, that just isn’t always true (especially if you want to count FOX as part of the Lamestream media). It’s a depressing fact that far too much of political “reporting” has devolved from actual investigative reporting into he-said she-said. I’m left to wonder – who, beyond those typically slandered as “left-wing”, will address the falsehoods in this ad? Probably no-one.

But you know what pisses me off the most? Corporations trying to sell a product? They aren’t allowed to lie. They will get hit for it hard. There’s something wrong with our system when Nutella dropping in a line like “This is a healthy start to the day” in their ads will cost them millions in a lawsuit, but Romney flat-out lying about the president’s record on Welfare is A-OK.

I’m not sure what the point of complaining about this is, given that neither side is even trying to be truthful. Just do your best to sift through it all, with the fact checking sites as a good guide, and you’ll be fine. If you demand truth out of your candidates, then the only choice is Gary Johnson.