Barack Obama is Muslim. Trust me. I should know. Sound familiar? Similar campaigns were run during the presidential campaign in an attempt to “otherize” the current president by relating him to extremist members of Islam. If this sounds ludicrous, maybe it won’t if one considers the percentage of Americans who still believe this. According to USA Today, in April 2008, the number was 10 percent, with rural Americans nearing 20 percent. Little has been done to dispel this image and thus the falsehood surely still exists.
The recent decision to allow both large corporations and unions to contribute money to campaign advertisements seems like a completely unrelated topic, but in fact, it is not. Campaign promises and speeches are already rife with miscues and untruths, and the involvement of exorbitant amounts of money poses another threat. While most of these are from peripheral interest groups pushing their own candidate, some have turned to the commonly known “mud-slinging” in defamatory attempts to undermine their opponent.
The recent decision on finance reform poses a continued threat in such avenues. The political system, in its overarching two-party system, exhibits this clearly.
Each party embodies a dichotomy of views which attempt to demonize the other side as incorrect. By coupling this with unlimited funds and sharp-tongued groups that hold a financial stake in elections, the proverbial flood gates are in fact opened to special interest.
The goal of special interest groups is to have their goals recognized. Unfortunately, in the large and inclusive political parties that exist, there tends to be conflict among them. Therefore, the issue becomes one of bipartisanship and not exclusively pertinent to the left nor the right (recognize the “McCain” in McCain-Feingold, the bill on financing reform that was struck down by this decision). Assuming that Obama views Americans as “idiots,” as Michael Lauck stated in a Feb. 3 opinion article in the Skiff, is quite the misinterpretation.
The issue is not censorship, but the abuse of a right which has caused such fear-mongering as is exemplified in the first paragraph. The question is not whether free speech should be allowed, but whether such high-profile, influential instruments should be completely unregulated. Obviously everyone doesn’t agree with campaign ads, but when they are utilized as provocative, untrue statements, the real issue begins.
Perhaps the larger issue is the American perception. While the current economic decline certainly puts a damper on all of this, it is not the government’s fault by any means.
Posing an argument about environmental conservatism and involvement in the economy as an ideological preference is certainly incorrect. Neither of these are negative concepts, for these initiatives have only been for sustaining growth and protection of resources. On the other hand, the author does correctly state that special interest groups are already pervasive in Washington.
Then why permit their expansion further into the public sphere? The ruling by the Supreme Court does support efforts to retain free speech. However, the average consumer needs to be extremely careful in understanding the sources of their information. Free speech does not indicate true speech. Therefore, be wary of who is sponsoring these ads, for Americans are not idiots, and we can prove it.
Matt Boaz is a senior political science major from Edmond, Okla.