Before I jump into this month’s article, I just want to talk about an interesting comment I heard on the radio the other day regarding President Obama ordering the raid which killed Osama Bin Laden.  In certain right-wing circles people are criticizing both the media and president himself;  the media for giving Obama too much credit and Obama himself for taking too much credit.  We all know about this, there are plenty of conservatives out there that will never, ever give a Democrat credit for anything.  Well, the radio commentator threw a little devil’s advocate out there – what if the raid was a failure, both helicopters crashed, a few dozen Americans got killed and Bin Laden got away, who would get the blame?  No doubt in my mind that every last Republican out there would be calling for impeachment for such a bad decision by Obama if that had happened.

One way or the other, people.  You can’t have it both ways.  “The buck stops here” also means that the person at the top gets some credit when things go right, not just gets the blame when things go wrong.

Ok, on to your regularly scheduled dose of liberal-leaning anti-corporatist hate…

I want to set up a little imaginary scenario for you.  Picture your child, in 4th grade.  I know not all of you have kids, but try to play along.  Well your child’s school is having elections for class representative to the student committee.  It’s a pretty big deal to the kids and each class ends up with two children who run off against each other election style for who gets voted representative.  Your child is one of the two, and part of their “campaign” is making some election posters to put up around the school.  You spend a lot of time helping your kid on the computer making up a few really nice posters and researching an issue or two that they can run on.  You go in to school to help your child put up the posters and watch the debate against the other candidate and the first thing you notice … the other candidate has some amazingly high-quality posters!  They’re glossy, full of color.  Clearly professionally done, and probably very expensive.  There’s a tiny disclaimer in one bottom corner of each poster:  “This poster was paid for by the 5th grade volleyball team.”

You’re stunned.  These posters are up all over the place, dozens of them.  You wonder just how something like this can happen, and make your way to your child’s classroom to watch the debate.  The debate is more or less a tie, but your school lets other kids speak on behalf of whoever they want.  Dozens of other children get up and spread blatant lies about your kid;  “I saw Chris kick a dog.”   “I saw Chris cheat on a test!”  Your child tries denounce these lies, but is told by the teacher that they had their time to speak.  Of course, after all that, your kid loses the election and doesn’t get to be class representative.

That sounds … wrong.  Far-fetched.  Un-American.  You try to argue, but you’re told that everything went according to the rules.

It’s also pretty close to what can happen here in the USA, thanks to the way elections work and 2 key rulings, one of them by the Supreme Court.

Back in January of 2010 the Supreme Court decided in “Citizens United v Federal Election Commission” that there can be no caps on the amount of corporate money spent on political advertising.  That means if Rupert Murdoch or Michael Moore wanted to go and spent millions against their obvious targets, they could.  Heck, if they had the money to blow they could spend billions, and none of it would be subject to campaign finance rules.  The only provision?  There has to be a disclaimer.  Of course, you could get the fast-talk guy from the Micro Machines commercials to read a paragraph of disclaimer in 2 seconds at the end of the commercial so the average Joe doesn’t even process it.

There was another, lesser-known court case in the Florida Court of Appeals back in 2003 that can directly affect the political atmosphere in this country.  News organizations don’t have to tell the truth.  In fact, in that case the Florida Court of Appeals said that, specifically, Fox News (and by extension all news organizations) has a first amendment right to lie.  Yup, that bastion of “fair and balanced” actually fought a case to appeals court saying they can lie if they want.  As the article says, I don’t know of any other news organization that has done this so matter-of-factly.

No combine those two things … you have a first amendment right to lie, even if you’re a news organization, and corporations can spend as much money as they want as long as there is a tiny disclaimer.  We’ve already seen something similar – remember the 2004 presidential campaign “swiftboating“?  Essentially a group of Viet Nam war vets, some who never even served with John Kerry, said he was a horrible commander, his military honors were vastly overstate, and a few even went as far as saying the Navy’s records didn’t tell the truth.  There was a lot of media attention on that, but the ads still ran.  Remember how close that election was?  The Supreme Court decided it, and literally a few thousand votes could have made John Kerry president.  What if it was a few thousand people who voted for Dubya who saw those ads but didn’t see any media coverage of how they were practically lies?  That’s right, a group of corporate funded people -most of whom barely knew John Kerry and some of whom lied- decided a US election.

It’s time we take our politics back.  Every citizen has a vote already, why do giant corporations making billions in profit and sometimes not paying back any in taxes get such a strong voice?  According to US law now the Russian megacorp Gazprom or some Dubai casino could spend a billion dollars on a series of political television commercials and not even tell the truth.  Do we really want the USA standing for corporate control over the individual voice?


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Zarberg is a member of The Political Observers, a sub-group of our writers who are devoted to topics that are political in nature. Zarberg provides a liberal viewpoint in his articles.

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