By Jeff Koob
Near the end of the 19th century the U.S. Supreme Court decided that corporations should have all the rights of people. In the latter half of the 20th century, it ruled that monetary contributions to political causes are a form of free speech and, since corporations are people, their investments in political decisions that favor them are covered by the First Amendment. And now in the 21st century, the court has ruled that there are no limits to the “right” of corporations and political action groups to sponsor advocacy advertising.
Thus has the Supreme Court opened the floodgate to an unprecedented barrage of propaganda, paid for by wealthy interest groups. More than ever, political office is up for sale to the highest bidder. To borrow from Orwell, all citizens have free speech, but some now have a lot more than others.
Propaganda aims to persuade, not inform, and one of its primary tactics is to present opinions as facts. That’s precisely what attack ads do. I’ll leave it to someone else to predict what left-wing propagandists may put forth this year, but we’ve already seen the unsubstantiated opinions that the right wing will represent as facts in the presidential campaign:
• Raising taxes on the rich or otherwise leveling the economic playing field is class warfare or envy of the rich.
• President Obama is an abject failure/the worst president ever.
• Obama is a freedom-hating socialist with a hidden agenda. Only the most vehement Obama-haters believe this, but they’ll try to sell the notion that we have to “take back” an America that’s being “lost” under Obama.
• The Republicans could have done a better job getting the economy back on its feet. This is pure conjecture. Obama’s plan seems to have prevented the Great Recession from turning into a second Great Depression; nobody has the facts to prove otherwise.
• Obamacare (sic) is socialized medicine, and therefore bad. In fact, many of the reforms are viewed favorably by a majority, but the propagandists have demonized the whole package as “Obamacare.”
Sad to say, the electoral process is no longer a matter of civil discourse, and the glut of money from corporations and interests groups is largely to blame. The only solution I see is public funding of elections.
Jeff Koob is a longtime supporter of the SC Progressive Network.