I’ve been cogitating over the blatant lies in those Romney campaign ads and I finally decided the media are at fault. Not the newscasters, not the pundits, the advertising departments. Back in my day, newspapers accepted responsibility for those propaganda ads; we refused to accept the blatantly false ones. But today anything goes.
If I were in charge of a TV network, for example, I would reject that ad where President Obama appears to say business owners don’t deserve credit for their success because “someone else” built their business. If the president had actually said that, I don’t think he would be out campaigning; I think he would have been committed to an institution for the incurably insane.
You and I know what he actually said. He said that business owners get help along the way, and that the help includes such things as roads and other infrastructure. I wonder why he bothered to say it; to me it’s self evident. Business owners drive to work like everyone else and they certainly did not build the roads they drive on. They already know that. Everybody knows that.
But the sleazy Republican ad writers edited the video to make it say something else entirely.
That’s not the only example. The Romney campaign and his SuperPACs constantly slice and dice videotapes to put words in President Obama’s mouth. And, usually, the recordings end up saying the opposite of what the president actually said.
I keep thinking of Kipling’s words: “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knave s to make a trap for fools…”
Ah, there’s the rub. Those Republican knaves are twisting the president’s words, and there are so many fools listening.
Surely the media has a responsibility to protect the fools from the knaves? Or is there a “free market” in dispensing information as well as in trade?
Back in my day, editors were called “gate keepers.” We tempered free speech with responsibility. To me, that’s the way the Founding Fathers meant the Fourth Estate to function.
Furthermore, there’s a legal penalty for disseminating a libel. Media are liable for any deliberately harmful lies they publish, even if the lies come from someone else.
The Obama campaign meekly lets Romney and his crew get away with a blizzard of libelous lies. And the media take the money and run the ads.
But what about the viewers? Do we have cause for a class action suit? Hey, you lawyers out there, can I sue? After all, I have the right as an American voter to know the truth. Surely, I am the victim of a tort here? Must I be lied to without recourse? Can I sue the TV stations? And the Romney campaign?
Is this a nation of laws or what?