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Dishonest ads should put you on guard

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Like many people my age, I established my basic political preferences via various news forms and dinner table discussions. The political advertisements that spring up during campaign season further influence my political leanings.

While it’s no news that political advertisements flaunt staggering statistics and shocking facts to capture the audience’s attention, this year’s advertisements contain excessive exaggeration and downright misinformation.

As an onlooker to the decadence of political advertising, I cannot help but wonder how much of our political preferences might be based on partisan prejudice. Furthermore, it’s important to consider the implications that dirty advertisements have for younger, more impressionable voters.

While political advertisements can be engaging, I began questioning their validity after a recent exposure to skewed facts.

A pro-Barack Obama PAC released an online advertisement insinuating that Republican candidate Mitt Romney was responsible for a cancer patient’s death. The deceased’s husband, Joe Soptic, appears in the advertisement, blaming Romney for his job loss and a resulting inability to afford the healthcare needed to prevent his wife’s cancer-related death.

Over an appropriately somber soundtrack, Soptic shares: “When Mitt Romney closed the plant, I lost my healthcare, and my family lost their healthcare....” In actuality, Romney was no longer involved in the business when Soptic lost his job and health insurance, and his wife had retained her own healthcare insurance for some years thereafter.

Soptic’s job loss was unrelated to his wife’s eventual loss of her own separate health insurance, and certainly none of their medical misfortune was related to Romney.
Although the Soptic advertisement was particularly questionable, I can’t say I’m surprised. The pro-Obama PAC stooped pretty low, but perhaps it was in retaliation to some equally mucky Republican advertisements.

One example lies in the Romney campaign’s airing a factually inaccurate “welfare ad,” which accused Obama of rescinding the employment requirements to receive welfare. This advertisement was designed to infuriate taxpayers by implying that Obama allows states to haphazardly dole out welfare checks to the undeserving.
In actuality, Obama merely allowed states to apply for exceptions to welfare reform rules in order to test run “demonstration projects” aimed at getting people on employment rolls.

Unfortunately, both campaigns have ensured that their twisted messages are virtually inescapable. Surely, I’m not the only one who feels frustrated when I’m forced to sit through 30 seconds of political slander before watching a YouTube video. Yet, the time taken to air the advertisement may not be in vain. These advertisements are designed to be effective whether we are consciously registering them or not.

Political advertisements seem much less credible this season, and I’ve decided not to succumb to their political pathos. But I believe that, if aired repeatedly, they are bound to make most people think there must be some truth in them.

As for impressionable young minds, dishonest campaign advertisements have tainted our view of the entire political system, perhaps irreversibly. This loss of respect for the process itself is probably the most serious side effect.

Thus, it is imperative that we uncover the raw facts via research, instead of allowing manipulative mudslinging to skew our political perception. After all, every vote counts, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that we are voting on truth.