Written by Ozaukee Press
Wednesday, 07 December 2011 17:31
Multiple elections of national importance condemn Wisconsin residents to an assault by political commercials; responsible voters will do their own research
The worst snow and cold in America during the winter of 2011-12 is predicted to be in Wisconsin and its neighbor states, but that’s not the most depressing forecast facing Wisconsin residents. That distinction goes to the prognostication that television stations in the state will broadcast more than $100 million worth of election ads this winter and spring. The average viewer is expected to be exposed to thousands of political campaign commercials.
The confluence of five important elections—for an open U.S. Senate seat, a presidential primary, two high-profile races for the House of Representatives and, assuming enough recall signatures are collected, for governor—accounts for this dire prediction.
Money to influence these elections will come not just from the contending candidates and political parties but, in far greater amounts, from outside groups with a stake in the voting results. It will flow largely unrestricted, thanks to a quirk in Wisconsin law that allows unlimited spending on recall elections for a period of time and the unfortunate U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year that voided most restrictions on spending for political advertising by corporations.
The fundamental reason for this wretched excess, though, is that it works. Election ads influence people to vote for or, more likely, against candidates, since this sort of advertising is overwhelmingly negative.
Campaign gurus have the data to prove it. Some can draw a direct correlation between money spent and votes acquired.
These are not comforting thoughts about the American way of electing people to serve in the three branches of government. For it is a way that gives candidates with financially powerful backers an advantage regardless of their worthiness for office. Worse, it garners votes for candidates by misleading voters.
TV political commercials are not meant to convey information. They are designed to influence viewers in ways as clever and sophisticated as those used in the most effective consumer product commercials, but with less regard for the truth and with messages that distort facts, mislead and deceive, if not outright lie.
Television is the preferred medium because sound bites don’t translate well to print. People read newspapers to acquire information. They want the context, the details, the background, all of which are inimical to a typical sound-bite ad.
A commercial broadcast in November on behalf of presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a classic of the manipulated sound-bite genre. (Readers parsing this editorial for political bias can relax; we believe Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals and the organizations that support them with campaign advertising are equally guilty. The Romney commercial is merely the most egregious recent example we can find.)
The commercial, using a snippet of news footage from the last presidential campaign, shows Barack Obama saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” The impression, driven home by a narrator, is that he is referring to the upcoming presidential election. The truth is that Obama was quoting the words of an official of the campaign of his 2008 opponent, John McCain. The news video makes that clear, but not when words are taken out of context with intent to deceive. Politifact, a non-partisan campaign watchdog, called the commercial “ridiculously misleading.”
It’s probably safe to say some of the commercials beamed into Wisconsin homes over the next few months will exceed the Romney ad’s distortions.
It’s bad enough that the airways will be full of this dreck. Infinitely worse is the likelihood that some voters will actually be making decisions about whom to vote for based on these commercials.
Suffice it to say the duties of citizenship require a bit more work than that.
Written by Ozaukee Press
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 17:37
For those who still don’t know where in the wild and woolly Midwest Wisconsin is located, here’s a clue: It’s in the midst of sports euphoria
When you consider big-time sports in America, it’s best not to be too rational. It’s not a subject that lends itself to common sense.
How do you make sense of the fact that the biggest sports stadiums in the country are owned by public, taxpayer-supported institutions founded to pursue higher learning?
Every man, woman and child who lives in Ozaukee County could fit in the University of Michigan’s stadium and there would still be 25,000 empty seats.
Beaver Stadium, the second largest in the U.S., where the Penn State football team plays, is slightly smaller than Michigan’s 110,000-capacity arena, but it would still hold
almost 10 times the population of Port Washington.
These facilities are for games played by students at the universities, right? Technically, yes. But then consider Russell Wilson, the stellar quarterback who plays for the
Wisconsin in Camp Randall stadium (80,000 capacity).
A student in name only who perhaps attends a graduate class or two, he came to Madison as a graduate of North Carolina State University, after having played not only for
that school’s football team, but as a professional baseball player in the Colorado Rockies organization. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has blessed this
college version of free agency as perfectly acceptable.
The NCAA definitely did not bless the pay-for-play shenanigans at Ohio State that cost the head coach his job earlier this year. The new coach hired Monday to take over
the scandal-plagued program will be paid $4 million for his first year.
Don’t try to apply common standards of rationality to professional sports either. Even a public inured to seven or eight-figure salaries for run-of-the-mill jocks could be taken
aback by Prince Fielder’s coming foray into free agency. Here’s a first baseman, currently of the Milwaukee Brewers, who became a star playing for a team that this year
contended for a World Series berth, whose fans adore him, whose management wants to pay him an astonishing amount of money to stay in Milwaukee, but who will likely
be moving on because the $20 million a year the Brewers offered him is not enough.
Or how about some sports irrationality on a tiny scale? Try to make sense of the fact that people who buy something in, say, the Village of Belgium, which receives
approximately zero economic benefit from the Milwaukee Brewers, have to pay a sales tax to help pay for the baseball team’s stadium, which is owned by a private
It’s better to be emotional, rather than rational, about sports. That way all of its excesses seem like a small price to pay for terrific entertainment without which life would
surely be duller. Especially in Wisconsin.
Let’s just say it: Wisconsin is America’s capital of sports excellence.
It’s not just winning games. It’s winning with class and style, often David vs. Goliath style.
The Brewers, playing in one of the smallest markets in baseball, nearly win the National League championship and have the league’s most valuable player in Ryan Braun.
The University of Wisconsin football team, part of a big-time college sports program, of course, but one that has not been shamed by the scandals that have sullied other
major universities (getting Russell Wilson was smart, not scandalous), gets to play this Saturday for the Big Ten championship.
And the Packers. What to say about the Green Bay Packers, playing in the smallest city in the NFL, owned by the public, Super Bowl winners, the only undefeated team in
Maybe the team said all that needs to be said with its Thanksgiving Day spanking of the Detroit Lions. While the Lions carried on like thugs and punks, the Packers acted
like smart, disciplined, fair-playing, not to mention superb, athletes.
What accounts for Wisconsin’s sports superiority? Midwest values? Work ethic? Cheese? We’re pretty sure it’s not the last, though the “cheesehead” perception seems to
endure among some TV announcers.
Wisconsin has always had a problem getting the respect it’s due. There’s a funny scene in the play “Lombardi” in which Marie Lombardi pulls out an atlas after her
husband tells her he’s been offered a job as the Packers’ coach. There probably still are sports fans who, like Mrs. Lombardi back then, are fuzzy about where in the world
Wisconsin is located.
That’s OK. If they knew they might want to move here and get in on the fun of being Wisconsin sports fans. Sorry, our stadiums are full.