Friday, August 8, 2008

…And I approved this message.

You’ll be hearing that a lot in this presidential election season. The candidates say it for the ads prepared by his or her campaigns. Essentially, it helps differentiate a candidate from ads fronted by 527 groups, which usually have their own agenda and backers with deep pockets to fund them.

527 groups, named after a section of US tax code, are tax-exempt organizations created to influence a nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates for public office. And some of them can get downright nasty in their political statements, probably because they can say pretty much whatever they want about whomever they want, often hiding behind a group name, like, rather than a face. In many cases, they sometimes use controversial imagery to get their point across.

And while it’s good for people to have a venue to relay their political leanings and ideologies, sometimes these 527 ads can seem to go overboard. One recent example was the ad that put in the New York Times last year challenging the integrity of Gen. David H. Petraeus's, and played off his name with this question in large letters: "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" In my opinion, this anti-war attack did little to actually affect the opinions of the American people on the war (which was already bad); it only served to slur one person. To me, it may have been more effective had their ad focused on putting more pressure on Congress as a whole to put a quicker end to the war.

So while I have no problem with the existence of 527 groups, I am not looking forward to the mud and slime that will be coming out of them in the upcoming presidential election season. I would be much less inclined to tune out their messages if they stated clear, supported facts, rather than their attempts to play on people’s emotions. In fact, sometimes ads playing on a person’s emotions usually have the opposite effect on me, because they seem more transparent in their motives than those that are based on fact.

So here’s one blogger that won’t donate to any 527 group. I haven’t found yet that doesn’t lean too far to the extreme. But they still do serve a purpose by helping people to think – and sad to say, sometimes a negative ad will do that.

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