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Hogarth judge

February 2018



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Hogarth judge

On the US Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to buy political ads directly

Denis wrote:
Constitutional law's not my strong suit, yet it's my impression that the decision will permit no such thing. The ban on direct subsidy of a candidate remains in force. What's new is that corporations, including labor unions, will now be permitted to publicly express their views on election issues.

There is no practical difference. If you watch network and local broadcast television, you are familiar with the advertisements deploring some politician's stand on an issue. The punchline is always asking you to contact that politician to express your displeasure. But no one is really fooled, are they?

We will be misgoverned so long as the American people continue to take this sort of thing seriously and do not follow the money. The mass media aren't going to help, either; they're getting paid, after all.

What slim hope exists comes from the history of advertising. When a style becomes too prevalent, it invites satire and misdirected expectations. Sooner or later most people can deconstruct them. All of these smarmy, condescending announcers or nagging motherly voices will eventually create a glut on the market.

It will become necessary for the advertisers to start introducing humor and sleight of hand into the spots. That will represent an improvement, if only an aesthetic one. But if they do that, the advertisers will have a hand in the subversion of their own message. This works fine for selling beer and dish soap. The more status is at stake, though, the harder it is to translate this ad style into an actual spot.