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Copyright: ©2008 James J. Jackson
GOVERNMENT CENSORSHIP: SCARIER THAN HALLOWEEN
By: James J. Jackson
In this Halloween season, the scariest costume may be the face of government censorship. Members of a local newspaper community opinion panel were asked to respond to the question, “What, if anything, should be done to make sure political advertisements are truthful?” This question reflects a dangerous trend that is permeating all areas of society, and may threaten our very Constitution.
The question explores whether we need a (government) entity to fact-check and monitor the truthfulness of political ads. I believe the Constitution protects virtually legal all speech, including untrue speech. The government is not able to either discern truth or efficiently define it.
At a time when we, as a society, have largely bought into the belief that there are no absolutes, and that each of us defines our own version of ‘truth’, how do we then choose someone to apply their version to political ads? Human nature renders us nearly incapable of setting aside our personal biases and agendas to apply true fairness to such a task.
What standards do we set for such censorship? Do we apply some ‘minimal truth level’, whereby the ad is considered acceptable if it can be proven to contain 20% truth; or 50%; or must it attain the level of being 100% factual to be accepted for broadcast? Will the ‘truth detectors’ have to pass some kind of test; a polygraph, for instance, to prove that they are fair and unbiased to the nth degree? Will they be required to somehow prove that they are completely independent, with no leaning toward any particular party or belief system?
It is absurd, of course, to believe that such people exist. King Solomon, was, “… given a wise and discerning heart, and there has never have been anyone as wise as you, nor will there ever be”. He would probably even hesitate to take on this ‘no win’ task of deciding whose speech should be protected, and whose should be banned.
We are being persuaded to look to the government for answers to all of our problems, but, more often than not, government is the problem. Government cannot make up for our intellectual laziness, which causes us to refuse to do research for ourselves. At one time in our history, it was virtually impossible to determine whether a politician was being truthful or not.
Today, we have the Internet, which gives us almost instant access to many points of view, and many sites which will check the facts for us and let us know what is false and what is true. It is the voter’s responsibility to sort through the claims and counter-claims and determine where the truth resides. If a candidate is found to be untruthful, it is the voter’s responsibility to vote accordingly. Sadly, today we operate in a ‘pack’ mentality, where it is easier to follow the crowd than to take the time and effort to find out who is truthful and who is not. If we fail to do diligence before voting, we deserve the result. Think for yourself, then act accordingly.
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