Taking the

In this update: 1. Smears take center stage in state legislative races 2. Media commentary counters negative attacks 3. MUM’s the word on lies, bigotry and TV ads Taking the "R" out of Free Speech

Email date: 10/22/08

In this update:
1. Smears take center stage in state legislative races
2. Media commentary counters negative attacks
3. MUM’s the word on lies, bigotry and TV ads

A dizzying array of wholesome-sounding groups are filling mailboxes and flooding the airwaves with campaign messages that play fast and loose with the truth and often seek to inflame voters’ darker instincts.

One such message accuses state legislative candidates of supporting "free health care for illegal aliens." That message and variants on the theme are being peddled around the state by established smear groups such as the Michigan-based All Children Matter and the Virginia-based Coalition for America’s Families as well as a newcomer to the scene, the Wisconsin Institute for Leadership.

Representatives of minority communities are beginning to speak out against the offensive nature of the advertising, and some candidates who are targets of the attacks have called on TV stations to pull the ads from the air. Stations are steadfastly refusing to do so, with one station manager rubbing salt in the wound by saying, "we’d certainly give them equal opportunity to purchase an ad."

There used to be a Fairness Doctrine. Now there’s a steep price to pay if you want balanced and fair treatment of controversial issues. One more way the "r" has been removed from free speech.

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The Democracy Campaign’s director wrote a commentary on the subject of all the smear campaigns that appeared in state newspapers like the Janesville Gazette, Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Wausau Daily Herald and Small Business Times.

More and more newspapers are editorializing on the subject, too. The Appleton Post-Crescent told its readers political mailings belong in the garbage. The Janesville Gazette said as much, but also recommended three sources of information voters should rely on - the Democracy Campaign, Project Vote Smart and Factcheck.org.

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Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe will be speaking tomorrow to the Madison-area Urban Ministry (MUM) about lies, bigotry and TV ads at the intersection of the biggest civil rights issue of our time. For more details on the event, go here.