Thursday, January 21, 2010

Salt. Lots of it. Rubbed into our consciousness and poured into our democracy.

I'm buried in salt tonight. As if we haven't had enough, there is a new pall over American's citizen's right to self-government.

This blog isn't about politics or the economy. It has never been about the things in life that get us down, but about the things that give life meaning and purpose; a thoughtful treatise on a personal code by which to live and make this world a better place. I had a new blog all ready...a contemplation about well...someday you might see that blog.

But something happened today about which I can NOT remain silent. It's as if today's decision by the Supreme Court has ripped my skin down to the bone and poured a couple tons of salt directly onto the raw, ripped-open flesh. I speak of the Court's decision, delivered by chief Justice John Roberts, that guts the laws that have stood for over 60 years (since the advent of television) limiting corporate spending and messaging about political candidates and issues. The ruling equates a corporation's free speech with the same rights as living breathing people. You know – those living, breathing human beings with the right to vote. Us.

Corporations will now be free to spend as much as they want, say what they want to say, drown out the voices of ordinary citizens, honest politicians and those individuals who want to make a difference.
We will see untold billions of corporate money controlling America's political debate – not just overwhelming the free speech of ordinary citizen's and unions that represent them, but buying, selling and bullying our elected officials who do not do their bidding. We've had pacs before – but we've never seen pacs like what we are going to see!

I've spent most of my life inside corporate America and all of that as a marketing executive. I'm a marketing expert. (Not my words', but what has been said about me, folks and my awards prove it.) It's been pounded into my head over the years that big business is in business to deliver profit to their shareholders. Period. The responsibility to make a good product, take care of their employees or act particularly benevolently within their communities is not the top of their agenda. Honestly.

I'm an independent. I investigate the issues and I vote my conscious. I don't like the idea that a big, faceless corporation has more weight than I do. What makes it even worse is the catch22 that exists between corporate leaders and our government. You see, political advertising is not held to the same standard of truth by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as the rest of advertising is. This works out well for politicians – during election years they can sling as much mud as they want to at each other and we all role our eyes and say, “Well, it's a can't believe all that you hear.” And it's going to work out extremely well for corporations who will be able to say what they want as long as their billions hold out.

As a marketing person, I can tell you that advertising messages about say, French fries, or adhesive tape, have to tell the truth. If you say that your fries are 23% crispier than your competitor – you have to prove it. The FCC is funny about that. It's called “claims substantiation” and if you're a lowly AE at an ad agency, it's your job to file it and make sure that it's approved by the FCC before your TV spot runs. Funny thing. The same rule doesn't apply to political advertising.

So, now that the Supreme court has made possibly it's worst decision in over one hundred years, one simple thing might save us: a law that states, very simply that any advertising, including political and cause marketing, has to provide claims substantiation for what it says. In other words – it has to be true! Now isn't that American -- just prove it!

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