Now that we’ve put the two national political party’s conventions behind us, we can focus on the next big events — the upcoming debates. I hope you did as I did and watched the conventions on C-SPAN, where the action can be viewed live, without commercial interruption or biased commentary. C-SPAN allows viewers to draw their own conclusions by allowing them to hear and watch what they want.
Modern-day conventions are designed to be marketing events instead of a wide-open process. Recognizing that each side plays heavily to their member base, I doubt either side did much to sway a previously committed voter. I also doubt many uncommitted voters will make a decision until closer to Election Day. For those who’ve made up their minds, I’m sure the rest of this campaign season will reinforce why their vote will be cast for their candidate. The spin plays to their heart, not their reason.
More than anything, we owe it to ourselves, the nation and future generations to do more than accept the campaign rhetoric, and that especially goes for those who are firmly committed. Vice President Joe Biden recently challenged the press to “fact check” his statements. That’s excellent advice for all of us.
A good website is factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The site offers a quiz of the week, specific articles on the many speeches, Whoppers of 2012, a Mailbag feature that allows an opportunity for the public to present their points of contention with the candidates, the parties and even question the clarifications made by Fact Check. Another important feature is called Viral Spiral, which is designed to put an end to the many inaccurate, and sometimes very old, internet emails that never seem to die in cyberspace.
If you have an email account, you undoubtedly know someone who regularly sends you one of these pieces. They all sound believable, but all too often the information is non-factual and attributed to reliable sources who didn’t produce the information.
Another useful site that should be consulted is opensecrets.org, sponsored by The Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org claims to be a nonpartisan guide to money's influence on U.S. elections and public policy. They encourage journalists, activists, students and any other interested citizens to use the free site to shine light on the government and those who wish to use it for their benefit. The Center relies on financial support from a combination of foundation grants, individual contributions and income earned from custom research and licensing data for commercial use. The Center accepts no contributions from businesses, labor unions or trade associations.
Yet another useful site is publicintegrity.org, sponsored by the Center for Public Integrity, which was founded in 1989 by Charles Lewis and claims to be one of the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit news organizations. Its mission is to enhance democracy by revealing abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of trust by powerful public and private institutions.
Inaccurate and outright twisting of the truth is at the root of so many decisions people are making today. The media, Internet and social media are full of inaccurate information. It’s no wonder the political machines have become so skilled at spin. If we continue to accept what we’re told without qualifying the information, we’re the ones at fault for the direction this country takes. We’ve been told by both parties and each candidate how important this election is to our future. Both sides believe there have never been such diverse differences between the two sides and it’s up to us to ultimately decide. I urge each of us to do our homework before casting a vote. Given the current state of the country we need to hold these candidates and their parties accountable for their statements and actions. Despite what your heart and personal convictions tell you to believe, we owe it to future generations, if not ourselves, to know where the truth stops and the spin begins.
Many of you may take the position that since both sides employ these tactics, what difference does it really make? Well, my comeback is simple: Until we know the real truth we will never be able to put this country on the right path. If we can’t depend on our elected officials we have no choice but to take matters into our own hands and demand they change their ways. If we don’t do that, we deserve exactly what we’re getting.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.