Friday, March 13, 2015

No advertising or lobbying expenses without representation

Additional free speech photos from Google

Previously I asked for suggestions for Ballot questions that you think should be asked; and I came up with ten Ballot questions of my own. the first one on that list was related to free speech and how it should be equally available for all.

The right to free speech shall not be determined primarily based on how much money the speaker can afford to spend; if some regulation is necessary then additional considerations should be given to equal rights for all to speak and those with the academic credentials on any given subject shall be allowed to speak also. Broadcasting licenses shall no longer be given to a small percentage of the public that does not share the decision making process with the rest of the public. Any private or public organization that accepts a broadcasting license shall be required to provide no less than twenty percent of prime time TV or radio to educational purposes. Private corporations may not be required to pay high prices for these slots but educational organizations that make educational material available to them shall not be rejected or censored. This educational material shall include full political coverage of all eligible candidates for public office in any given area. Decisions about priorities shall be made by elected citizens groups in any given area.

This question was presented as a yes or no; the following is the argument I made for it.
Clearly the assumption that “money equals speech” that was established in the Buckley v. Valeo ruling is blatantly corrupt and this along with the Citizens United decision should be overturned. This essentially means that bribery equals speech and that those with the most money can control the government with little or no input from the rest of the public who they can give propaganda as they’re doing now. The right to a free press should also be equally available to everyone as much as possible. In some cases there may be some question as to how we’re going to raise the money for the investigative reporting and research to produce the educational material but that can be worked out once we get started and review the details. I discussed this more in a previous blog about Free Speech which considers many of the most important issues that aren’t even being considered in the Mass Media and the fact that a small percentage of the public has overwhelming control over what is presented to the vast majority of the public.

Under the current circumstances the public has been paying an enormous amount of money for speech and they have had little or no say in how it is used; and this has been totally ignored by the corporate media and the political establishment. At the same time the speech that has been protected for the vast majority of the public has been much more limited than the speech that has been protected by corporations and politicians who find ways to pass these expenses on to the majority of the public without any influence on the speech that is presented with their money.

The methods they use to pass on these expenses aren’t broadcasted but they are simple to recognize and confirm once you think about it.

For starters advertisements are a business expense which is passed on to consumers and the consumers have to pay for it as part of the cost of doing business. Thirty years ago when their were an enormous amount of different businesses providing many different products and services the competition provided an incentive to keep advertising costs down so they would still have money available to provide competitive products and services. Even then they had to pass these expenses on to consumers; however now they have consolidated into a small number of corporations providing the same products and services and for the most part there is little or no competition between the corporations, which are now oligarchies. At the same time the workers still have to compete for their wages and since the powerful organizations are controlled by large oligarchies they now force workers to compete with sweatshops half way around the world. The consumers receive little or no benefit from the competition while the corporations are making a fortune without providing quality merchandise anymore. They have cut manufacturing costs to the bone and sent advertising expenses through the roof and these expenses are being passed onto the consumers who can’t go any where else to buy products they need.

In addition to that they have shut down quality manufacturing plants in the USA and replaced them with fly-by-night sweatshops that produce cheap products that aren’t nearly as good as the quality as the merchandise we used to be able to buy thirty years ago.

None of this is being reported in the press.

Nor are they informing the public about these facts in the advertisements that are ultimately paid for by the consumers.

In addition to that corporations are donating an enormous amount of money to political campaigns and spending even more on lobbyists; these are also business expenses. Like any other business expense they have to pass this on to the consumers yet they don’t pass any influence with our own elected officials who continue to do the will of the corporations while they don’t do more for the public than provide them with enough lip service to keep them complacent.

What this means is that the corporations have an enormous amount of access to an enormous amount of speech and they can use this to turn the corporate media into a propaganda machine and one way or another all of the expenses are passed on to the public without passing on any of the influence.

The corporations and a relatively small percentage of the elites control the vast majority of speech made available to the public without paying for it!!

Hence my proposal for a simple ballot question, for starters.

No advertising, campaign contributions or lobbying expenses without representation shall be allowed. 
This sounds simple and for the most part it is but if it is passed then there will be many attempts by the corporations to distort it for their own purposes; and of course they will throw everything they can at it to prevent it from even being considered; if they think it will do any good they’ll even throw the kitchen sink at it!

This is why it would be helpful to have additional debate over the subject even though we should not forget this simple principle or other simple principles when the subject gets more complicated.

The most obvious claim that the corporations will almost certainly come up with is that this is an assault on their right to free speech; this isn’t true at all since it wouldn’t prevent them from using their own free speech as long as they don’t pass the expenses on to the consumer. Additional expenses that they routinely pass on to consumers without their knowledge include the money they spend to pay psychologists to research more effective advertising methods especially against children; expenses that study consumer complacency so that they can increase prices and reduce quality gradually without the consumer noticing right away; shipping and subcontracting costs that increase when they replace local manufacturing plants with sweatshops abroad. Further more most of this is done as quietly as possible thanks to trade proprietary information laws, which are by definition a conspiracy, as I have written about before; they pass laws that forbid workers and consumer from accessing the information they need to make important decisions while the only ones that are allowed to do this are the businessmen who take advantage of this to hide tactics that are deceptive or fraudulent.

There is a campaign going on to prevent unions from passing on lobbying expenses to their members unless the members agree with the way they’re being used. In this case the union members have much more influence over the way their money is being used than consumers who are also have the same types of expenses passed on to them; however there is little or no effort to point out the fact that this works both ways. In practice if the union members agree with this then they could replace the lobbying expenses with a grass roots campaign that is controlled by the members and the discussion and issues can be of their choosing. The lobbying expenses that they pay for often go to political candidates that also collect money from corporations and often betray the will of the union members; so ironically the critics may actually have a point. However what they want is for the unions to simply abandon their political participation; instead what the unions might want to do is reform it so that it is more effective and actually serves the best interest of the workers.

It would be a pleasant surprise if the unions took the advice of the corporations and abandoned the contributions to candidates that give them lip service and replace it with a much more effective grass roots effort that actually holds the corporations accountable.

In practice this would give corporations dramatically less right to speech than they now have; however the current system allows a small number of people to drown out the speech of the vast majority then pass the expense of that speech to the majority who doesn’t have their free speech protected.

This would be far closer to an equal right to free speech that protects everyone.

This won’t solve all the problems since the current Mass Media is still in the hands of a small percentage of the public; but it will be a major step in the right direction. An additional ballot measure could be used to require those that get preferential treatment from the government when it comes to using the public air waves to share them equally at least to some point.

This should include requiring them to give air time to lesser known candidates for public office and these candidates should have greater ballot access with or without the approval of the corporate media and the political establishment. Project Vote Smart has provided a list of all the candidates for president including many that the public has never heard of; many of them have filled out the issues questionnaires. Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney has been willing to do this and yet they’re presented as “viable” candidates by the Mass Media. If these people were applying out a job and they refused to fill out the application they might not be invited for an interview let alone given the job. If we used this same reasonable standard then the other candidates should be eligible for the debates or national forums of some sort and Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama should have their names withheld from the ballot. If the public had a better opportunity to look at more sincere candidates like Jill Stein, as I indicated in a previous Blog, then they almost certainly wouldn’t even consider these two candidates that have clearly been bought an paid for by the corporations.

This ballot initiative wouldn’t be a threat to anyone that is willing to dispute any given issue based on the merits; it would only threaten industries that have to provide a distorted perception of reality in order to run their scams. A couple of the biggest industries that might be threatened by this would be the gambling and tobacco industries. When the tobacco industry was threatened with the possibility that they would have to give equal time to the critics of smoking that wanted to point out the smoking hazards in the late 60s and early 70s they agreed voluntarily to legislation that would ban smoking ads on TV, because they knew that this way they could use other advertising tactics that wouldn’t give the opposition equal say and they dramatically advanced advertising in other areas that led the way for many other industries. If the smoking industry had to give equal time to reporting the fact that if you use cigarettes as directed you will become addicted and eventually they will kill you unless something else happens to you first. If the gambling industry is forced to constantly remind the customers of the fact that unless the odds are rigged heavily in favor of the house then it will be much more difficult to convince the credulous that they “can win!” Both these industries require the ability to control information and distort it in a massive way to make enormous profits by scamming the consumer.

Many other advertisements aren’t quite as deceptive and they often do promote products that actually have some value; however in order to maximize profits they have to make them as deceptive as they can get away with.

Have you ever seen a commercial that provides information for the consumer that is actually accurate and helpful?

When advertising first started there were some industries that did a minimum amount of advertising that provided information about products that had a benefit for the consumers that would make it worth their while; when this happened it didn’t add too much expense onto the product. Now we have much more advanced technology that would enable consumers that are looking for certain types of products on their own on the internet on web sites that could be produced in expensively. This could benefit consumers and small start up businesses that don’t have the enormous amount of capital to compete with the oligarchies. Unfortunately the oligarchies spend an enormous amount of money saturating the air ways and preventing other sources of information from getting any attention so these small start ups can’t get into the market and the oligarchies also use other methods to deprive the start ups of the resources that they need to provide quality merchandise for a competitive price.

For all practical purposes the free enterprise system has already been eliminated and a major part of the reason for that is the fact that the oligarchies have been able to control the mass media.

The current system allows the corporations to have total control over the vast majority of the information that the consumer has available to them to make their decision. Critics including those that study how marketing people study how to manipulate children have little or no right to get their views across to the majority of the public. There are plenty of books on this subject but most people don’t know where to look for them or that they exist at all. The books that receive the majority of promotional opportunities from the corporations are those that don’t challenge their profits or hold them accountable. A couple exception include “Harvesting Minds” by Roy Fox which I reviewed and included some excepts in a blog; and “Consuming Kids” by Susan Linn, a child psychologist that has provided some very good work to expose the manipulation of children. This is just a small sample of people with the best interest of the majority that could have a better chance to get their points of view across if we had a more reasonable system.

Furthermore we need media reform and to have access to many more points of view; I’ll be following up on this more in a later blog but for now I have begun compiling a list of alternative media outlets on a Wiki sub-page. this isn’t an official Wikipedia article; I suspect it probably doesn’t meet their rules; however input from others will be welcome. If any of you have any suggestions as to alternative media outlets that you think I should add feel free to add them.

(For more information on Blog see Blog description and table of context for most older posts.)

The following are the original replies when this was first posted on Open Salon.

I would go even further. The public airwaves are a commons, just like air and public waterways. It was under Roosevelt that broadcast licenses came to be treated as private property. It was Roosevelt who got Congress to create the FCC in 1934, with commissioners who are all appointed by the president. Roosevelt's FCC commissioners were all campaign loyalists or executives in the corporate cartels he put in charge of resurrecting the American economy. They, in turn, broadcast massive amounts of propaganda promoting the New Deal (much of which was enacted by executive order that bypassed Congress) - and later American involvement in World War II.

Thadeus Russell discusses this at length in "A Renegade History of the United States." He makes a direct comparison between Roosevelt's political initiatives and those of Mussolini and Hitler. The similarity is extremely scarey.

Our public airwaves needs to be publicly owned, as part of the commons, preferably at the state and/or local level where people can have hands on input into how they are run. That way anyone who runs for office at the federal, state or local level can have free access to TV and radio ads. And the state/local entities who own our TV and radio stations can derive badly needed revenue by selling access to corporations who wish to air programing.

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall May 17, 2012 01:22 AM

Stuart, I agree this wouldn’t go far enough and there are many other things that need to be reformed; however it would be a start and at time it is necessary to focus on relatively small arguments until the educations system is improved and more people have the background to keep track of a larger number of issues and participate in them fairly.

I haven’t read "A Renegade History of the United States" yet but Robert McChesney also covered some of this in at least a couple of his books including “Rich Media Poor Democracy” and “The Problem With the Media,” both of which explain how the corporations have used their influence to obtain excessive control over the media and gradually reduce or eliminate the influence of sincere educators that truly want to educate the public instead of presenting them with propaganda.

In addition to business interests and advertising dollars they should also be required to provide coverage to lesser known candidates that don’t do the corporations bidding like Jill Stein and many others.

zacherydtaylor May 17, 2012 10:07 AM

I agree wholeheartely and would go even further. If they give a certain amount of time to a party or candidate-- say 30 minutes -- they should be REQUIRED to give an EQUAL amount of time to the opposing party or candidate. If the other candidate or party can't pay, then the equal time must be DONATED free of cost.

Free speech was never meant to be based on who had the most money. Excellent idea. You should submit it as a ballot proposal.

Brokenwing June 20, 2012 02:37 PM

Broken wing, some of the details are more complicated than that but there should be no doubt that they could do a much better job giving fair coverage. One thing to consider would be the cost; however this shouldn’t be nearly as high; the main reason it is, as far as I can tell, is because they give corporations oligarchy control over the mass media. It shouldn’t cost nearly as much as it does to get out good discussion about many issues. It is practically free on the internet for those who know where to look; I’m reasonably sure that it could be almost as inexpensive on cable if it was regulated to give the public equal opportunity instead of regulations to give corporations overwhelming control without accountability.

Thanks for responding.

zacherydtaylor June 22, 2012 09:59 AM

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