All I Know Is What I Read in the Papers - Will Rogers

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"All I Know Is What I Read In The Papers" - Will Rogers

There have been many criteria over the past few centuries that measured one's political clout and influence: divine right, property, money, and acquaintances. In the twentieth century, particularly the past two decades, the political power to influence others resides in information: the more information you have and the more you know how to use it, the more potential influence you have.

People rely on the media for their information, as it is the most easily accessible, efficient, and passive way of acquiring knowledge. Unfortunately, the media is not completely reliable as it can and has been manipulated by politicians, their parties, and their governments. This makes the media a powerful weapon as politicians use it to effect voters political choices through advertising, change popular opinion on issues of state, and debasing political campaigns through smear tactics.

"You can make a candidate someone they aren't. You can protect them from someone they are, or make them more of what they are".-Senator Norm Atkins(1)

"An election is like a one day sale…the product (candidate) in a sale (campaign) is only available a few hours on one day".(2)

The main goal one hopes to achieve by advertising something is to make it marketable so people will purchase it. Since what a politician hopes to ultimately do is persuade people to vote for, or buy, their political platform, they would be foolish to not take advantage of the captive and passive audience of the advertising mass media. Unfortunately politicians and their management take advantage of this medium to manipulate voters' choices. Two cases of advertising manipulation on voters was during the Canadian National Referendum of 1992 and the Quebec Referendum of 1995. During the National Referendum of 1992 over the Charlottetown Accord "three hours of free broadcast time was made available during prime time on every radio and television network that met the statutory criteria"(3) according to the Referendum Act. The act also states that "half (of the time) is allocated to the ‘Yes' and half to the ‘No' side"(4). This allotment of advertising time did not take into account the print advertisement that was plastered all over the daily and weekly news periodicals calling for people to vote for their side. In the Toronto Star all the month of October the "Yes" campaign, fronted by Brian Mulroney, took out ads that had powerful bylines printed in bold type like this one of October 17: "Vote Yes for Canada's Future"(5). This statement is an attempt to manipulate not only the voter who will take the time to read the reasons in smaller print, but also the voter who only glances through the paper as their attention is caught, even if it is only for a second, to the bold type and the powerful finality of the statement.

These are examples of direct use of advertisement to sway voters' decisions. There is a more indirect method as well where politicians use the news media to try to convey their message and hope the news will air or print it. During the National Referendum campaign the "No" side relied on this factor more than the "Yes" side did. In a Globe and Mail article before the vote, the reporter regurgitated what Judy Rebick had said about the "Yes" side being "top- heavy with politicians, government types, and opinion leaders"(6), and how the public respects the "No" side as it is "something that comes from the grassroots"(7).

Similar to the National Referendum, the Quebec Referendum also followed the same guidelines set out by the Referendum Act concerning media advertising allotment. The only difference was that the advertisement was localized to Quebec only. As with the 1992 Referendum the local periodicals in Quebec were littered with advertisements for votes: in Quebec's French-language newspapers "the federal government took out full-page ads"(8) which...
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