Election Day 2014: On Sleaze and Disinformation

Written by David Michaelis

It’s election day 2014. Yes, vote. But be aware the media ads are getting sleazier. Is there a chance your vote relies upon disinformation? More here.

aNewDomain— Election media ads have gotten a lot sleazier in 2014. It’s a happy day, no doubt, as we exercise our democratic voices, but Election Day 2014 is also the most expensive mid-term election day I can remember. Those ads are nearly pushing us over they’re so loud. All because so many seats are up for grabs today.

i voted election day sticker

Image Credit: Vox Efx, Creative Commons

Is there a chance your vote relies on disinformation?

The Negative Media Trend

“He’s in bed with an accused mobster!” says an ad against John Kane, who is running for the senate on television and personally in Baltimore. Roger Macdonald, director of TV of the Internet Archive, said in his blog:

This is what television audiences in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey are hearing a lot of this season. And it’s not Judge Judy or the Jerry Springer Show. Nope. It’s the deeply disturbing reality television show of our nation’s mid-term elections.”

The Internet Archive started to follow the money of those ads, which have become increasingly negative campaigns focused on smearing the opponent’s name. Here’s a video dubbed the Sleaziest Ads of 2012, clipped from the last election.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDT-LN5-Edw]

Video: Sleaziest Political Ads of 2012

Some candidates tried to stop the negative ads and failed. The mentality of the campaigns have not changed from 2012 — in fact, they might even be worse. The question is, will 2016 be a turning point? I’m inclined to think not. More likely it will be a further degradation, with more unidentifiable money backing the angry jabs.

The truth is that people might not vote because of negativity. Citizens are sick and tired of it. The war of electoral words and images is not just on your television anymore, too — it has hopped onto the web and your smartphone. You can’t escape this multi- million dollar war of disinformation.

But, with polling getting started today, you need to overcome the sickness from political mud slinging, remember your citizenship rights, and get out there.

New Initiative: Follow the Money

The Internet Archive started a unique project with aims to help the voting citizen in 2016. They want to analyze and disclose the money trail behind campaign ads. The Archive hopes this will make the truth of candidates and their methods more transparent.

Macdonald writes,

Voters have a right to know who’s paying for these messages. And this flood of commercials begs a few critical questions for our democracy:

  • With so much heat, where can citizens find the light they need to make thoughtful choices?
  • Are the local media, many of whom make big bucks on election advertising, doing a good job giving voters the information and context they need to make sound decisions on Election Day?
  • Can we establish a baseline of metrics to evaluate the performance of local media during elections?

The Internet Archive and the Sunlight Foundation, among others, are spearheading this project. See more here. Hopefully this pilot project will create a resource that will provide context and options to compare real news coverage to the ads. So you can be an informed voter and Not a dis-informed one!

For aNewDomain on Election Day 2014, I’m David Michaelis. Ya vote!

Based in Australia, David Michaelis is a world-renowned international journalist and founder of Link Tv. At aNewDomain.net, he covers the global beat, focusing on politics and other international topics of note for our readers in a variety of forums. Email him atDavidMc@aNewDomain.net.