Pinky Pie

Socrates, Political ads & Me

Posted on: October 17, 2010


This graphic and others from illustrate the ratings for ads on the Truth-O-Meter.


Does anybody believe these political ads? We know folks who are trying to buy elections by paying for these ever ubiquitous ads, but does anyone really believe half or a third or a tenth of what they are selling in these political spots?

Here are the ad tricks as I see them:

  1. Grab a quote or a partial quote and blow it out of proportion.
  2. Distort a fact or two and throw in words like “taxes” and “job losses” and “big spenders.”
  3. Use awful photos of the other candidate and run the photo in slow, distorted motion to make this person look as bad as possible.
  4. Have “real” people showing outrage.
  5. You’ve got a winning ad right there.

I know this because I live in Wisconsin, where we are leading the nation in ads for the U.S. Senate race,  averaging – and I’m not kidding – one ad every two minutes on television. Unfortunately, I watch television.

But we are not to worry, of course. We have those 24-hour news networks that will make sure we are informed  – about the sex lives of candidates, whether they are witches and who is winning the horse race at his moment. That’s far more important than learning what the candidates stand for and would do in office.

There is hope from Politico, which analyzes ads to assess their credibility on the Truth-O-Meter, which explains errors or outright lies in ads and rates them from “True” to “Pants on fire.” Political has been critical of ads on all sides, as it should.

It’s scary how many ads are false, barely true or half-true.

Check out the reports of the Truth-O-Meter at If you are interested in Wisconsin in particular, you can go to

Another source that analyzes the truth of ads and news reports is Like Politico, it identifies errors, misstatements and misrepresentations on all sides.

Just as Socrates said, “an unexamined life is not worth living,” it should be said that an unexamined political ad is not worth seeing or hearing.

The big money in this election is counting on us not doing that examination. And that is why I am afraid, very afraid. 


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