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Forum, Aug. 27: Be Wary of TV Campaign Ads; Police Power; Good Candidates

Be Wary of TV Campaign Ads

To the Editor:

As we enter into the midterm election cycle, I shudder to imagine what voters will learn from political candidates seeking success. How does one decide whom to vote for? Citizens’ political views can be influenced by many sources. My concern is that, in politics, TV ads are a major source.

To cite some numbers and comments from the field of political advertising: TV political ads for house, senate and gubernatorial candidates in 2010 showed a 250 percent increase compared with the same category of races in 2002. The number of political ads that have aired on television in this election cycle is nearly 70 percent more than it was during the 2010 midterms. Research in the 1990s demonstrated that most candidates had little or nothing to do with the marketing of their campaigns and the advertising content. This became the domain of the professional consultant, whose job is to win elections. From a Republican media-buying executive, “It makes it harder for the campaign to control the message; somebody else can set the message agenda for the campaign.”

A recent study of political spots cited by reputable sources found “roughly half of all ads to be unfair, misleading or deceptive.” Yet, they work: Evidence indicates that all else being relatively equal, the candidate with a decisive TV advertising war chest will win. From two researchers, “We have found that televised political advertising influences people’s voting choices, and more specifically, we have shown that ads are having their greatest influence on those who are the least informed about politics.”

Some changes are occurring, however. The FCC rules implemented in 2012 requiring the top four major stations in the top 50 markets to post online records of who buys political ads now apply to all TV stations nationwide. Imagine: You’re watching an ad and it actually tells you who is trying to win (or buy) your vote! Also, you can check statements uttered by some politicians by using FactCheck.org.

Our reliance on TV ads for political information is frightful. The issues we face are complex and are subject to varying interpretations. How can we know that whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power or truth?

Robert Scobie

Hanover

Excessive Police Power

To the Editor:

We will not know for months, if not longer, whether the shooting of Michael Brown was justified or a police officer execution. A thorough investigation should establish whether the police officer’s reported version of the events — that Mr. Brown attempted to take the officer’s gun away — is what occurred and thus necessitated deadly force, or we should learn that the officer’s report of the encounter is a fabrication and he committed a cold-blooded killing of an unarmed young African American man, a much too frequent occurrence in the United States.

What we do know and have observed as of now is quite disturbing. Tear gas, rubber bullets and flash grenades are among the atrocities unleashed on the largely African American residents of Ferguson by the police since the shooting. To make matters worse, and thanks to the largesse of the Defense Department, there were the police officers dressed in combat gear atop armored vehicles with automatic military carbines, trigger at the ready, aimed at our fellow citizens. In the event somehow the protesters overcame the heavily armed police on the ground, there were the officers on roof tops with high-powered sniper rifles trained on the legitimately upset and concerned residents of Ferguson.

This reckless display of militarized police force during an understandably tense encounter only served to exacerbate an extraordinarily difficult situation. It should disgust us all. The police response in Ferguson, Mo., is reminiscent of what happened in the Deep South during the struggle for equality by blacks and progressive whites. All the Ferguson police are missing are the vicious attack dogs, fire hoses and Bull Connor.

Mark Latham

White River Junction

A Worthy Sheriff Candidate

To the Editor:

On Sept. 9, Sullivan County voters will go to the polls and select a candidate for sheriff from among three choices. The sheriff’s department works in high pressure, emotional situations. They are the ones who serve and enforce divorce decrees, custody orders and eviction notices. They also participate in law enforcement special operations. Effective administration of those programs, and your tax money, requires that the sheriff know the county well.

Because of the sensitive nature of the work, it is critical that we choose a candidate who knows Sullivan County intimately, and the special circumstances that we face here. One candidate has spent most of his life growing up, living and working in Sullivan County. Except for four years risking his life in the Marines defending you and me, Denis O’Sullivan has been in law enforcement right here where we live. Denis is uniquely qualified to strike that balance between enforcing the law and understanding the challenges that the citizens of Sullivan County face.

I’m supporting Denis O’Sullivan because I want a sheriff who has dedicated his life to public service in this county and a sheriff who knows the people. Please join me in voting for Denis O’Sullivan so that he can find new ways to serve you.

Rep. Steven Smith

Charlestown

A Good Representative in Enfield

To the Editor:

I don’t have much patience for political parties and partisan conflicts. Luckily, Wendy Piper is very down to earth and is tuned into local and state politics that affect our community.

In Paul Mirski’s May 19 letter to the editor, he stated “Hanover Democrats handpicked our current House representative, Wendy Piper.” (“Enfield Deserves Better Rep”). I’d like to think Wendy’s landslide victory at the polls is what elected her to the position, but it would appear that some past incumbents don’t appreciate newcomers to the political process, such as myself and Wendy.

In my communications with Wendy I’ve found her to be remarkably moderate in her views; as an independent voter I’ve come to appreciate this in elected officials. The House Republican Alliance gave Wendy a 21 percent rating; I think this shows she doesn’t blindly follow one political party or another.

Enfield is lucky to have Wendy as a representative and I would encourage voters to make her election an ongoing local tradition.

Douglas Plumley

Enfield