By Anonymous (not verified) on November 03, 2012

When this overlong rigmarole they call “election season” is finally put out to pasture, there will be plenty on my to-do list.

Weeping cathartically, blocking FiveThirtyEight from my browser forever, toasting a shotglass of tequila to the gods of blunderous campaigns for their manifold blessings to the GOP this year—it’ll be a busy day.

There’s one item on the list, however, that trumps the rest hands-down: watching TV without that offal called Super PAC advertising glutting the airwaves.

I can’t wait to bid adieu to the churlish mud-slinging, the grainy filters, decontextualized quotes, talking-head everymen, cold footage of wheat threshers, dubious statistics, demagoguery ad nauseam, and rapidfire Super PAC approval messages wrapping everything up in a gaudy little bow.

And lest I forget: the lies. According to the Annenberg Foundation, one in four advertisements funded by Super PACs includes at least one untruth—a record beyond the pale, especially when compared with the relatively honest ads sponsored directly by campaigns. Given the unprecedented volume of Super PAC ads (Ohioans have seen almost three times more than they did in 2008) it’s clear that we’re being exposed to oodles of whoppers.

What if I told you that it didn’t have to be this way?

TV networks are legally obligated to grant political candidates commercial airtime, so the Obamas and Romneys and Tammys and Tommys (wow, does it get more Suessian?) will always get to dish dirt about opponents on the tube. But while they must oblige candidates, networks have every legal right to simply say no to Super PACs.

They have not exercised that right, as is evident from the malodorous tripe on our TV screens. And to be fair, they have strong rationale: Election cycles mean big revenue streams for regional networks, something to the tune of 2.8 billion dollars in 2012 alone. The income argument is not justifiable, but understandable: TV ad revenue on the whole is on the decline, and a groundswell of political spending is just what networks need to buttress their budget.

But even if they allow Super PACs airtime, stations could still exercise their legal right to fact-check and provide context for viewers. It’s an inelegant solution (read: we’d still have to watch those insufferable ads), but a win-win in the sense that stations keep their revenue while shining a light on the chicanery of Super PAC ads.

Of course, this is based on an assumption that local TV journalism is not abysmal. For those who are naïve enough to assume as much, consider my favorite case in point: During the Wisconsin recall elections, stations in Milwaukee reported on Super PACs whose ads they were airing zero times, vis-à-vis the fifty-three times they reported on the life and times of Justin Bieber. That’s the industry standard.

It’s too bad, because these ads represent more than annoying, manipulative, and deceitful television. They also reflect a tarnished, post-Citizens United dollar-ocracy, where the voice of the rich and powerful drowns out all others. Worse, the plutocrats responsible are shielded from public accountability, thanks to Super PAC non-disclosure of donors. Never before has there existed a right to anonymous free speech, but now we are witnessing one being engineered before our very eyes.

You may think it silly to get pissy about this now, what with elections nearly over. But the season’s trends evince a problem that will get worse before it gets better.

The respite after Election Day is the calm before the storm of 2014, and years beyond.

Write to your local TV station.

Tap into that torrent of rage that’s been growing every time you’ve had to endure another thirty seconds of detritus sponsored by Crossroad GPS.

Let them know that revenue is well and good, but remind them that the public has an interest in truth and fairness.

In addition, check out Annenberg’s “Stand by Your Ad” campaign, which I hope continues to thrive well after November 6.

Its aim is to pressure networks to carry out due diligence, and either say no to ads or at least fact-check. The campaign’s website,

Flackcheck.org, abounds with resources and information on other actions that you, the aggravated TV-junkie citizen, can take.

If not for democracy, then for the sake of those who just want to preserve the sanctity of their 30 Rock viewing experience. It’s what Liz Lemon would want, people.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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