Political advertising is granted a lot of leeway in its content regulation, which means candidates can run any ad they want, as long as the content of that ad isn’t, essentially, intentionally false and misleading.
But just because they can run nearly any kind of ad they want, should they? What about an ad showing a dismembered fetus and images of dead Christians and Jews as a criticism of President Obama? That’s the kind of ad Andrew Beachman, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Kentucky’s 2nd District is running. And he’s not the only one.
Beacham is one of seven congressional candidates across the country who plan to use the tactic, reports Businessweek. Each candidate is, not surprisingly, affiliated with Randall Terry, leader of the anti-choice domestic terror organization Operation Rescue.
Other graphic anti-abortion/anti-Obama ads will run in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and Colorado.
It’s all part of Terry’s own presidential campaign. Terry, running as an independent, will be on the ballot in Kentucky, Nebraska and West Virginia. Terry is simultaneously running for Congress is Florida’s 20th District.
The other candidates will run the ads in Iowa, Florida and Kentucky.
Some stations plan to run disclaimers before the ads they describe as “offensive” but say their hands are tied in terms of keeping the ads off the air. And they are, from a constitutional standpoint. But from a marketplace standpoint, they are not. Terry’s currently fundraising for what he hopes will be a $1 million ad buy. If he’s able to raise that kind of money, and it goes unanswered or unchallenged, what does that say about our tolerance, our acceptance of radicalism targeting women?
Consider that, for a moment. A group that has known ties to the murderer of Dr. George Tiller and countless other acts of domestic terrorism targeting women and doctors, a group that stalks and harasses abortion patients and posts private medical data online hopes to put up a million-dollar ad buy before this election over.
Terry is mainstreaming radicalism like never before.
To make matters worse, the pictures used by radical anti-choice activists like Terry and his cohorts in these ads are faked. The vast majority of abortions occurring before the 12th week of pregnancy, which means if Terry’s ads were truthful and not misleading they’d show a cluster of cells, instead of a purportedly dismembered full-term fetus. Of course the shock value of such an ad would not be the same.
Of course, the real danger here is not the impact the ads have on the election, which is likely little as those who would be swayed by them are already not voting for President Obama. That’s not Terry’s point. His point, and the purpose behind his campaign and the campaigns of his “affiliates” is to make their radical, anti-woman evangelicalism seem normal, reasonable, a plausible alternative in leadership. Terry’s campaign is simply to preach the criminalization of abortion, and they will use whatever means necessary to get to that point.
Imagine anyone else getting the platform Terry gets to mainstream a singular message of hate and terror and the press just shrugging their shoulders, the public just looking away.
There’s a saying in constitutional law that the answer to hate speech is, simply, more speech. But that of course presumes a rebuttal and when those in the position to speak back just shrug, well all we get left with is the hate speech.
Photo from marcn via flickr.
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