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October 20, 2010 at 4:00 PM

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Ryan Blethen rails on politicians, sleazy campaign ads

Posted by Letters editor

Education has failed to equip voters with anything but a mind for commerce

In Sunday’s Times, Editorial Page Editor Ryan Blethen fired salvos at sleazy attack ads and the politicians who are using them against one another during the current campaign [“Voters deserve better than political spin and mudslinging,” Opinion, Oct. 17].

However, he (and all others who bemoan this current state of affairs) neglected a basic component of Communication 101: For communication to occur, there must be a receiver of the message sent.

The uncomfortable truth is this: The ads are a referendum on the electorate and our educational system. Politicians assume that the public that watches is ignorant and gullible — that the audience does not possess the mindset or the tools to evaluate what’s being pushed.

Why else spend millions spreading half-truths and outright lies — unless, of course, it’s a safe bet that very few will do some fact checking or be open to claims by the other side?

So, is this an exercise in voter-bashing? Not at all. Rather, it’s a claim that our educational system has failed to the extent that learning has been reduced to accessing information and manipulating data.

We are constantly being told that education is to enable graduates to compete in the world economy. That’s it? We go to school to conduct commerce? What about getting wisdom, doing justice, promoting liberty, seeking equality, searching for peace, loving beauty, etc.?

Many years ago, when our children were bused across town in an attempt to encourage integration, they had an elementary schoolteacher who instructed her students to analyze techniques used by marketers in making their sales pitches.

So, our family had great fun during TV commercials when the boys identified the strategies being used by the ad men and women to get us to buy products and services — without which life would not be worth living.

Should not our citizens be similarly schooled to tell the difference between report and opinion, fact and spin, truth and propaganda — whether commercial or political?

— Eugene Lemcio, Seattle

Does unaccountable campaign spending equal free speech?

Bravo to The Times Editorial Page Editor Ryan Blethen for his Sunday column.

If I take any issue at all with his thoughts it is that he might have gone on to make the point that many of these mean-spirited and misleading ads come from organizations outside of our state; from the “other Washington” that these same ads so snidely denigrate.

The senatorial committees of both the Republican and Democratic parties have spent millions in negative advertising in the attempt to influence the vote in our senatorial election. D.C. lobbying groups like Crossroads Grass Roots Political Strategies and The American Action Network, both groups with ties to the likes of Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, have also spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars spreading their vitriol while playing fast and loose with their 501c(4) status to hide the names of their contributors: all in the name of trying to influence our vote in a matter that should only be the concern of we Washingtonians.

Sadly, our misguided Supreme Court has decided that the right to spend unlimited amounts of money, often without revealing the source of those funds, is granted under our First Amendment guarantees to freedom of speech; which begs two questions. One, if one person or organization can shout down another by outspending them, do we really have free speech? And two, is free speech exercised from the shadows a cherished right or an invitation to create mischief without fear of consequence?

— Robert W. Dent, Seattle

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