I cut the cord from the cable company back at the end of 2011. Whenever friends complain about their astronomical cable bills, I ask them why they don’t just cancel it if they think it’s too much. Usually, they just look at me like I’ve sprouted a new head. They cannot comprehend such deprivation.
I don’t miss it a bit. Some cord cutters assemble an assortment of services that must drive their costs back up to a point that rivals what they were paying the cable company. But my needs are much simpler. An old-fashioned antenna, YouTube and Netflix is all I need. Total monthly cost: $7.99 plus tax.
Netflix does most of the heavy lifting. There’s always something good to watch. I usually have two or three series going at any one time and pick up movies and specials as they come along. None of this is new. It’s just what I’ve been doing for more than four years. It’s the way I consume entertainment.
But last night, I was watching television at a friend’s house the old-fashioned way and it was a real eye-opener. I was absolutely astonished by the political advertisements. One right after the other without even the slightest break for Snickers or Budweiser to attempt to seduce me with their charms.
It hadn’t occurred to me until last night that this is the second presidential election I have sat out, as far as television ads are concerned. Not to mention one midterm election. Much has happened in that time. Citizens United and the unlimited supply of cash it brought, for one thing.
I’ve heard people moaning and whining about the ads but people have been whining about them my whole life. That is nothing new. But mostly, they whine about the negativity. What gobsmacked me was the sheer quantity of the ads. I don’t think I saw a commercial for anything besides a political candidate all evening. Really, I don’t know how you guys put up with it.
And I am baffled as to the wisdom of such a barrage. How much of this does the average voter need before making up his or her mind? I realize that the negative ads are not supposed to make you vote for the candidate placing the ad. They’re supposed to keep you from voting for the other candidate. So if you can depress the turnout of people who would vote against you more than the other side can depress the turnout against you, you win. One doesn’t need to understand this strategy to be repulsed by it.
One commercial break last night had four commercials; Richard Burr, Deborah Ross, Richard Burr, Deborah Ross. I realize that matchup is a hotly contested race that might play a part in flipping the Senate so it’s a big picture kind of thing. But really, what possible purpose does that much overkill even serve? Some were from the campaigns and some were from super PACs and I realize they’re not allowed to coordinate their efforts but, still. That was a bit much.
As one watches this avalanche, there’s a bit of whiplash as one commercial makes claims that are sometimes directly refuted by the next one, but more often, the opposing campaign will randomly bring up a completely different point. And everybody’s slinging mud constantly.
The randomness of content is no surprise. These are, after all, just a series of commercials put together by different entities. But they’re all about the same subject so the overall impression is as nonsensical as a Through the Looking Glass debate with the Red Queen being the unseen moderator.
As I’m listening to these ads and thinking to myself, I should write this down so I can fact-check it later, it occurs to me that during the time I have not been watching political ads on television, I have been consuming a great deal of political content on the internet, where everything is assumed to be a lie unless proven otherwise. And I am now applying those standards to television.
Which makes me wonder if the usual rules that apply to commercials on television also apply to political commercials. You know, the rules that do not allow outright lies. Commercials for products are not allowed to be deceptive either, but that clearly does not apply to political commercials.
It’s clear that when you’ve just watched back-to-back commercials that totally contradict one another, deception is at play somewhere. And maybe, you’ve just heard an outright lie.
Which I don’t suppose should come as much of a surprise. Nowadays, a candidate will frequently tell outright lies. Easily verifiable, bald-faced lies. It used to be that candidates were held to a higher standard. They could only tell lies that were at least somewhat plausible. Preferably with a little deniability built in. Lies that could hold up to a few follow-up questions.
But those days are long gone and unlike the cable company, I miss them.
Bill Colvard is lifestyle writer for the Mount Airy News and can be reached at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.