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Advocacy or Advertising?

edited March 2009 in Politics
`Hillary: The Movie,' now showing at Supreme Court

I think this is an important issue worth discussing here on the forum. The makers of the film are arguing that their film is not a 90 minute political attack ad but is instead more of a documentary comparable to critical television news programs such as "Frontline," "Nova" and "60 Minutes." A panel of federal judges disagreed saying it was nothing but an extended-length political attack ad.

Michael Moore ran into similar trouble when he came out with "Fahrenheit 9/11". The FEC dismissed the complaint after Moore said he would not be running ads during the election season.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press submitted a brief supporting the film (but not necessarily the content) saying that the media has been critical of presidential candidates since George Washington.

"By criminalizing the distribution of a long-form documentary film, as if it was nothing more than a very long advertisement, the district court has created uncertainty about where the line between traditional news commentary and felonious advocacy lies," the group said.

At what point does a documentary become a political ad? Should we get rid of the McCain-Feingold law? Why should a movie that shines a negative light on a candidate be treated any differently than news/journalism items on TV that shine a positive light on a candidate? If the content in the film is true why should there be any problem at all?

My thoughts on this particular movie are quite simple. If this is a documentary why did the film maker only plan to advertise the movie in "key election" states? It sounds to me like the movie may have been legitimate but the advertising for the movie was an attempt to get around the McCain-Feingold restrictions.

In general my feeling is that if the movie/advertising is 100% accurate it should be able to be shown regardless of the restrictions in McCain-Feingold as long as the information is not being portrayed in a slanted way.

Example: Candidate A voted on a bill to protect children from poison. Hidden in that bill was an item that would have allowed the Feds to impose a 50% tax on people who own more than two cars. Because of this baby bill candidate A voted no on the "Don't Poison our Children" bill. Because of his no vote his opponent candidate B releases an Ad saying, "candidate a doesn't care about our children. He voted no on the Don't Poison our Children bill. Do you really want a candidate who would vote for poisoning our kids?"

Even though it is true that he voted against the bill the ad is designed to give an impression about why he voted the way he did that is not accurate. It wasn't that candidate A doesn't care about kids it's that he does care about an amendment that was attached to the bill. This sort of advertising should be banned because it is misleading. If you stretch it out to a 90 minute movie it is still just as bad even if you present the information in a documentary format.


  • And this is why free speech and campaign finance reform are fundamentally incompatible.
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