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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

OLIVER: JFK’s words continue to ring true today


In an interview with TV Guide 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy discussed the dangers of television and politicians.

He said television is a strong tool, but when it falls into the wrong hands or is used deceptively, it can be incredibly damning. He urged Americans not to use television as a means of slander.

Half a century later, JFK’s words still ring true.

Television is an incredibly strong medium, and when it is used to promote slander and negativity, it is incredibly influential.

A fairly common type of study that shows the influence of negative television advertisements involves interviewing people who just voted and asking them what influenced their decision to vote for one candidate over the others. They are then asked how they feel about attack ads. The most common reply is that respondents don’t let the ads affect them. However, most of the time the taglines from the attack ads are what the voter remembers when he or she steps into the voting booth.

The negativity that defines modern television must stop. What happened to the grand ole days of promoting the issues and what you would do to address them? This country has come a long way from the stump top debates of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.

This is what makes JFK’s warning so eerie.

“It can be abused by demigods, by appeals to emotions and prejudice and ignorance,” Kennedy said. He continued to talk about the power of the public relations expert. “Political shows, like quiz shows, can be fixed — and sometimes are.”

After his warnings on the dangers of television, he touched on another highly relevant topic of discussion – spending.

An unfortunate truth of our electoral landscape is that money wins elections. If you outspend your opponent, you have more influence.

According to a New York Times article about the 2012 election and the money spent by both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Obama raised $1,042.6 million and spent $985.7 million while Mitt Romney raised $992.5 million and spent $992 million.

The amount of money that goes into an election is mind boggling, and unfortunately, the candidates are using that money in a critical fight over airtime on TV. There are 24 hours in a day, and if a candidate can buy most of them, he or she will be able to influence the general public, especially those who lack education.

I assure you JFK didn’t know the affect his words would have. There was no way he would be able to predict how true his words would be today.

The amount of money spent on elections and the influence negative campaign ads have on the American public is troubling.

Many European countries have laws that ban the ads, but because of their effectiveness, there is little chance these types of laws would pass in the U.S. So we have to do the next best thing: We have to stress availability of information.

We can’t make the American public want to become informed, but if we put the resources out there and stress the issues, the negativity that JFK talked about 50 years ago will cease to exist.

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