Monday, November 03, 2008

Better late than never: Joining the communication professors who have signed the "Statement Concerning Recent Discourse of the McCain/Palin Campaign"

I know, I know, it's only one day before the election, but I wanted to add my little bit of campaign discourse to the blogosphere — not necessarily for or against either party's positions and proposals (I know who I'm voting for and I'm proud of it, but I don't think my endorsement will be big news) but in regard to the communication strategies that one party has used against the other. This online statement has been circulating for a while and I just added my name to the mix:

Statement Concerning Recent Discourse

of the McCain/Palin Campaign

October 23, 2008

(Lastest Update: November 1st)

This statement is signed by research faculty of communication programs from across the nation. We speak as concerned educators and scholars of communication but do not claim to speak for our home institutions.

We wish to express our great concern over unethical communication behavior that threatens to dominate the closing days of the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Both major campaigns have been criticized by fact-checking organizations for prevarications. We call on both campaigns to halt blatant misrepresentations of their opponent’s positions.

It would be misleading, however, to imply that since “both sides do it” there is no qualitative difference worth noting. In recent weeks, the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin has engaged in such incendiary mendacity that we must speak out. The purposeful dissemination of messages that a communicator knows to be false and inflammatory is unethical. It is that simple.

Making decisions in a democracy requires an informed electorate. The health of our democracy and our ability to make a good decision about who should lead our nation require the very best in communication practices, not the worst.


The petition goes on to list (and document) specific instances of apparently intentional disinformation on the part of the McCain/Palin campaign. I'm happy to let the political, economic, and social philosophers among the faculty debate which party will actually bring the good life (if any), but as a member of the communication faculty the least I can do is add my name to a chorus of academics who want to use this campaign as a teachable moment, and to remind our students that both what we say and how we say it matters. If we hold out any hope for a civil political discourse in our globalized, polarized, technologically-mediated, and largely-commercialized media system, we have a responsibility to speak out when that civil discourse is threatened, mocked, or ignored.

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