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By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Muckraking Today...

Posted 10/22/14 (Wed)

Does this look familiar: Sensational investigation, exposing social ills, uncovering corporate and political corruption, blasting monopolies and reporting unsafe and sometimes illegal working conditions?

Most of us weren’t around 100 years ago when these phrases were most prevalent.

The above describes muckraking journalism, a label that Pres. Theodore Roosevelt coined during a 1906 speech.

Unfortunately, it appears that today’s ad agencies are repeating history with these political attack ads we see on television every day.

I saw one early this morning on a Fargo TV station that just about made me sick.

The ad was referring to Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. The ad attacked Peterson for using taxpayer money to take frequent gambling trips to Las Vegas.

A TV news reporter who was rsearching the ad, found out that Peterson took two trips to Las Vegas in 2001 and 2002 for political purposes. The research dated back to 1991 when Peterson first took office.

The ad agency apparently used the tiniest bit of truth in the word frequent and sensationalized it.

However, Peterson frequently does fly his own airplane around western Minnesota to meet with his constituents.

Here in North Dakota, there has been a lot of chatter about an ad Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, filmed at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery south of Mandan.

In that ad, the agency makes Cramer look like a saint, when in fact, filming anything for commercial or political purposes is prohibited in that cemetery.

So, candidate George Sinner, in a rebuttal ad, jumps all over Cramer’s lack of actual help for veterans.

Attack ads in the ag commissioner race are about the same. Ryan Taylor and Doug Goehring are continually taking cheap shots at each other as if they were two bullies in an elementary school yard.

There’s also this party affiliation that has gotten way out of control. There’s nothing wrong with belonging to a political party, but in recent years the party has become more important than the issues said party’s candidate is facing.

Voter apathy is at an all-time high in this country, state, and the political machines wonder why.

This is going on all over the country including the Florida gubenatorial race, a senate race in Kansas and of course, the congressional race in Minnesota.

My guess is the attack ads and the political bickering are making a lot more people sick than just myself.

Why would I vote for someone who knowingly does something illegal, then has it televised? You pretty much know that individual’s motives and can guess what is going to happen in Congress.

Why would I vote for someone who time and time and time again ignores their constituents but blasts their opponent in attack ads for ignoring their constituents.

What good are these attack ads doing? They’re generating revenue for TV stations. That’s about it. I’ve thought of this a long time and I can’t think of any other good these ads are providing.

The ads are disgusting, they’re meaningless and they do nothing but anger voters. In some cases, it’s a sort of reverse psychology because voters become so angry that they will purposely vote for the candidate being attacked.

Something needs to change with these agencies creating the ads and the candidates who endorse them. We obviously can’t trust the ads and they continue to damage the integrity of the candidates, so why do candidates waste money on such blatant sensationalism?

I understand perfectly the right to free speech, which technically, this is, albeit a lousy example.

If candidates want to energize voters and volunteers to work on their campaigns and renew their hope in government, they’re going to have to change their attitudes.

We want to know how they really feel, what they think, how they’re going to help or save North Dakota. We could care less about one candidate taking cheap shots at the other in a desperate attempt to “buy” votes.

Think back for a moment to 1960 when Kennedy and Nixon were debating. It energized this entire nation and was “the talk” for a long time, still is in history circles.

That’s how politics will get voters involved. Compelling stories need to be revealed, not some distasteful muckraking journalism that makes everyone angry.