Voters should be cautious about trusting attack ads

If you are thinking about casting a vote based on political advertisements, please think carefully. If you are thinking about voting for or against someone on the basis of a last-minute hit piece, please consider the possibility that you don’t know enough to cast an informed ballot in that particular race.

The airwaves and mail boxes are favorite venues for the schlockmeisters who orchestrate today’s political advertising. Almost all of it should be taken with considerable skepticism. Smart voters realize that and make their own judgments.

Still, we need to issue a particular advisory about a hit piece sent out by the Washington State Democratic Central Committee that makes use of both news and editorial page content from The Herald. While the content is from our paper, no one at The Herald had anything to do with the production or mailing of the political flyers. The Democratic committee’s single-sheet piece goes so far as to print — or misappropriate to party use — The Herald’s logo on the top of both sides. The flyer is even printed in the traditional burgundy color Herald readers are accustomed to seeing.

The Democratic advertising piece is aimed at urging residents of the 39th District to vote against Sen. Val Stevens. Give the Democrats some credit for being virtually complete in their quotation of an editorial. That’s better than often is the case. But don’t be lulled to sleep either. The intelligent, unharried recipient of the ads might well pause to wonder why the Democrats latched onto some 1998 clips. Good question. Answer: The state Democrats had no intention in the world of using our 39th District endorsement editorial that was published Oct. 16.

The editorial board endorsed Sen. Stevens. In light of this piece from the Democratic Central Committee, we will take this opportunity to state again our endorsement of Sen. Val Stevens for re-election.

Every year, we see some fishy ads that make misleading use of news and editorial content from newspapers around the state. It’s fine if you want to consider newspaper quotes that the parties have reprinted. But be extremely cautious about the context or the datedness of the material. You may read one nice sentence about a candidate from an editorial — without knowing that the rest of the piece praised the opponent as an outstanding public servant. Or a few excerpts will be lifted from an 1,200-word news story that was — before its mutilation for political purposes — a balanced, insightful account of how a difficult issue had been handled.

We suggest that people not fall for the negative garbage which, unfortunately, is strewn across the landscape by both parties on a regular basis. If you feel yourself being influenced by it, ask yourself if you have enough information to make a fair choice in the election. As voting results show every year, thousands of people make the sensible choice that they will skip over a particular contest or issue because they don’t know enough or don’t care about a particular race.

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