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Stephen Goldstein: Voters aren’t apathetic; They’re sick of political lies

Post-primary punditry about low voter turnout in Florida (especially in Democrat-rich Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties) is as predictable and prolific as it is paltry.

Adding up the numbers, analysts–I use the term loosely–have come to the unremarkable conclusion that Charlie Crist’s chances of defeating Rick Scott are in doubt.

Henny Penny’s sky is alleged to be falling down.

But Doomsday predications are just another example of the fact that talking heads have nothing truly informed to contribute to the political discussion–except what’s staring them in the face.

The real reason turnout is so low is that voters are fed up with the lies perpetrated by politicians and PACs, a press that panders to corporate masters, and pervasive, phony-baloney polls. They are the three P’s of our political apocalypse.

It’s an unholy, poisonous conspiracy of co-dependents. And it’s bigger than both candidates now running for Florida governor or any office in the country. In other words, voters aren’t voting because they are, and have long been, disgusted with politics-as-usual.

It all starts with politicians and PACs polluting the well of public discourse. Funded with tainted mega-money and protected by the First Amendment, they libel and slander their opponents and feed a prurient public with the political equivalent of pornography. Fact or fiction, the rumor that a rising star attended the same-sex wedding of her lesbian cousin is enough to end a promising career in a red state.

And then, there are polls. Not so long ago, they were a credible, some-time thing, used judiciously. To be sure, people were skeptical. “How could they ask the opinions of so few people and be so accurate?” non-professionals would ask. Yet, reliable companies like Gallup and Harris were widely respected for striving for objectivity and accuracy, even though their workings were shrouded in mystery.

Today, polls bask in the reflected credibility of their predecessors, but most have little or none. They are as easily manipulated as voting for “American Idol” or “Dancing with the Stars.” Day-by-day, hour-by-hour tracking polls influencepublic opinion more than they sift it–many paid for by interested parties to deliver a prearranged outcome. The results of polls to which people may respond online or by phone are not just unscientific but fraudulent.

Politicians, PACs, and polls become fodder for what today passes for the Fourth Estate. (Where are you Edward R. Murrow when we need you?) The 24/7 news cycle demands constant feeding. So, the media’s mantra is “Churn, baby, churn.” The more outrageous politicians’ claims, the more assured they are of being quoted. Commentators who don’t know proper grammar presume to give advice on U.S. policy toward Syria, the Ukraine, ISIS, and Hamas. No-nothing corporate nabobs worship the bottom line. So, a firewall no longer exists between the media and public officials, candidates, parties, and PACs that can pay.

November Election here we come! The disillusioned but enlightened used to say, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Now, they’re thinking, “You’re all fools.” They wouldn’t lower themselves by going to the polls. And even those who vote say they hold their noses when they do.

The only way to overcome voter apathy and nasal discomfort is to stop the abuse of the First Amendment. Politicians are commodities, on a level with soap detergent and shoe polish. Their ads are commercial speech. Candidates and organizations that intentionally spread lies should be subject to libel and slander laws, not afforded immunity under the Constitution.

In addition, the FCC should reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to present fair and balanced contrasting views on subjects of public interest. It should also resurrect a strict version of the Equal-Time Rule, which required broadcasters to give equal time to all political candidates. Adíos Fox propaganda!

Until those final judgments, however, voters owe it to themselves always to verify, never to trust politicians, polls, or the press, and always to vote.

 Stephen L. Goldstein is the author of “The Dictionary of American Political Bullshit” and “Atlas Drugged: Ayn Rand Be Damned.” He lives in Fort Lauderdale. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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