Should politicians be allowed to say whatever they want?

Being so sick and tired of electioneering (first a Canadian election in the summer, and now the eye- and mind-numbing American process), I’ve grown equally tired of how we — all of us: the media, the public, everyone — let them off the hook when they lie. I know, I know, ’twas always thus. Politicians have always lied to us during campaigns, told half truths (or outright lies) about their opponents, etc. But now…now we have the technology to fight it. What if, say during the debates between Kerry and Bush, every time one of them quoted a number or stated a “fact”, there were a team of researchers (a la FactCheck) at every news channel covering the event who, within seconds, validated the statement and put the analysis up on the screen. Granted, there’d be a few seconds of delay, but how hard could that be? It’s not as if these guys don’t tout the same numbers day after day on the campaign trail, and in debate after debate. These guys aren’t bringing out new material (except catchphrases like “wrong war, wrong place, wrong time!” or “his rhetoric doesn’t match his record!”…David Frum, where are you when we need you?!?) so it should be easy to have 90% of the material on hand and be a few keyword searches and big brains away from the other 10%.

While we’re on the topic, I think TV networks should be forced to verify facts put out in advertisements for one politician or another (which, for local politics, are usually attack ads) through an independant factchecker (like, oh, say, FactCheck) before being allowed to run them.

This is related to a point that Dan Gillmor makes, but he’s pushing for letting the candidates use technology to check their own facts. I don’t think we should give them the opportunity; I say we find the truth ourselves and make them live up to it.

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