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John Cleese, Obama Supporter

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Countdown w/Keith Olbermann
Keith's latest book is Truth and Consequences: Special Comments on the Bush Administration's War on American Values



I've often wondered why you allow political advertising in the U.S.. It's such an obvious recipe for turning a healthy political discourse into shit. Or just make it irrelevant.

Cleese is damn right in pointing to political advertising as one of the major weaknesses of American democracy.

Advertising is basically a form of misleading. We humans lie all the time, because it works. And advertising is just taking that human nature for lying and turning it into a science and a business. Any truth can always be sugarcoated and embellished by lies and deceit. And if you're able to sell the lie, the process of which is what the advertising industry have perfected, then you're always going to outsell the truth. That's why, in general, advertising is deceit, not information.

By allowing political advertising, you end up with elections being decided by who has the most money to mislead the public the most. This is not a wise way of choosing the best person for the job.

In my home country, we've realised that advertising is too powerful a tool to let it be used freely. We don't allow advertising for alcohol, tobacco, children's products, medicine or ... political content. The only exception in the case of "political" content is for charities.

The minute you ban political advertising, there should no longer be a need for collecting money through donations. That should take at least half of the corruption out of American politics rather quickly.

I've often wondered why you allow political advertising in the U.S.

Come on. You must already know the answer.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

You must be able to say what you want to say when you want to say it, and you must have access to media.

Yeah, but now you are equating spending money with speech. An adage I don't completely disagree with. I think it is important to realize that money is power, influence, and speech. We do need to regulate influence and power.

To hell with your salary Keith. Cleese is right.

So, once again, the Constitution is blamed for the problem. So many in the US seem to be inherently in thrall to the written word, whether Constitutional or Biblical; if it has been written down years ago it must be obeyed.

It seems to me that the problem with America is precisely the opposite of what you've stated. As far as what citizens of the US are legally required to adhere to, if it is written down in the Constitution, it is the law - so yeah, it must be obeyed. What is written in the Bible needn't be obeyed because the Constitution gives such writings no legal basis. When the Congress passes a law and the president signs the law, then what the law says must be obeyed, because the basis of our government - the Constitution - prescribes this process as the way in which laws are established. On the other hand, additional things that the president attaches to the law - written down as signing statements - are bullshit because the Constitution - the law - makes no provision for such statements' validity.

So many in the US seem to be inherently in thrall to the written word

America loves the written word but it is not so in love with reading

How would stopping political ads in anyway diminish a candidate's freedom of speech? Political candidates should be treated the same as cigarettes and hard liquor: We like them. Magazine ads and the occasional billboard are okay, but the product is considered too dangerous to be advertised on tv.

Wow, in the almost 6 years living here in the U.S. I'd never realized that in fact there's no cigarettes or hard liquor ads on TV. Interesting.

How does a ban on political advertising work? Isn't Murdoch's entire media empire basically a machine for churning out right-wing propaganda? Would a ban on political advertising change the content of the Weekly Standard or the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal or Fox News? I much prefer political advertising to be explicitly labeled as such because I don't see any practical way of distinguishing "news" from "advertising" anymore.

"Burke" rhymes with "shirk"

now you are equating spending money with speech.

I did no such thing. The point is that the 1st Amendment rules out all possible mechanisms for banning political ads: the content of the ads is speech, and the means of broadcasting this speech is the press. Congress - the legislature - is forbidden from passing laws that abridge free speech, period. Money is not the issue.

The point is that the 1st Amendment rules out all possible mechanisms for banning political

Except purchasing them.

If you solely regulate advertising on TV I think it'll just shift to another medium.

But I also think the internet is making the argument superfluous.

I think the supply of money to the candidates should be regulated.

Perhaps the quasi public financing idea of "freedom dollars" where each citizen gets 200 freedom dollars from the govt. to spend on any candidate they choose. (I can't remember the source of the idea otherwise I would have attributed to you.)

"my fellow prisoners..."

love it!

Cleese for Minister of Silly Walks!


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