All positive information isn’t truth—and all truth isn’t positive.
Thus the complaints about “negative” campaigning get lost in the failure of critical thinking and analysis.
Political speech is highly protected and lying is not against the law, unlike commercial speech. If Listerine tells you they can cure the common cold, they get sued, fined and must pull their ads and correct the record. If Donald Trump tells you consuming poison can cure COVID, nothing.
That said, voters deserve information both positive and negative as long as it is truth. Recently, the body politic has begun to lump all negative material together. But the real question voters must ask is, is it true?
One tactic to dismiss truth that is all too common is to deflect the substance and attack the author. Regardless of how you feel about Jed York or the San Francisco 49ers, their exposing the record of Mayor Lisa Gillmor is truthful, well-researched and should be effective. Truth matters.
Gillmor did send high paid staff to Paris on the taxpayers’ dime; she did fail to report income on her public reports; she did turn a $20 million surplus into a $27 million deficit; she did pay the former city manager $767,000; she did hire a public relations firm using $50,000 to promote herself; she did spend $6 million to fight voting rights in her city; and she did write a letter to Gov. Newsom asking for favors for a Trump billionaire developer who gave $250,000 to independent expenditure committees supporting, you guessed it, Gillmor.
You can quibble with opinion, but those are well-documented facts, regardless of who delivers them.
Likewise, the false attacks San José Spotlight has pointed out in finding that Bryan Do is misleading the Vietnamese community with his attacks on mayoral candidate Cindy Chavez. Their reporting that Mayor Gillmor’s opponent Anthony Becker has received death threats and faced homophobic slurs. Finally, the false attacks on Omar Torres by trying to link him to a “defund the police” former candidate. All of these messages are dishonest and disgusting.
Negative messages, whether true or not, lead to one disturbing outcome: fewer voters. Even many political consultants fail to understand this simple dynamic and often hurt their own candidates with their campaign material. Negative content doesn’t move voters; it simply makes some voters more confused and others less likely to participate. Polling shows this over and over again.
Voters must be more discerning. The real issue is truth. Is the information true or not? That is the standard by which decisions should be made regarding information.
Democracy is a participatory sport. Voters need to actively participate and make sure the information they are receiving is the truth. Real media can help, but as in all major decisions in life, caveat emptor.
San José Spotlight columnist Rich Robinson is a political consultant, attorney and author of “The Shadow Candidate.” His columns appear every fourth Wednesday of the month.
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