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Advertisements and the Public Discourse in a Democracy

Yoav Hammer

“College of Law and Business - Ramat Gan Law School

September 19, 2011

Journal of Law and Ethics of Human Rights, Vol. 5, 2011

Modern advertisements contain little information and expose few arguments. They rarely describe the product and its usage or compare it to similar products. Yet, advertisements convey many messages - they attach meaning to products, suggest values, and spread a particular view of life. Advertisements create a failure in the democratic process; through advertising, commercial corporations intervene in the democratic discourse. Citizens are intensively exposed to the consumerist worldview while alternative points of view are scarcely presented in the communicative sphere. But commercial corporations are not legitimate participants in the public discourse in a democracy since they do not represent the political support of citizens. Presently, courts grant advertisements freedom of speech protection based on the importance of providing information for viewers. But by doing this, courts ignore the value-suggesting messages prevalent in modern advertisements.

For many years the law in the domain of campaign finance has restricted the speech of corporations in order to prevent distortion of the political discourse prior to elections. Similarly, we should allow the State to intervene to repair the failure in the public discourse created by advertisements. The law regarding informative messages and value-suggesting messages contained in advertisements should treat each separately, and advertisers should not be permitted to convey messages of the latter.

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Date posted: September 19, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Hammer, Yoav, Advertisements and the Public Discourse in a Democracy (September 19, 2011). Journal of Law and Ethics of Human Rights, Vol. 5, 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1930179

Contact Information

Yoav Hammer (Contact Author)
“College of Law and Business - Ramat Gan Law School ( email )
26 Ben-Gurion St.
Ramat Gan, 52275
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