Advertisements and the Public Discourse in a Democracy
Journal of Law and Ethics of Human Rights, Vol. 5, 2011
20 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2011
Date Written: September 19, 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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