Political indecency

Political Indecency

by digby

This should be fun:
David Lewis will not be the next congressman from Ohio's 8th District. But for Lewis, an unemployed former IT technician who is challenging House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in next year's Republican primary, winning isn't the objective.

By running for federal office, Lewis can compel local television stations to run grisly anti-abortion ads that would otherwise never stand a chance of making it on the air. Emphasis on grisly: Lewis' ads feature what purport to be dismembered fetuses, tied together in neat little bundles, or simply mangled beyond recognition. "The FCC says that 45 days out from a primary and 60 days out from a general election, we can run ads on a television station with FCC licenses—unedited, uncensored, they can't deny it as long as we buy the spot," he explains.
That psycho Randall Terry is recruiting people to do this all over the country. (Terry himself will be "running" against Obama.)

The tactic goes back to some campaigns from 20 years ago in which some zealots tried to put these ads on the air but were challenged for indecency:

The cases posed a fundamental conflict for the FCC. Essentially, the commission can revoke the broadcasting license of any station that airs indecent material, but it can also revoke the licenses of stations that censor candidate speech. In 1996, responding to the Becker and Bailey cases, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the FCC's compromise, ruling that access to the airwaves for political candidates trumps the obligation to hide indecency.

"We did SNL, we did Oprah, we did everything you could imagine," Smith says. "It was fantastic."

(Abortion ads aren't the only ones impacted by the ruling. When porn magnate Larry Flynt ran for president in 1984, he deliberately sought to test the agency's indecency standards by filming an X-rated, profanity-laced advertisement and asking local broadcasters to air it. At the time, they refused, and Flynt soon gave up; if it happened today, they wouldn't have a choice.)

The FCC's indecency loophole went unutilized until 2010, when Missy Reilly Smith, one of Terry's former employees at the Society for Truth and Justice, challenged longtime Democratic Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton in Washington, DC. Smith's campaign consisted entirely of running graphic anti-abortion ads. "It was kind of a prototype," Smith says. "I did it specifically to show that abortion is murder."

In the age of Citizen's United there's not much anyone can do about it.

Now the ads are about to hit the air in Iowa:

Per a release:

The ad has multiple graphic images of babies murdered by abortion, and makes the argument that to vote for Obama knowing that Obama supports the murder of babies is a betrayal of the Catholic Faith.

The ad will run on every TV station in Iowa and the five state regions that surrounds Iowa (Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, and Minnesota). The ad will run on at least one news broadcast per station.
Here's a little sample of the fine people they've recruited:
Along with Lewis, Terry has recruited at least two more activists to run for House seats. Angela Michaels announced in July that she was running for Congress in Illinois as a Democrat. According to KMOX St. Louis, after retiring as a nurse Michaels has spent her free time driving around Granite City, Illinois, in a van, offering free ultrasounds. She and her husband have also made a habit of photographing women who enter Planned Parenthood clinics and then posting the photos online (an act her husband defended thusly: "It's public record. It's like if somebody's going into a grocery store. If they don't want to get their picture taken, then they shouldn't get an abortion.").

Gary Boisclair, who is challenging Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) in next summer's primary, is another Terry recruit. He recently had his first advertisement taken down by YouTube. That spot bucked the trend slightly, attacking Ellison's Muslim faith instead of his pro-choice views. As images of heaped corpses flashed across the screen, Boisclair intoned that Muslims believe Christians "should have their hands and feed cut off, and that they should be crucified." But while YouTube, a private company, can censor spots it finds indecent or defamatory, broadcast stations don't have that luxury. Boisclair has said he'll begin running his anti-Islam and anti-abortion ads when the 45-day window opens and "once my coffers get filled."
It's hard to know for sure, but I have to wonder if this isn't going to blowback on them. The ads are gory and inappropriate. I'm not sure they'll be helping their cause. I can imagine quite a few people who are sympathetic to their cause being offended by this.

Who knows? Maybe Larry Flynt will decide to enter the fray and really test their commitment to this free-for-all.