November 8 2013
It appears the Broken Windows Theory in criminology applies to politics as well. The theory asserts that urban disorder, vandalism, vagrancy and other petty crimes sets the stage for more serious offenses. Where there are broken windows, more dangerous crime will follow. In the case of politics, the theory goes like this: When politicians are allowed to lie with impunity, more serious wrongdoing is just around the corner.
Defenders of Colorado State Senator Evie Hudak have escalated their tactics to stop her from being recalled from office by lying about signature gatherers hired by the Recall Hudak campaign. The campaign needs 19,000 valid signatures by early December in order to initiate a special election and recall vote.
In late October of this year, CBS reported that a shadowy advocacy group, Democracy Defense Fund, placed door hangers on Westminster and Arvada homes claiming to be a “Public Awareness Alert” with “Important information about the company behind the recall petitions.” The flyers told home owners that signature gatherers could be former convicts and sex offenders and that they should not sign the recall petition.
This week the Democracy Defense Fund has launched a robo call that sounds like a reverse 911 phone message. Complete with the audio distortion sounds of a real emergency alert broadcast, the “community alert” states that signature gatherers could have a criminal record. “Do not sign the petition!” the call warns, “Your signature and personal information will be public record, available for anyone to access.”
The assertion that “signature gatherers could have a criminal record” is technically a deceitful innuendo rather than outright lie. A regular lie such as “If you like your insurance policy, you can keep it,” makes an affirmative statement known to be false when uttered, whereas a statement like “my opponent may not have paid his taxes” or “my opponent might have killed some guy’s wife” are deceitful insinuations. The words “could have” or “may have” provide the distinction.
That said, it’s distinction without a difference. Deceit is deceit. In the case of the Democracy Defense Fund, deceit is being used to scare people from participating in the election process. That makes it voter suppression, an escalation from mere lying and deceitful character assassination.
In a political landscape where political lying is justified by politicians and ignored by the press, it is no surprise that advocacy groups are escalating to the next level of malicious and possibly illegal behavior. At what point will society stop tolerating the broken windows of deception?