Truth-in-advertising laws apply to commercial advertising–for example, Coke cannot claim that drinking Pepsi causes cancer–but they do not apply to political advertising. Not surprisingly, political candidates regularly mislead the public about their opponents. For example, in 1964, in the infamous Daisy Ad, Lyndon B. Johnson suggested that voting for his opponent, Barry Goldwater, would lead to nuclear annihilation. Because it is so over-the-top, theDaisy Ad (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.is funny in retrospect, but it is also a sad commentary on our political system that such false claims are so commonplace.

As individuals it would be impossible for us to fact check every claim made in political advertisements, even if we wanted to. Luckily there are some high quality fact checking sites out there that can help us differentiate between truth and fiction:

FlackCheck.org (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. uses parody and humor to debunk false political advertising, poke fun at extreme language, and hold the media accountable for their reporting on political campaigns.

Factcheck.org (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. It monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases, and its primary goal is to increase public knowledge and understanding.

Politifact.com (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. is a project in which its reporters and editors fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups. The website was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2009 for “its fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign that used probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters.”

For this week’s journal, I would like you to familiarize yourself with the three fact checking websites described above. Specifically, I would like you to read about each of the common patterns of deception (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. described by Flackcheck.org and watch examples of ads related to each pattern when they are available. Once you are familiar with the patterns, I would like you to go to Factcheck.org and politifact.com and choose one issue on each site that sounds interesting to you and read up on the research that each organization has conducted. Once you have done this, I would like you to share with me in your journal response what you learned–both about the patterns of deception and about the issues you researched.


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