Ethical Dimensions of Political Communication

Ethical Dimensions of Political Communication

Ethical Dimensions of Political Communication

Ethical Dimensions of Political Communication

Synopsis

This collection of essays examines the specific ethical concerns related to traditional areas of political communication, including political culture, campaigns, media, advertising, ghostwriting, discourse, politicians, and new technologies. The contributors touch on such important issues as polls and computer technology, the ethical dimensions of political advocacy, and the ethics of teledemocracy, and conclude that the greatest threat to democracy is neglect of the public forum. The book advocates a return to civic culture based on communication and persuasion, a high level of information, and active citizen participation.

Excerpt

For over 2,000 years, political writers have linked the practice of politics with human ethics. Plato Republic is essentially a work of political ethics, as is, of course, Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics. For Plato and Aristotle, politics was the "master science" because they could not conceive of anyone living outside of and apart from a political community. In addition, for both Plato and Aristotle, the good "man" was identical with the good citizen in the right polis. The concept of civic virtue implies a citizenry that is informed, active, and enlightened (i.e., selfless) and that seeks justice. Politics was conceived as a process of issue development, public deliberation, and social resolution.

In the ancient classics, the search was for the best life and the best polis. Today, we have largely abandoned that search. Our quest follows more the thoughts and philosophies of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Sigmund Freud: self-preservation, self-actualization, comfort, convenience, property, and ultimately the pursuit of happiness. It seems that our concept of government endorses only the last element of Lincoln's eloquent conclusion of his Gettysburg Address: a government "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Yet after nearly every contemporary presidential campaign, there are cries of unethical behavior, motives, and practices. The 1988 presidential campaign renewed public outrage at the current state of electoral politics. Paul Taylor reports that 61 percent of the electorate believe that there is something morally wrong in America and 80 percent do not trust our leaders as much as they used to (1990, 226). If not a pervasive malaise, there is at least a pervasive cynicism all over the world about government . . .

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