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The Call of The Reviled: Political phone calls, and what you can do about them

By Paul Wallis     Jan 20, 2008 in Politics
Do Not Call numbers or not, humanity now faces another crisis: the political phone call. From the depths of someone’s campaign funds comes sincerity with a smile. The public, hoping for a call from a loved one or maybe a lottery, isn’t too thrilled.
You’d have to wonder what would cause a normal human being to become a political caller. Masochism wouldn’t cover it. With political coverage at saturation density, and public spleen overflowing even into network news, it can’t be easy. The US electorate is about as volatile as it has ever been, feelings are running at boiling point.
So normal human beings don’t make the calls. They’re pre-recorded. Probably spares everyone but the lucky phone owners all that abuse.
Nice to know someone’s sleeping soundly in public relations.
Which means that once again, marketing, always in touch with the finer nuances of public sentiment, has found a way of annoying people on a gigantic scale. No crevice, nook or cranny of human life, apparently, is immune from whatever can be crammed onto an electronic medium.
It’s a sort of marketing Mardi Gras. Add a few tin drums and whistles to the migraine, and everyone’s happy.
The average political call on either side has a roughly even chance of ringing the opposition. Dedicated Democrats and Republicans don’t need to be told whose side they’re on, so it’s likely to be the mass of “undesignated” voters getting this deluge of demographic delirium.
The LA Times has a piece on what can be done about it.
The Feb. 5 election probably will bring a barrage of recorded calls -- nicknamed robocalls -- to voter homes, not only from candidates and the celebrities who support them but also concerning ballot propositions.”
The calls can be so annoying, you might wish there was a law against them.
There is.
"It's just not enforced," said William Raney, attorney for the American Assn. of Political Consultants.
That law, under the California Public Utilities Code, states that an unsolicited, recorded call must be preceded by "an unrecorded, natural voice." In other words, a live human.
A live human? In politics? Why?
The Public Utilities Commission, the state organization supposed to be enforcing these rules, doesn’t agree. It says recorded calls from political campaigns are OK, “provided they follow the rules”. Technically, it’s considered telemarketing.
The California Primary is going to be the hottest ticket in the election, when it happens. California is a big deal for all candidates, and there’s not a lot of chance some sort of humanistic sympathy for people with phones will get much consideration.
In New Hampshire, roughly 70% of voters received calls, despite state Do Not Call laws. The federal law, however, doesn’t mind hedging its bets.
The federal Do Not Call list imposes no restrictions on political calls. This was done at least partly because of free speech guarantees. But that hasn't stopped some states from putting their own conditions on political calls.
Hm. “Congress shall pass no law… abridging the freedom of speech” and “Interfere with everyone’s personal lives because of a marketing campaign” don’t really look like the same thing.
Nor does using up a few minutes of someone’s life whether they like it or not instantly impress me as an equitable process. You don’t get a choice.
Where’s the democracy?
Probably in the Yellow Pages.
Under “Secondhand”, I’d think.
More about Political campaigns, Marketing, Robocalls