Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Government run amok

You would think that today being "tax day", I might be venting about the IRS or taxes. No, a different governmental group has irked me far more.

Apparently, the Federal Trade Commission has way too much time on its collective hands. According to ABC News, the FTC is investigating whether bloggers expressing their opinions on products "may be in violation of good business practices".

Now, I don't know about you, but whenever I read a review, whether it be a movie review published in the newspaper, a user review published in ePinions, Amazon, etc., or a review published by Consumer Reports, I take it with a grain of salt. Why? Because I don't know these people, I don't know what they consider to be the most important thing about a product, and whether it differs from what I think is, whether they are biased and the reasons for their bias, etc. To me, online reviews are no more capable of swaying me than if someone came up on the street, or a neighbor told me about some product they loved. It's simple common sense, and you can't regulate common sense (the government especially can't regulate or legislate common sense given that many of the people running the government seem to lack it, for example, more than a few seem to be incapable of simply paying their taxes correctly and in a timely fashion - look at I believe it to be nine of the most recent cabinet appointees).

If I go to a blog, and the latest article tells me something along the lines of "Hi. I'm soandso, and wonderful company X gave me its latest widget to try out. Here's what I think of it: blah, blah, yada, yada. And, what's even better, company X gave me three of the same widgets to give away to my readers", several things are clear to me. 1) Company X GAVE the blogger the product to try in return for a review. 2) Company X GAVE the blogger some more product to give away to her readers. 3) My common sense tells me that clearly, this may not be the most unbiased review. If I want as close to an unbiased review as I can get, then I know to go to Consumer Reports (I understand that the company purchases the products it reviews and does not accept outside advertising or free product to avoid bias. ) I tend to believe that the vast majority of Americans are capable of thinking and reasoning for themselves and do not need the FTC to attempt to do it for them.

So, I have a respectful suggestion for the FTC: Why not stop trying to bully individuals who are more than likely taxpayers, and start focusing on companies that are doing, in my opinion, dubious things. For example, there is a rather large company that received large amounts of taxpayer dollars that is now advertising with different names for the company and at least one subsidiary. How about, for truth in advertising purposes, the FTC require this company and its subsidiaries to put in its advertising, in large enough print to easily read, "formerly known as #$%" so that those of us who. on principle, do not want to do business with them, won't be hoodwinked into doing so by a new name. Then the FTC could work hand in glove with the FCC to focus on and limit to more appropriate times, those ads which many people find distasteful, that deal with medicines for say, incontinence, ED, etc. How about let's not air them at dinner time. Personally, I really dislike watching the news while I am having dinner only to hear about all sorts of nasty potential side effects.

Finally, to clarify everything for the FTC, I personally believe that the government should be working for the good of the people, and the nation, and not working for the political party of the moment or restricting Constitutional rights (please see the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America which states in pertinent part: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. . . ."). If the FTC starts regulating what we say in blogs, what's next? Our telephone conversations? Our email? Our face-to-face conversations?

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