Assuming the House goes along, the U.S. Senate did American television viewers a favor before adjourning for its fall recess by unanimously approving legislation directing the Federal Communications Commission to limit -- meaning lower -- volume standards of television advertising.
Now if only something could be done about another kind of television noise: political diatribe that is loud in unsubstantiated opinion and outright lies.
The U.S. Supreme Court has contributed to the upward volume of this kind of noise with its ruling lending special interests unrestrained spending freedom on behalf of election campaigns.
But the trouble with those political messages is that they too often peddle false information, demagoguery posing as free speech and non-contextual statements that imply truths that are not true.
This sort of speech helps explain a phenomenon reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently in an analysis of the polling woes of West Virginia Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Joe Manchin.
That analysis suggested that West Virginia voters have bought into attempts by Manchin's Republican opponent John Raese, to paint Manchin, a two-term state governor, as a political bed partner of President Barack Obama. Manchin voiced support for an early version of health care reform, but he did not serve in the Congress and thus had no role in the process. But that has not stopped Raese from successfully hitching Manchin to Obama to the point that a West Virginia University political science professor Neil Berch told the newspaper that Raese has "convinced a lot of voters that Manchin's first and middle names are Barack and Hussein."
Nor has it stopped Raese and others from wrongly identifying health care reform as socialism. A paucity of facts and plethora of shallow opinion dominate other false beliefs in the current political arena, including that tax breaks for the wealthy will benefit the economy, that severance taxes on Marcellus Shale gas extraction will deter the gas industry from drilling for the resource in Pennsylvania and that green-skinned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flies a broom and autocratically rules over a vast, evil Democratic empire.
But rather than "beliefs," let's look at another word in play in this phenomenon: perceptions, or more accurately, selective perception, along with selective retention and selective exposure.
These are the communication theories behind the tendency of people to be influenced by such psychological factors as personal wants, needs and attitudes in the messages they take in and heed and to which they expose themselves.
Think of the balkanization of media platforms today, such as cable television outlets and radio talk shows geared toward political neighborhoods, programming that caters to audiences' political beliefs rather than informing them with facts.