Friday, January 15, 2016

"Debates" - Media Misses the Point Again

First, a confession. I skipped last night's Republican debate. I watched all the other ones, and my long-standing complaint remains. These are not debates. They are glorified press conferences governed and controlled by the media. The media ask the questions THEY want to ask, and after it's all over, in their reporting they usually focus on the stupidest, most irrelevant moment of the night and make that the story for days if not weeks.

Case in point: The exchange between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz over New York City. Ted got asked a question about what he meant by saying "New York values." The questioner (Maria Bartilomo of Fox Business) is from New York, so she had a personal interest in the question. Anyone with a brain knows precisely what Ted was talking about, and even Maria herself this morning in a separate interview acknowledged that Ted meant the liberal social values of the "coasts" are far different than what gets derisively called "fly-over country" by the coastal elites. But they made it sound like Ted was attacking all New Yorkers when his intent was to talk about the difference between conservatism and liberalism. Ted should probably have not specifically said "New York" because that left an opening for attack, and you KNEW Trump would counter it with an emotional appeal to the events of 9/11.

September 11 had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE HEART OF THE ISSUE—CONSERVATISM VS. LIBERALISM. But it was an emotional appeal, and logical fallacy though it is, it tends to work. Naturally, the media loves this stupid stuff over substance, so this is all they'll talk about now for weeks and make it sound like conservatives hate New Yorkers. Sheer idiocy.

From what I have read and the clips I've seen, I've heard that the actual course of the debate did have some substance being discussed. I'm glad. It's too bad that most people won't hear about that. They'll just hear that Ted Cruz "attacked New York" and that Trump "handled it brilliantly."

I'll say it again and keep saying it. Get the media out of the debate business, and get a few college/university debate teachers to moderate all debates. Hold several of them, and have each one focus on one or two specific issues. Hold them according to classic debate rules, and let the candidates actually DEBATE ISSUES. Air them on C-SPAN, with C-SPAN holding all the rights to the audio and video. Release soundbite clips where they're exchanging on issues, and refuse to release the moments where one of them says a gaffe or makes a statement that everyone knows was not articulated well or conveys a meaning that the candidate did not intend. Because I guarantee you. The media will not play the substance. They'll always go for the flash point because it makes good TV and boosts ratings. Even worse, those moments make most people angry to the point that they can't hear the most important things being said by the candidates, and the media makes sure they'll hear them over and over again.

We get the leaders we deserve, I'm afraid. Perhaps its time that the American people begin doing due diligence and demanding better. Perhaps its time the American people convey a message to the media, especially business owners who have advertising accounts. Demand better. Demand a debate where we can hear detail and substance.

Probably won't happen. We're used to "bread and circuses" now, and too preoccupied with our own lives to really pay attention until it's too late.

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