…comes from Film/TV/Pop Culture critic Bob Mondello, delivered in 4 minutes and 23 seconds on NPR’s All Things Considered, Oct. 12, 2012. Mondello likens the debates, and the reactions from media and public to ‘American Idol’.
No wonder we react in a big way after a televised debate, declaring winners and losers, swinging polls three or four points. We’ve been conditioned. But the things reality shows have conditioned us to look for – polish, brashness, engagement with the camera – are all surface, not things that have much to do with governing. When the chatter the day after a debate is about performance – did the president look down too much? Was the congressman smiling or smirking? We’ve left serious political discourse and entered White House Idol territory. Talent shows, like beauty contests, are all about style. There’s another dimension to debates: content, the one thing we’re never asked to judge on most reality shows. Being able to belt your big finish to the rafters is what matters on “American Idol.” The quality of the lyrics? Not so much.
Listen to the audio or read the complete transcript here:
On a related note – there was one independent media that did something truly unique. Democracy Now! found a way to include third party candidates Jill Stein (Green Party) and Rocky Anderson (Justice Party) in the debate. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson was also invited to participate, but declined. “The goal,” according to Amy Goodman, “was to open the forum, to bring out voices that are ignored or marginalized by the mainstream media.”
They did this by using tape delay, allowing Stein and Anderson to also answer each question posed by moderator Jim Lehrer. According to Goodman, “What they said stood in stark contrast to the barbs traded inside the heavily secured debate arena.”
See the article, “This is What Democracy Sounds Like“