September 14, 2007

A Nation with the Fidgets

In a recent article, from The Nation, Nicholas von Hoffman expressed his dissatisfaction over the status of the American political debate. As he put it, “What passes for a political debate in the United States today is little more than dueling sound bites.”

His article, subtlety titled America’s Idiotic Political Debates, mentions the good old days, when the media griped about politicians who talked too much during the debates.

“If you go back to the time of H.L. Mencken or Mark Twain, the educated classes also complained that American politicians were divided into two classes, vapid windbags and screeching baboons. Yet the country prospered.

“If things are worse today it is because the windbags are gone.”

Things have changed greatly since the days of the Lincoln-Douglass Debates, when the first candidate spoke for an hour, the second spoke for an hour and a half, then allowed the first candidate an half hour rebuttal. During the recent CNN/Youtube debates, Presidential hopefuls were lucky to speak for more than 30 seconds before being shushed by distractively attractive moderator Anderson Cooper.

Although the Youtube format was a great step forward in regards to getting the public involved with the political process, not much debate actually occurred. A return to the long-winded debates of yore may be too much, but can we really even call these half-a-minute Q/A sessions debates anymore?

“In defense of their idiotic political displays, television executives and campaign operatives apparently believe that a minute of speech uninterrupted by either a murder or a copulation scene is about all TV viewers can take. America, they insist, suffers from attention-deficit disorder. It's a nation with the fidgets.” –Hoffman, The Nation

Here’s the link again:


Zakahi said...

I am not convinced that trenchancy is the cause of a lack of true debate. We as a society live in a world where much more information is passed in a much shorter period of time. I believe true debate lies not in the length but in the content. You can speak for hours and say nothing.

Medusagemini said...

I agree with you, but it's practically impossible to engage in any meaningful conversation about complex topics like Iraq, or health care or immigration in 30-second sound bites. I think overly strict time limits are just part of the problem!