Let's consider this an open thread for debate discussion.
I'd agree with these two that the unwatchable thing for me about the post-debate discussion is the pundits' obsession with what they think people will think. To do that they have to assume much about what people will think–namely whether people will swoon over the "youbetchyas" and the winks and so forth. And they generally assume they will. That means they think you're stupid.
Other than this general observation, I think I've actually had arguments with people like Sarah Palin. One can't really have a discussion with someone who can't understand your view, how maliciously distorts her misunderstanding of it, refuses to address any challenges, and considers all criticism to be directed at her and her lovely family (and by extension everyone like her).
15 thoughts on “It’s pronounced Nuke-You-Ler”
The best thing about not owning a TV is perhaps that the internet streaming of debates comes pundit-free. So I can’t comment on the post-debate spin-zone. I did, however, watch along with the BBC’s live blogging, which was occasionally insightful:
On the whole, though, I’d say democracy hit a new low last night. We have a moderator asking questions to someone who showed quite obviously that she has no real opinion on the issue. All for what? In order to check if she memorized her lines? Was that what this whole charade was really about? This wasn’t a debate, it was a recital–with improv sprinklings of the word “maverick.” Considering that this woman could very easily become the most powerful person in the world, the fact that such a display is sufficient and that the polls are so close seems to me a blow to the very idea of democracy.
But maybe I just need a good dose of that Obama/Biden “hope.”
While I watched the debates, I turned to CNN.com’s online coverage (with all its little gadgets) and stumbled across their live online video commentary for web viewers. What I saw disturbed me. The commentary consisted of two grad. student types (a cute mod girl and a cartiganed male prep) sitting in front of lap tops while the debate streamed on a television behind them. The volume of the debate was relatively muted, and the commentators were only patially watching. Rather, they invented drinking games based on catch-phrases the candidates would repeat, and in general mocked the candidates in an “ironic” way, between reading blog comments posted by real-time bloggers on other news sites.
CNN must’ve thought that anyone watching the debates on the interweb would be young and hip, and ironic, and more interested in the meta-analysis of the debate rather than the debate itself. The entire thing was absurd, and it perhaps peeled back the curtain a little to reveal what the media really thinks of us, and the political process in general. Its a show with a target market. The debate doesn’t matter because the media is going to tell you why it matters and what you should care about. Perhaps “tell” is the wrong word. The media is going to “show” you how you should respond to the show that you are watching. This attitude was made clear in the cynical online youth commentary I saw last night.
And don’t even get me started on the real-time focus group approval tracker that ran at the bottom of the screen. This whole thing is starting to get a little dystopic…
I agree with you on the unwatchable thing, but I think I’d characterize it somewhat differently: didn’t you identify with the pundits’ wondering whether the public was going to love the sound of Sarah Palin and to ignore the incoherence of her “answers”?
I’m just thinking about the crap put out by David Brooks and Peggy Noonan today. They are reacting as if each youbetcha were a home run. I’m not sure the public is buying it, but I can forgive anyone for wondering whether the public will buy it. The public has a bad track record, is a bad judge of character.
John McCain is on television right now saying he almost feels “sorry for [his] old friend Joe Biden.” He too seems to be assuming the public is stupid.
Some of the rightward commentary on the internet is even dumber than the TV pundits. But this, not quite rightward comment is the most reprehensible of them all:
“Update: How was it, considered strictly as a debate? Of course Biden did a far better job — he answered the questions rather than moving straight to talking points, he drew on a vastly broader range of factual references, he attacked his opponents in ways that were relevant to the subject under discussion. But this is not how the event was being watched or scored.”
Not scored by people such as myself. Perhaps you could make a bigger deal of those things since you have some space on the Atlantic Monthly’s servers. Sheesh.
It would have been nice had Fallows elaborated on how this debate was being watched and scored.
Since I know a few other readers are studying for the GRE right now, and since my two words of the day ended up combining in a rather timely and relevant sentence, allow me to point out:
Governor Palin’s desultory responses discomfited Senator Biden.
The real worry is the fact that no one seems concerned that it is acceptable to have someone running for this kind of position, when it is seen as a “success” that they don’t make a complete fool of themselves and blunder. Surely this should be a given? Can the bar be lowered any further?
I actually suspect some genius television executive has come up with a political reality TV show, like “America’s Next Top Politian” or “American (Political) Idol”. They set her a challenge each week: “go to this convention and read this speech”, or “go on this talk show”. A far more palatable, if not likely, explanation than thinking this woman is the best the American political system can offer…
Watching these people claim that Palin’s “youbetchas” and “common folk” bullshit swayed working-class voters is unbelievably classist and condescending. Her phony populism is transparent, about as convincing as if she painted in blackface and used slang from 10 year-old rap albums and then her handlers said “She did a great job of ‘connecting’ with the blacks!”
Sarah Palin made some references to teaching and teachers during the debate, remarking that some students were getting extra credit for watching. I wonder what they learned. They learned perhaps that not answering any questions, lying continuously about the record of your opponent and your running mate, and contradicting yourself ceaselessly somehow make someone qualfied to be President of the United States.
But she was so “folksy”!!!!
Isn’t that just what we need? Someone else who can’t tell her ass from a tea kettle but has lots of “instinct” and “gut feelings” and plain-talkin’ Norman Rockwell traits?
I was reminded of this quote by Isocrates (from Foucault’s lectures on parrhesia) about Athenian democracy:
…whenever you take counsel regarding your private business you seek out as counselors men who are your superiors in intelligence, but whenever you deliberate on the business of the state you distrust and dislike men of that character and cultivate, instead, the most depraved of the orators who come before you on this platform; and you prefer as being better friends of the people those who are drunk to those who are sober, those who are witless to those who are wise, and those who dole out the public money to those who perform public services at their own expense. So that we may well marvel that anyone can expect a state which employs such counselors to advance to better things.
I observe … that you do not hear with equal favour the speakers who address you, but that, while you give your attention to some, in the case of others you do not even suffer their voice to be heard. And it is not surprising that you do this; for in the past you have formed the habit of driving all the orators from the platform except those who support your desires.
Hey jcasey, are you *sure* that your Atlantic blog comment is the most reprehensible of them all? This one seems like pure logic-professor kryptonite:
“Forget about whether it’s OK or intellectually honest or not.”
That’s pretty bad Dagon. But I think we could have a competition here for the worst pundit Palin fawning after the debate. I would nominate Rich Lowry:
“I’m sure I’m not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, “Hey, I think she just winked at me.” And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.”
I just had a major “I can’t believe there are people who get paid to write shit like that” moment.
Actually, Mr. Lowry, when she “dropped her first wink” I had to repress the urge to projectile vomit blood at the TV screen. Then I tried to calculate precisely how many years she was attempting to set back her gender.
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