"What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish." -- W.H. Auden
More than ever.
I watched the CNN/YouTube debate last night, and the similarities between it and the nation's fast-food were more than canny. First of all, by means of format, the fact that the questions in the debate came from 'average citizens' obscured how those questions were chosen. As I watched this infomercial-dressed-up-like-a-presidential-debate play out, I considered its likeness to the advertising put into fast-food.
Consider the 'Have it your way' campaign. Seriously now. Unless 'your way' includes the global mass production of standardized patties of cow slathered in American cheese on a stale bun, you'll probably soon come to the conclusion that you're really getting it 'their way'. You basically get to choose the condiments.
Hold the onions. There, that makes me feel in control. Makes me feel like my voice matters. I'm loving it.
Secondly, it impressed me to no end how much the nicety-patrol on Anderson Cooper's blog commended him for keeping the candidates to the thirty-second time limit set for answering questions that are purported to have reflected the feelings and fears of the common folk. Apparently CNN believes that any candidate should be able to respond serious on matters of policy and moral courage in the amount of time it takes to gulp a 64oz Mountain Dew.
Lastly, let's talk about the cynicism. Watching this debate through my occasionally failing old DSL, I couldn't help but think how happy the handlers of these professional politicians must have felt to have had this opportunity fall in their lap. I mean, the ability to take part in a historically hyper-promoted candidates' debate and not have to worry about any follow-up questions or rebuttals! Amazing. Everything about this debate was designed for the soundbite (go figure, but really this was just over-the-top). He or she with the best speech-writers and campaign managers came out on top, as usual. Those candidates marginalized by this format (including some very intelligent and experienced people... you know who they are) either go for laughs or become the brunt of them. The whole thing is a sham. And we all know this.
Deep down we know that this kind of commercialization of political discourse is poison. It may taste good while it's going down, but it's gonna be Tums for dessert.