Although I had been feeling much better yesterday, I realized this morning that (alarmingly) the flu I’d been experiencing had spent the past few hours marshaling its forces and plotting a vicious counter-attack. Awaking at around 7:00 I began to prepare for my day, visiting my standard morning websites (Facebook, CNN, The Atlantic) when I suddenly experienced a wave of related, yet new, flu symptoms.
Realizing my immune system was still reeling, I decided to head back to bed. Unlike my typical pattern of nap-type activity wherein I head to the couch and find some Netflix program to distract me, I actually headed back to bed, and turned on Pandora from my Kindle Fire to provide a soundtrack to my return to sleep. I quickly nodded off, and amazingly (alarmingly?) slept from around 7:30 until 4:30 yesterday afternoon.
As I staggered to my feet and returned to my laptop and my various internet news sources, it seemed as though preparation for the evening’s impending debate between the Democratic and Republic presidential candidates had officially taken over the internet… Amazingly, despite all of the excitement and commotion about the live political showdown, I noticed that almost none of the coverage included the controversy about the decision on whom to include in this cycle’s debates. In particular, John Nichols’ article on “The Nation” website raised the question about the inclusion of third-party candidates such as Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, and it was one of the few editorials that did.
The vast majority of the content seemed happy to plow headlong into the debate coverage as though Obama and Romney were the only candidates on the table this cycle. As Nichols argues, though, both Stein (statistically on enough ballots to win the electoral vote) and Johnson (on the ballot in all 50 states) are technically capable of winning the election, so why aren’t they included in the debates?
This led me to a closer examination of the history of presidential debates in the United States, and some of the controversies of how debates are conducted here.
However, as this is a “media” diary and not a “Rail against a morally bankrupt but socially entrenched system of political hegemony perpetrated by a corrupt system of ostensibly oppositional but truthfully interdependent entitites feigning to represent the whole of the American political spectrum” diary, this isn’t an appropriate place to delve too deeply into the intricacies of American electioneering (although if you’re interested in learning a little more Wikipedia isn’t a terrible place to start). As a media diary, though, I think that my experience yesterday is pretty inextricably linked with the (positive) power of the internet as a source of information.
It is amazing to me how powerful the internet is as a facilitator of the natural flow of information seeking behaviors…
It’s become something of a punchline, afternoons wasted on IMDB, because once you find such and such an actor from such and such a TV show, you immediately notice a dozen other links to a dozen other shows or actors or topics which fascinate you, and boom: your entire afternoon is gone… It’s a little reminiscent of the game “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” (Or “6 Degrees of Michael Caine,” if you prefer). One piece of information seamlessly transitions to another, to another, and another. The colossal amount of available information facilitates this natural flow of investigation and discovery, without ever truly inconveniencing the searcher. It’s an amazingly powerful thing…
As for the debates themselves, no, I did not choose to watch them. No disrespect to Jim Lehrer (whom I endlessly admire) but I truly feel that debates in America are a farce for several reasons. First, it should be considered that the debates are in-fact run by the Commission on Presidential Debates which is, in turn, run by the Democrat and Republican parties. Until 1987 it was conducted by the non-partisan League of Women Voters, but they pulled out their sponsorship in frustration of the bi-partisan tone the debates were taking. Two, the candidates themselves are primed and trained for the questions they will face in the primaries (yes, they get to study up before hand). Third, as the commission is owned by the two main parties, it should come as little surprise that they also set the rules for the exclusion of smaller parties. In between mainstream media sources invariably covering the two prime candidates, and the debates only hosting the leading two candidates (although Texan billionaire Ross Perot did manage to sneak in in 1992 on the leverage of colossal campaign spending), is it any wonder that third-party voices, the subaltern of American politics, are so rarely heard?
Besides, in the follow-up coverage I learned that Mitt Romney won, based on the fact that he smiled better, had better body-language, didn’t seem tired, and didn’t snap at Jim Lehrer… REALLY? I understand that Kennedy won the debates in part because he was better on camera than Nixon, but has it ever occurred to anybody that it may have been based on his policies, as well? Have U.S. politics really become so vapid as to credit one candidate as “better” because he looks less-tired than the man with the most exhausting job in the world?
Those questions aren’t rhetorical, I’m going to Wikipedia right now to learn more…