The newspaper El Periódico ran an article today about the Republican presidential debate that raised some interesting issues about media control of debate questions and format. If you are so inclined, and you read Catalan, you can read the article here. For the rest, I will summarize the debate debate in a few points.
- Gay ex-general Keith H. Kerr asks Republican candidates why we are still employing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
- Republican candidates and bloggers have a fit and say the debate was fixed by CNN, a network they consider to be ideologically opposed to their ideas to begin with. (Read: How dare anyone ask us a question that shines light on views that could potentially alientate a gigantic portion of the voter base?)
- Many wonder about the evolving role of the debate moderator in the Web 2.0 era. Should CNN be allowed to select the Youtube videos/questions? And for that matter, should presidential debates include Youtube Adam Sandler wannabes and goofy snowmen asking questions about global warming?
First of all, any political party that lets a cable news network run a debate should not be surprised when it jumps on the chance to use new media and polemic guests to attract viewers. This is just another example of Republican myopia and ignorance. Second, if you are a political candidate, you should be willing to defend any part of your platform publicly. Otherwise, get the hell off the stage. It’s called a debate, gentlemen, not a speech contest.
Candidate Mitt Romney feels that a presidential candidate has better things to do than respond to questions from a snowman. Well, Mitt, you should get used to this and other indignities if you want to reach your younger voters. This is the world you live in now. People (and major cable news networks) are using and abusing technology in new ways every day. Not every gimmick or application will be a success, but it’s not for you to judge in the middle of the debate. Your job is just to answer the damn snowman’s question. Political candidates now face the special challenge of beta testing new uses of technology in front of our very eyes. Ah, watch them sweat. Isn’t it glorious!
Certainly we have to pause to admire the ways that technology is helping us get a thorough picture of our political candidates. For example, you can play with the mind-boggling Transcript Analyzer on the New York Times website, which not only counts every single word spoken by every participant in the debate (including YouTube contributors), but it also maps each utterance on an interactive grid. When you scroll over each one, the precise piece of the transcript you want is revealed. The application will also let you search specific words and phrases and see how much time and how many words each participant contributed on that specific topic. Amazing? Yes! Useful? Moderately so!
Being a successful political candidate in this century is going to take a lot more charisma, flexibility, and balls than in any past era of human civilization. Every corn dog you eat will be blogged. Every comment you make will be content for a Flash application. And yes, you will have to talk to the occasional snowman.