On my ride home from work last night I had the chance to listen to ‘All Things Considered’ on National Public Radio. I always love the stories on there, as they take a different look at the news all around us. One such segment was titled “Vice Presidental Debate ‘Mirrors’ American Idol”. The segment suggested that voters and viewers alike seem more engaged this year in the election, watching the debate, and discussing their thoughts on the candidates because we have been conditioned through reality television to watch, judge, and vote.
This thought blew my mind. Have we truly been conditioned to engage interactively in televison and is this years election turning into the biggest reality tv show ever? It’s quite possible. Unfortunately, while more people seem engaged in watching, casting their opinion and casting their vote it’s possible it’s for all the wrong reasons. As the segment finished Bob Mondello stated:
“But the things reality shows have conditioned us to look for – polish, brashness, engagement with the camera – are all surface, not things that have much to do with governing. When the chatter the day after a debate is about performance – did the president look down too much? Was the congressman smiling or smirking? We’ve left serious political discourse and entered White House Idol territory. Talent shows, like beauty contests, are all about style. There’s another dimension to debates: content, the one thing we’re never asked to judge on most reality shows. Being able to belt your big finish to the rafters is what matters on “American Idol.” The quality of the lyrics? Not so much.”
Here in lies the issue. We are focusing on the surface and behaviours, often ignoring the content. This is obvious seeing as the majority of new channels and the individuals they polled declared Romney the winner of the presidental election, despite the fact that his content was mostly incorrect, incongruent with his past statements or simply wrong.
So, I ask you: Should politicians focus more on their looks and behaviours to catch the eye of their voters and entirely ignore content, or does the content still matter? Is this all just a reality television show?
For the full transcript and sound clip of the NPR piece please see below:
Sound Clip: Listed under heard on the air
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This has been an issue ever since the first televised debate. Then there is that old adage ‘it’s not what you say it’s how you say it.’ We are a culture that increasingly puts an emphasis on physical appearance.