Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dang It

I despise having to agree with someone whom I consider to have intelligence on a scale ranking between carbon atoms and paramecia. In this case, Howard Dean (one of the most useless suit-stuffers in this country today) actually says a few things about media coverage of politics and politicians with which I agree.

Not that I'm getting soft on ol' Howard the Duck.

He was responding to a query by a banker who was attending a Mortgage Bankers Association conference. (Pardon me whilst I attempt to imagine anything more desperately dull than a Mortgage Bankers Association conference.) This banker was frustrated with candidates who "only talk in sound bites."
"I suggest you have candidates in to meetings like this and bar the press," Dean said.
Which sounds great, but significantly reduces the possibility that I'd ever hear whether the candidates said anything of which I need to be aware. Still, Dean summarizes the primary difficulty with modern media this way:
"The media has been reduced to info-tainment," Dean said. "Info-tainment sells, the problem is they reach the lowest common denominator instead of forcing a little education down our throats, which we are probably in need of from time to time."
I guess I blame the whole thing on our reduced attention spans.

"Info-tainment" (as with "edu-tainment") is a double-edged sword. Our time is precious to us as consumers; we feel a need to digest things quickly, make more snap decisions. In business we are constantly under pressure to do more, faster, with fewer resources (read: headcount) than ever before. My email inbox at work is my haunting spectre; it reminds me of all the demands on my time and attention.

Modern media has rushed to fill available time by shrinking itself into bite-sized chunks that we obviously can digest more quickly, but is rather light on caloric content. In other words, as with a certain brand of "light beer" (of which I, personally, have absolutely no knowledge!), it may taste great, but it's less filling. And that's not necessarily a good thing.

Oh, we try. We bloggers delude ourselves into thinking we're providing the bridge between a jaded ADD public and increasingly heavy political and social commentary. But mostly we just point to some other guy (or gal) and say, "Hey, look at what he (or she) said! Go read that!"

Along the way we attempt to provide our own analysis of the issues that most concern us, but in the end, we all turn to Fox, CNN, or even Tiffany to tell us what the flamin' candidates are up to today. Have they embarrassed themselves? Have they made tremendous strides in the looming issues of presidential hair grooming? Or are they trying to re-invent themselves by learning second languages?

Then we harumph at the obvious bias with which the network serves up our desired sound bites, and start the process all over again. We are hopelessly addicted.

Of course, Dean has been on the receiving end of some rather unfavorable press himself on occasion:
Dean said politicians live in fear that their words will be twisted for the sake of headlines.

"Politicians are incredibly careful not to say anything if they can possibly help it, except if it is exactly scripted. And if you want to hear anybody's true views, you cannot do it in the same room as the press," Dean said. "If you want to hear the truth from them, you have to exclude the press."
But, of course, you really can't.

For one thing, the Mortgage Bankers Association is so desperate to have someone — anyone — notice them, that they have to invite the press to report that Howard Dean, Lord High Democrat, came to speak with them. I guess you're likely to be desperate if you're willing to publicize that.

On the other hand, do we really want our candidates being too careful with what they say? Isn't that, after all, how Howard found himself as a former candidate for President of the United States?

I guess, to that extent, I'm forced to agree with Howard. We need our candidates to be able to speak their unscripted minds from time to time. There's always time for another scripted speech somewhere or other, but those candid shots are worth far more than a thousand words.

Right, Howard?

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