Saturday, October 31, 2015

Quickies: Debates And The “Debates”

     By now, everyone’s said and written quite enough about the travesty of a Republican presidential “debate” hosted by CNBC. Yes, it was quite as bad as it’s been said to be. Yes, it was a display of media bias and, equally important, media arrogance that one would be hard pressed to exceed. Yes, the candidates were largely united in the counterattack against the hard-left “moderators.” Yes, yes, yes.

     But I have a different subject in mind: the essential elements of a debate, as they’ve been understood for centuries.

     A debate worthy of the name has always involved:

  • A focus question (e.g.: “Resolved: That rye toast should be buttered, not cream-cheesed and jellied”);
  • “For” and “against” participants or teams thereof;
  • Rules about what sort of statements are licit, and a moderator to enforce them.

     What we’ve seen called “debates” among presidential contenders are nothing of the sort. They’re group interrogations, often conducted by “moderators” who’ve already chosen sides and thus will skew the exchanges among them with tendentious questions. If the CNBC “debate” offered us anything of enduring value, it was that it made this plain at long last.

     Are authentic debates possible among a multitude of contenders? I can’t see how they could be organized. How would one select a single focus question? How would the contenders be partitioned into teams? And of course, how would such an affair play on television?

     Of one thing I am certain: the “debates” we’ve endured have been anything but informative for the general public, at least as regards educating viewers about the character, intelligence, candor, and readiness for the presidency of the participants. Individual interviews of the competitors would be far more constructive. But the major media find the “debate” format as currently practiced more congenial to their ratings...especially if they can contrive to get the contenders embroiled in a slanging match, perhaps even an on-air fistfight.


Malatrope said...

I call these "debates" Inquisitions.

Roy Lofquist said...

Same question, limited to 5 seconds, to all candidates in random order.

Chess clocks - each participant can answer as little or as much as they choose.