What's Wrong with You?
There's a long-running debate about who influences whom when it comes to consumers and the media. Is TV news so superficial because that's what people want, or do people want superficial news because that's all they know?
I'm going to take a stand here. Right now, the media and the public are in a self-perpetuating downward-spiral death match to the finish.
Without question, I thought last Friday's first presidential debate marked the highest level of discourse I've seen yet in a televised political debate. Two candidates gave substantive answers to real questions. There were no obviously forced sound bites. There were no pre-planned gotcha stunts. There was no sighing or eye-rolling. Just two knowledgeable people actually presenting plausible arguments.
This is what we've been waiting for, right? But what did the media pundits say when it was all over? They whined: "You'd be hard-pressed to find a good sound bite from this debate." For its part, the electorate shrugged: "I need more."
Did anyone listen to the actual answers in this debate? Did the media cover those answers? Did anyone catch the fact that while McCain believes that Iraq was and is the central front in battling al Qaeda, Obama believes it's in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Did anyone hear McCain say that if we fail in Iraq, the whole war on terror falls apart, while Obama said that going to Iraq has fundamentally harmed our ability to win that war? Did anyone detect their vastly different views of diplomacy, or their definitions of "pre-conditions"?
I guess not. People are still more interested in elusive intangible qualities. The Dow is off 778 points today. We're using the China credit card to spend money we don't have, with the burden placed on people with a negative savings rate. Our entire infrastructure is emerging as a giant Ponzi scheme. Can we please evolve from wanting "the guy you'd rather have a beer with" to "the guy who's going to save your a** from Armageddon"?