politics technology

Political debate in the age of television

I was struck by this comment about TV in the Guardian today. about with Britain’s leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, where he repeats the same answer to every question.

“The modern world suffers from a cavernous reality deficit. You know it, I know it. Even “they” know it” says Brooker. “It’s no surprise that politicians gabble pre-scripted taglines in order to dodge awkward questions and avoid having off-the-cuff comments inflated into a full-blown gaffe. And it’s no surprise the media routinely colludes in this surreal pantomime. But it’s only when you stand back and watch the rushes that you see how crazy the situation has become.”

I’m reminded of Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death, where he disects the medium of television and what it does to our politics:

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”

I think Miliband’s interview would classify as ‘a form of baby-talk’, and lest we make it personal, here’s .

In the same paper, there’s an interview with comedian and writer . He describes being shown around the White House as part of his research for upcoming show Veep. Obama’s aide showed him the Roosevelt Room, and then observed that “that would be where CJ and Josh would have been talking'”. Those are characters from TV drama The West Wing.

“I thought why not say that’s where this president or that president did this or that” says Iannucci. “What’s happened is that the only shared reality we have is things we have seen on television.”

I ought to read Postman again.

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