Sitting with the Next President

Monday, October 1st, 2007

My wife had a wonderful if question a few weeks back, something simple yet elegant.

What if we had to vote on candidates via radio only?

How would we decide based solely on the aural sense? We were talking about variants of the essay. What if all the candidates had to write their way into the office? I find the radio more intriguing. Kucinich strikes an odd look, especially when posing with his wife. The image rules. In the image we lose the power of the speaking voice. Or am I wrong about that?

I want anyone claiming to speak or act for me to come to my house and tell me what’s really on their mind. I’ll give them a nice cup of coffee and space to think, either party, whatever. At the moment, we never really know much about anyone given that the screen is a moment made to look like a mile of space, and relying on news is even worse given that you can only conclude so much within the edited frame. The illusion of the TV moment and its strange arcs of reality are vividly dangerous for decision making or as a serious tool for argument and consensus building, as we’ve seen. For most people, all they will know of this or that person is as a TV image.

We meet Sir Gawain head on at the end of the tale when he learns what we’ve suspected all along. The audience knows far less from the first person. Storytelling and media are consequential to each other. The political season–which appears now to be perpetual (a mark of a failure in the system?), like war–and its stories are expressed on a rehearsed stage as far away from reality as is possible, but this is so known now that it’s become cliched. We should stop buying that soap and shampoo, I think. It’s always on sale.

Isn’t it important that we think about how we know, distinguish, and conclude?


One response to “Sitting with the Next President”

  1. Josh says:

    “In the image we lose the power of the speaking voice. Or am I wrong about that?”

    The first-ever TV Presidential debate in 1960 drove a nail into Nixon’s bid at the White House because he believed the people would vote for what they heard and not what they saw. (It didn’t help that he was in the throes of a cold.) I believe the historical fallout of that televised debate developed the destructive paranoia he had of the media that would eventually destroy his legacy.

    TV has changed modern politics in a way that I do not consider to be good. We never see the famous Presidential train trips throughout the country or the kind of historical debates as Lincoln/Dougals. The TV box and the internet has desensitised politics.

    The question you leave us with is spot on.