- “We as a nation are television watchers. Not only do we learn about politics by watching television, but we are television watchers; who we are as humans is in part defined by the attention that we pay to the television.”
I thought the Olympics were over yesterday, until S. said that the closing ceremonies hadn't happened yet. Now if I’d been watching the endless coverage of the Games being broadcast from China, I would know this, a fact I am often rudely reminded of by those who ask me “did you see_________ break that record last night?” If I'm not careful, I might find myself on the Terrorist Watch List, because not watching television, it seems, is un-American.
This week, as the Democratic Convention gets under way in Denver, we will be seeing the most famous political talkmeisters in rare form, fanning any bit of innuendo, any speck of allusion, any iota of insinuation into make-believe controversies in a way that only a bona fide member of the punditocracy can.
Grown men and women will be arguing over the meaning of upward tilt of Barack Obama's head when he is listening. They will attempt to interpret the nuances in the intonation Hillary Clinton uses when she gives her speech on Tuesday night. Ad when there is no news - when nothing of any real consequence is happening - they will dig up one of their favorite images from the campaign trail, like Rev. Wright, or Hillary Clinton's tears in Iowa.
Media scholar John McManus has found that there are four general rules of broadcasting that serve as the modus operandi of the chattering class.
Seek images over ideas.
Seek emotion over analysis.
Exaggerate if needed, to add appeal.
Avoid extensive news gathering.
I grew up on the AP style of reporting – the kind where television news reporters strove mightily to avoid using any adjectives, adverbs, or verbs that projected an opinion. Even the political pundits, who were few and far between back when there were only three major television networks, seemed to choose their words with care as they critiqued Congress or the president. So I'll be doing some "Punditocracy Special Reports" this week to peer a little deeper into the "four rules of broadcasting" concept.
We've already established that I am a reluctant TV watcher. So when I make time to do it, like I did earlier this year during the primary season, I am often left shaking my head. It’s hard to believe that these political pundits can even begin to shape their mouths around some of the ridiculous things that they say.
I guess I'll be shaking my head a lot this week.