As an interviewer listens to an urgent directive whispered into her ear via her ear-piece, we see a flash of tension in her eyes. It’s time for a commercial.
She rapidly asks her guest, “What do you think are the basic causes of the current conflict in the Middle East, and what are your recommendations for American foreign policy in that region? Very quickly, now. We only have fifteen seconds left.”
Beneath the channel’s banner, rapidly moving text rich in abbreviations and misspellings, feeds the screen with nonstop news blurbs. Simultaneously, a split screen depicts a specific event not necessarily related to the issue being considered (something on the back burner, so to speak). Relentlessly, the colorful, constantly moving graphics on the screen are also screaming for attention as they display images usually associated with Nintendo games.
As the guest attempts to respond, the host’s eyes reveal a sense of anxiety. The warning music begins softly as her attention is firmly focused on her earpiece. The guest, aware that he is being chased, squeezes in as many sound bytes as possible.
Observing this frantic activity, some of us experience the tension we usually associate with a cliffhanger movie (minus the entertainment). As viewers, we are expected to accept logo circuses and blurbs as sources of information. Fast news. Fast images. Fast commentary.
Taken to absurd limits, fast talk has found its way into presidential “debates”! A typical format is designed with the premise that two minutes and thirty seconds are ample time to respond to questions of global significance. Ironically, this notion serves the candidates well in their delivery of prepackaged answers. Presidential debates allow no commercials, no moving texts, no graphic pyrotechnics.
Also missing, are original thoughts.
When compared to the usual television pace, the debates provide most people with the illusion that they are watching an intellectual debate. Most people have grown accustomed to the blurb mentality-many of them prefer it. For them, “News in Depth” television segments need not be an ocean or even a river-a puddle will do. They often take more time to decide which dessert to have after dinner than they do thinking about profound issues. Vanilla or Chocolate? Pro-life or Pro-choice?
Candidates for high office are asked for answers that cannot be given in two-and-a-half minutes. Try giving someone a recipe for cheesecake in two-and-a-half minutes, and you’ll see what I mean. So, in order for candidates to win a debate, they must appear presidential (whatever that means) and speak fluent Blurbish. This precludes thought.
Yet, the superstition persists that debates matter. Sensors record audience reaction to every word. The ongoing results are superimposed on the screen. Clearly, the candidates dare not stray from talking points. Desperately, they are hoping for that rare spectacular blurb that will land them a decisive victory.
The press, pundits, and political gurus present us with moving graphics, “The red line represents negatives. The yellow one, affirmatives. Notice how the red line plunged here…but here, the yellow one surges sharply upward when he said…”
But, what did he say? Was it true? Was it wise? Was it fair? It doesn’t matter. In baseball it’s called a home run. You win games with those. So it is with blurbs!