- Nov 22, 2003
- Reaction score
They are going way fast and shallow:
For a Pot of Message
Why the presidential campaign is starting so very early this time around.
Friday, February 16, 2007 12:01 a.m.
"Why do you think everyone is obsessing on the presidential race so early?" The question came from a friend who works in magazines. I told her I'd been thinking about the exact same thing. We're barely less than two years out and yet paying attention to presidential politics as if it were October 2008.
Part of the reason is structural: A technological revolution spawned a media revolution; new media is determined to win the day, old media is desperate to keep up. Large investments are at stake. Competition forces its own dynamism; everyone's filing, live, on cable, on the Internet, from Manchester, N.H., or Ames, Iowa. The chatter is everywhere.
In 1959 Teddy White stood in the snow by himself in New Hampshire and got to . . . reflect. Now ten thousand Teddys flood the zone. Of course they're reduced to counting Barack Obama's nose hairs. Actually they're reduced to scrambling over each other for the sound bite from the man on the street when they know, actually, that there is no man on the street anymore in terms of . . . innocence, ingenuousness, "my first time seeing a speech by a guy who could be president!" Every voter's a vet.
The most dismaying thing I've noticed the past 10 years on television is that ordinary people who are guests on morning news shows--the man who witnessed the murder, the housewife who ran from the flames--speak, now, in perfect sound bites. They also cry on cue. They used to ramble, like unsophisticated folk, and try to keep their emotions to themselves. Anchors had to take them in hand. "But what happened then?" Now the witness knows what's needed, and how to do it. "And when she didn't come home, Matt, I knew: this is not like her. And I immediately called the authorities."
Why does this dismay? Because it's another stepping away from the real. Artifice detaches us even from ourselves.