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TOXIC THOUGHT SYNDROME - POLITICS AND TV

"We're moving now into the "Reality TV" years, and that's why the debates are failing us. Where people have no time for things like "issues" or "discussion", they would gladly sit through twenty weeks of election process if it meant a twice-weekly show where all candidates for a particular riding lived together in seclusion, and the citizenry were allowed to call a 1-900 number to have them voted off. Sure, we'd wind up with a Natural Law Party majority government because the bastard conservatives never won a single luxury competition, but we'd be happy."


Jim Martin talks about how the debates have changed

COPYRIGHT © 2004, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Well, it's election time in Canada and we've just had the major debates. Now, everyone's walking around wondering who in the hell they're going to vote for. There seems to be some surprise about the fact that nothing was really accomplished during the debate except that most of the candidates made themselves look like argumentative jerks. It all just makes me laugh. So I've created the following as a means to both resurrect my Toxic Thought Syndrome which has languished for far too long without my attention, and to try to make some sense of things. I'll warn you now, I'm no poli-sci student and I'm not guaranteeing that anything below is the truth. It just works in my head is all.

Political debates have followed the same formula that television has taken. They started out as a medium for letting the masses gain an understanding of what the issues were and what the candidates' stances were. We'll call these the "Nightly News" years. The ultimate goal of the debate, then, was to win over the public through effective argument that your opinion was the one most worthy of merit, and thus their vote. But the trouble was, the debates were painfully boring.

Then someone came along and realized that the real goal of the debate was to reach people, so rather than trying to win the argument they began to use passion as a tool to prove that the topic was easily the most important thing that we would ever hear about, and that going in any other direction than theirs would only result in debacle. We'll call these the "Donahue" years. This is where the idea of entertaining during the debate came to the fore, and where the question of effective leadership first began to pale in comparison to the need for image.

The next major change came when the insult campaign appeared, what I'll call the "Jerry Springer" years. That's when the issues became less important, and the overall moral character of the person became the only thing that mattered. Character assassins were hired to find the skeletons in the closet of the opponent. Debates were nothing more than opportunities to find out about the naughty little secrets of the elite. The entertainment value was huge. People loved to watch the mighty get humbled, but they didn't like the leaders they wound up with.

We're moving now into the "Reality TV" years, and that's why the debates are failing us. Where people have no time for things like "issues" or "discussion", they would gladly sit through twenty weeks of election process if it meant a twice-weekly show where all candidates for a particular riding lived together in seclusion, and the citizenry were allowed to call a 1-900 number to have them voted off. Sure, we'd wind up with a Natural Law Party majority government because the bastard conservatives never won a single luxury competition, but we'd be happy.

That's what the people want, but it doesn't work that way. Our electoral process isn't going to change with the times no matter how much we want it, so instead we're left in a muddle. The actual debates that happen don't have anyone stand out as a potential leader because they aren't doing what we want them to do. They're busy trying to be passionate and insulting to one another, and all we want is for one of them to leave the seat up and face the wrath of the other leaders.

It's a shame, too. Me, I'd rather see a decent debate around the issues even though it's boring. You wouldn't hold a job interview with someone at a rock concert to make sure it wasn't boring for you. You wouldn't walk your dog over hot coals just to put a little spice into the blahse dog-walking chore. We do things that are boring because they are necessary, and understanding what these so-called leaders stand for and where in fact they want to lead us is a pretty important thing to do, wouldn't you say?







ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jim Martin is a Chief Editor for 3am Magazine, front man for the obscure punk rock band Johnny Incognito, and just a heck of a nice guy.








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