Wednesday, 23 September 2020

A debate is not an interview

No, that was not a debate.

Although a surprising number of you seem to think it is is.

A debate is an event in which participants address the issues and each other moderated only a fellow with a bell, not a clipboard full of his own questions. And in a real debate, all that fellow says is things like "fifteen seconds to go," or "time's up." And the candidates get to challenge each other, instead of the fellow with the clipboard trying to do it for them.

A debate is not an interview, which is what we had last night: a two-headed interview, conducted by a lacklustre over-talking interviewer who too often confuses himself for a participant, and too rarely allowed any actual debate to continue. An unscripted two-way interview with pre-coached leaders doing their best to say nothing of any substance. An un-debate. A kind of managed “reality television” in which important issues are safely ignored in favour of the hype, fluff, bluster and insults which are breathlessly reported as evidence that one of the candidates "won," and the other was looking "tired." (As if it matters how things are said rather than what they were trying to say, if anything.) And so we learned about as much from the interview as we do from every interview over which the over-talking fellow presides.

We may have learned as much (or as little) from an actual debate. But we'll never know. Because we don't seem to have them any more.

A debate, an actual debate, might at least give us some idea of the opponents' ability to choose their topics, to focus their attacks, to challenge their opponents' flaws or errors. Something about their character -- which, in an election in which most policy is "me-too!" is about all you have as a point of difference, is becoming all-important.

A debate is not an interview. I'd like to see one. It might be fun -- and even revealing.

PS: I didn't watch either of the other alleged "debates" happening last night --- was any more revealed in either of them?

1 comment:

  1. I'm watching the finance debate rerun. The moderator still posed the questions, but the debate ran a bit more freely as she didn't stiffle it too much. I'm none the wiser what the moderator thinks - which is exactly how it should have been. There is policy discussion, interjections and even some wit.


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