Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Political TV: Switch The Channel

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule—and both commonly succeed, and are right. 
H.L. Mencken, 1956

Take our politicians: they're a bunch of yo-yos. The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of cliches the first prize. 
Saul Bellow

Politics is just like show business. You have a hell of an opening, coast for a while, and then have a hell of a close.
Ronald Reagan

Political TV: It's as predictable as it is bad art and poor entertainment.
Credit: Daryl Cage, msnbc.com
 
I rarely watch political shows or panels or political pundits on TV. But when I do I am reminded of why I avoid them. Three reasons come to mind: 1) They fail to entertain, 2) their performances are too predictable, and 3) they are too noisy. Screaming, finger-pointing, incoherent statements and figuratively foaming at the mouth hardly counts as an exchange of ideas that merits my attention.

It's makes for an unsightly picture. More so, such displays do little to advance our society, and give the distinct impression that we are moving backwards. We live in an age when people for the most part argue with passion, which is fine, but not with knowledge, reason or courtesy. Such displays of mindless passion are a needless distraction to the more pressing issues facing our society, many of which I have discussed in this blog. It might just be political theatre that would make Chekhov laugh. Or on second thought, not.

Such political performances are notable on American TV, but also on Canadian and European channels. It's bad performance art, complete with imperious performers acting as pundits, preening their ideas with the certainty of the weak-minded. It's a mock seriousness without the knowledge or deep thinking that ought to be part of such shows. Within a few minutes of viewing a show, you are left without any surprises, knowing the outcome. It's the presentation of one idea that gets played out over and over again. Ad nauseam.

Bad theatre like bad art exists for reason; and all bad theatre soon finds an audience. It speaks to the "true believers" of the idea or ideology they hold dear, and who are faithful to its causes. Evidence to the contrary is unwelcome and looked at with suspicion or hostility, like an uninvited house guest. No doubt, these political performances, similar in style and tone to some showy evangelical preacher, have a dedicated audience.

Sure, it's an embarrassment to good taste, individual dignity, and high ideals and morals. But such is democracy today, where anyone can have the freedom to embarrass oneself on TV. If it were somewhat entertaining, it might be worth watching. But I can find little value in such shows, and would rather spend my time reading a good novel, even one I have read before. Political TV is bad art. So, to spare such individuals any further embarrassment, I would suggest that we switch the channel.

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