The three presidential debates are in the books. In less than two weeks, we’ll go to the polls to vote to see which of the two competitors in these riveting encounters will be president when the sun sets on January 20th.
For those who missed them, here’s a helpful recap of each debate, viewed from the perspective of the average Facebook user.
In summary: Derp, derp, derp.
A generation ago, when I was a child observing the presidential elections of 1988 and 1992, commentators lamented the fact that television had eroded our attention spans to the point that a candidate’s message had to be reduced to 30- or 60-second “sound bites,” often obscuring nuance and detail. This criticism was lobbed most frequently at younger voters who had had the “misfortune” of growing up during MTV’s heyday, their impressionable minds saturated by wave after wave of ever-changing images, trained to digest information in short, flashy clips replete with perpetual edits, effects, and other shiny objects.
Now? Merely concentrating long enough to listen to an entire 30-second clip of a candidate’s message seems like a tall f***ing order.
Engagement is a problem. Focus might be a bigger one. Or, at least, focus on something that we can’t relate back to ourselves.
If television was gasoline on the fire, the internet is diethyl ether.
Looking back on the three debates, the Big Bird thing was an insignificant facet of a minor point, the “binders full of women” was an odd word choice, but little else (and people who decontextualize it to try to read more into it are reaching), and the remark about bayonets and horses was just a mildly-silly turn-of-phrase that din’t really make the point the president intended to make.
But my point is that it seems that most folks are eager to dispense with any concrete analysis of what was actually said (at least beyond the point of clinging to their previously-held beliefs about the candidates), and, instead, focus on a terse phrase that can easily be adapted into a “funny” picture that serves as a sort of shorthand in an attempt to ridicule the option they dislike.
And that’s where we are. A phrase (with a funny picture – LOLZ) is about all we can muster. We have less and less RAM all the time.
This also begs the question of where we’ll be in another 20 years in terms of how much (and what kind of) information we’re able to handle before we get bored or give up.
My best guess?
The candidate’s last name coupled with a loud farting noise.
Of course, any time I get too frustrated about the current state of affairs, I remind myself that the competing slogans in the 1884 presidential election were “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, the Continental Liar from the State of Maine,” obviously referring to James Blaine, and “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?,” referring to Grover Cleveland’s fathering of an out-of-wedlock child.