The excitement leading up to the Republican debate that took place in St. Petersburg on Wednesday wasn’t generated by any particular candidate or his respective policies. Instead, the buzz was created by the Republican Party agreeing to answer questions generated and submitted by YouTube users.
As the GOP hopes to reach out to a new generation of voters, this trendy style of political discourse may lead to the degeneration of democracy and true political action.
Labeled as the “People’s Debate” by CNN, the incorporation of the questions being asked through video clips actually limits the involvement of the ‘people.’ CNN reported that they received 5,000 videos, of which only a small portion were selected by the moderator.
This gave the producers of the debate the power to affect the discourse of the discussion, instead of the people. There would be a better opportunity for a candid question to be asked if random audience members were given the podium.
Instead of asking serious questions, people have taken the opportunity to create comical or witty videos that are bent on shameless
self-promotion, and CNN gave them the chance to earn their 15 minutes of fame.
The videos CNN advertised before the event showed questions that were quite basic. Many of them would be easily answered if any voter read the newspaper about a specific candidate or visited a campaign’s Web site.
The circus created by this format detracts from major issues facing the nation at what might be the most pivotal time to address them, while the population is at threat to be lulled into a false sense of political activity. When the best opportunity to question your government comes from using a Web site known for insane Guitar Hero solos and clips of skateboarders falling down stairs, people are only further separated from government.
The decision to use questions from YouTube also limits the range of citizens involved. While it has become increasingly more accessible, there are still many in the United States who have limited or no access to this technology. This affects those in poverty or those who have never accessed the Web site.
It is clear that none of this matters for CNN. The end result is a broadcast where a select few can speak, after which the candidates can mock each other. The more absurd the show, the more the debates favor the ratings of CNN instead of the interests of the people.