Monday, October 8, 2012

VP Debate Thought Experiment

Let me ask you something.  How many times have you gone to a movie based on its glowing review only to find that it totally sucked, or perhaps vice versa, reading a bad review but finding that the movie was quite enjoyable?  It's happened to all of us at least once.  And it's not just movies.  We've done it with restaurants, television, music, theater, books, even sports.  Seriously, how many people root for the Dallas Cowboys not because they like them, but because we've been told for the last 20 year's that they're "America's Team"?  How many people fell for the Bush administration's claims that Iraq had "Weapons of Mass Destruction".  Of course we like to think that we're not this maleable, but in reality very few of us are capable of formulate our own opinion on things of importance.  So we ask others for their opinion, and we act based on those opinions.

I think that it's safe to say that the consensus of President Obama's performance in last week's Presidental Debate is that it was at best, sub-par.  At least that's what the media talking heads tell us.  But here's the thing, and I think it's very important for us to ask ourselves this.  Just how much of our opinion of last week's debate did we forumlate ourselves?  How much of our assessment of Obama's performance was due to our own objective analysis versus Chris Matthews working himself into a near-coronary.  Say what you want about the crazy conspiracy theories that all the polls showing Obama in the lead are somehow "skewed" to discourage Republicans.  But the truth is that media rantings may very well have more influence on our opinions that we like to admit.  To that end, I'd like to conduct a little thought experiment for Thursday's VP debate. 

The debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan starts at 9:00 EDT.  Before that you have all of the pre-debate analysis telling us what the candidates have to do, and after you have the post debate spin telling us what the candidates did and how we're supposed to feel about it.  Here's the experiment.  Ignore all of it.  Watch the debate, and only the debate.  Listen to what the candidates are saying, and watch how they say it.  Do your own analysis and be your own pundit.  And when it's over, turn it off, all of it.  Don't watch the pre or post debate stuff.  Turn on HBO.  Put on a DVD, or if you're old school like me a VHS tape.  Hell, surf some porn.  The idea is to get away from the prolific pontifications of the political punditry, and do your own analysis.  Blog about it, tweet about it, whatever.  Most of all, sleep on it.  Allow your brain to assimilate what you've observed, and form your own opinion.  Then the following morning, when all of the shows will be prattling on about what happened, see if their opinion jibes with yours.  Whether it does or not, you will have the surety of having formed your own opinion, and not merely following someone elses.

The mainstream media, and their cable counterparts, have a vested interest in keeping you glued to their every word, and emotionally yanking you hither and yon to the point where you can't be sure where your opinion ends and their's begin.  It keeps you watching, and brings them ratings.  That's ok.  I like watching the reality TV that politics has become just as much as the next political junky.  But I'd also like to thank the media to allow me to make up my own mind.  Obviously, they can't really do that.  So, I figure I'd do the next best thing.  Ignore them, and see just what happens.