Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On Debate

I'm growing increasingly cynical at the quality of debate offered by the braodcast media. TV and radio now seem to think the best way to present a difference of opinion is to find two people whose views are at absolute extreme ends of the spectrum and set them up against each other. Of course all they do is rant uncontrollably at each other, neither individual remotely interested in conceding the other has anything the slightest bit valid to say and ultimately the debate achieves nothing. This is presented to us, the viewer, as serious debate.

Of course it is anything but that. At the extreme ends of any subject you only get the intractable minority who are not interested in the point of view of anybody but themself. There may be a huge and moderate middle ground of people who are interested in solving their particular problem, who might be interested in seeing the other side of the argument, and who might consider a bit of give and take is a worthwhile price to pay to achieve something. The problem is that whilst this may actually achieve something it usually doesn't make for good television and we all know that good television makes for good ratings.

Reality and daytime TV have of course been exploiting the above technique for what seems like ages. They love a good scrap. And when the fight starts they can step in and sanctimoniously announce that they never condone violence or abuse whilst in fact they've set the whole thing up and have achieved just what they wanted. It's a ratings winner!

Allowing this confrontational technique to debate real issues is a slippery slope. It devalues sensible debate that tries to achieve solutions and encourages the belief that all opinion has to polarised and extreme but ultimately achieves nothing.

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