Author Archives: Terrance Ford

Local Politics, News Coverage, and Capitalism – Politics That Sell

On September 14, 2010, the State of Tennessee held a debate in Cookeville between the two candidates for Governor, Bill Haslam and Mike McWherter.

I wonder which appalls me more, the actual debate or its news coverage?

Let’s start with the political debate. We have reduced political debate to 5-10 categories around which politicians usually dance and parade or from which they divert to jab their opponents’ political integrity.

Haslam and McWherter dribbled about the same tired topics: education, religion, and health care.

Fundamentally, the structure of this system endorses the status quo because categories over which politicians fight control and restrict political possibilities. Debating political issues isolates each topic from other realms of political concern and neglects the intricate interrelation of political categories.

For example, we hardly consider publicly that high health care prices encourage abortion. Or we do not consider that broadband encourages Internet users to buy from websites, name from large company websites, and discourages shopping locally. Politicians largely argue their positions in terms of dollar signs and not for the political well-being of the commonwealth.

The two-party system too restricts political possibilities. Each voter may find themselves cradling several different party lines on several different political categories. However, the two-party system forces us to choose either conservative or liberal campaigns, in which our personal political views are lost.

Furthermore, politics takes on the form of the capitalistic markets. Politicians compete in such a way to generate votes, just as companies compete for customers. Politicians capitalize on voters to extend the agendas of their respective parties.

Here the media encroaches as a means to sell newspapers, journals, and the like. Journalists highlight the competing views, particularly the political chattering and insults between candidates, as were exchanged between Haslem and McWherter.

Such a violent representation actually sells more newspapers, in the same way reality television sells “real” interpersonal conflict. By and large, such conflict incites the readers’ emotions or own political viewpoints and thus intrigues the public as a mode to sell.

As it turns out, the front pages of newspapers headline political miscues or inappropriate conduct by politicians, along with big pictures. However, the results of a city council meeting grab a mere 100-words spot in the local section, unless the issue is controversial of course.

Therefore, we have transformed politics and political news coverage into commodity. We herald violence, not peace, in order to accumulate voters and paying customers. We have reduced politics to an ontology of capitalism.

Workplace Etiquette – Should You Debate the Debate?

It’s 5:30 a.m., and your alarm clock loudly sounds, sending a jolting shrill that interrupts your peaceful slumber. You take your anger out on the snooze button three times until you finally convince yourself to roll out of bed. After battling with rush hour traffic, you grab a cup of coffee, arrive at your workplace, and slip into your workspace with seven minutes to spare. As you mentally prepare to attack your daily duties, you overhear coworkers discussing this week’s Presidential Debate. Just as you think your presence has gone unnoticed, one of your coworkers asks you to join in the conversation and debate the debate. He invasively asks, “Who are you voting for?”

Immediately you realize that no matter which candidate’s name you provide as an answer to his pointed question, you will be forced to engage in a conversation that could cause tension throughout the workplace. So what do you do?

Follow the lead of the politicians. Now, we don’t suggest that you talk in circles until your coworker is so confused he can’t remember the question he asked in the first place. Instead, we suggest you eloquently answer in a pragmatic fashion.

Wrong Answer:  “I’m voting for Abraham Lincoln; Republicans rock!”

Right Answer:  “I’m making my candidate choice carefully, and I’m weighing all the issues. The democratic process is important, and we should all vote!”

Remember, at work we want to satisfy our daily tasks and build strong relationships with coworkers and clients. Delving too deeply into the subject of politics may cause unwanted awkwardness or may even birth negative feelings toward your stellar reputation, which you’ve spent so much time building. Moreover, engaging in such conversations may lead senior managers to assume that you are off task.

Don’t jeopardize your next request for a future raise, promotion, or bonus by engaging in unnecessary political debates. Play it safe. Stay general when asked to tackle tough political questions.

Politics Vs The Watercooler – Political Protocol For the Workplace

On the stage in political theatre, we as a nation have been spectators and participants of the greatest, most suspenseful and dramatic miniseries -The Presidential Election of 2008. No wonder this has been our country’s current recreation. Do you recall the old adage that politics is the only game for adults?

The players/candidates must be willing do all that can be done to win or they should not be in the public life. Victory is decreed by demonizing your opponents by exchanging vitriol verbal blows. We as the spectators/voters thrive on a culture of a dog-eat-dog mentality. Thus, the metaphor of the theatre sets the stage for “Blood Sports.”

There is no need to ponder why debates spill from the family living room, the university classrooms, and other social and religious venues directly into the workplace.

According to a study by Office Team in Medo, California, while once a refuge of a no politics and no religious zone, the workplace has triggered a maelstrom of political debate at the office water-cooler.

The rules of this “blood sport” rely on human nature. The sides we align ourselves in this arena are based on our values. Consequently, our values emotionally define our decisions. If we impose our convictions on others while negating their feelings, it sets forth a dynamite charge of threatening emotions.

Instinctually, the fight or flight response is elicited. While this is a life-saving mechanism, it can also churn dire consequences when produced in a work environment.

Civility expert P.M. Forni, Director of the Civility Initiative at John Hopkins University, found that it is up to employees to handle these concerns at the cubicle level. Most managers will not legislate good manners or dampen debates. Therefore, the employee must use caution in debating and respecting the opinions of their co-workers.

The Intrigues of Political Debate

If you have ever entered into a political debate, you will know that politics is always intriguing, confusing but never easy. It is far too simplistic to try to categorize individuals as being on the political left or political right. If you ask ten people to define what being a Democrat means you will probably get ten different answers. The same goes for Republicans. Even within the political parties you will get a range of opinions veering from the far left to moderate and perhaps even far right on some issues. This has lead to some people suggesting that a third party is required.

A political debate should be an opportunity for people to put their points of view across and argue, politely, with their opponents. The winner of the debate is the one with the most convincing argument. That’s the theory. The reality is somewhat different. When you have two people involved in a public debate, the person who is seen as the winner is usually the one who has more charm and charisma. They are better able to put their point across and have the ability to present their views in the language of the listener. They may even look better. It has been noted that President Obama’s natural good looks and charm didn’t do him any harm in the political arena. It is a fact of human nature that we often side on the part of the person who looks the best rather than the views they hold.

Watching a political debate can be entertaining and educational if it is held in the correct format and is properly controlled. Unfortunately all too often they end up in a shouting match between the two candidates/parties with verbal personal attacks featuring very frequently. If you are involved in a discussion about politics always maintain your composure and listen to the views of the other side. You never know but they could have something interesting to say.

Political Debate – How You Benefit From It?

You read, see and hear about leading politicians having a full blown debate on an issue that has been in the headlines. But you never really paid attention to it before, did you? You think what is the need to listen, if you can’t put forward your questions, views and opinions. Well, things have changed.

The internet has brought on this change. Now you can not only get to know about the important issues being debated, but can also participate in the debate. Online debating platforms allow you the much needed arena to express yourself by sharing your views and exchange informed opinions with others. The opportunities here are endless, as you can take your pick from any issue or any subject that has you longing to speak your mind. Even the national issues, that are discussed in the corridors of power, but have a direct impact on you and your life, may be debated on online platforms.

An important Parliamentary Debate on some national issue can be picked up online. You can start a debate, a discussion or even spark a conversation on the same. These debate forums have experts from various fields as panelists; such as professors, researchers and leading academics; who know about the issues inside out. With their vast knowledge and immense experience, they put forward a complete picture (a presentation of words actually) for the people to understand.

What is the most interesting thing about such debates engineered by experts? Well, you get the true picture, with the opinions not coloured by political motives. When they write about something, they do it for the ordinary individuals and not for themselves or the interest of concerned parties. Often the debates at political levels are laden with biased views and information that seek to accomplish the party’s political or socio-economic goals. Even the opposition party comes in with its own agendas. That is why hoping for an honest inflow of information is like wishing for the moon. Hence the need arises for a complete and unbiased source of information on such issues.

The online debating platforms more than fulfill this requirement of a bigger and better take on essential issues. The topic chosen for the debate may vary from person to person. For instance, someone may want to know all about the tax rules that the Government is planning on implementing. Whereas someone may want to know more about the economical impact of the Euro being considered as ‘weak’. A debate between well informed experts on the same subject will definitely put the issue in a whole new light for the people. They may see the finer points and the nuances that they may have missed before.