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.