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Proposed Experiment for Tonight’s Debate

listening-ks6232.jpgFor those of you with DVR’s, I am going to propose a little experiment.  If you’re like me, you’re an analytical type.  What people say ususally can’t be spun past you. You pay attention to the content, syntax, synonyms, connotations, phrasing and logic to make sense of what each person says.  What did John Edwards mean when he said he didn’t accept money from “federal” lobbyists?  Why does Obama ramble so much, using prepositional phrase after subclause, an never getting to the point?  Why can’t Hillary put a little more lilt into her punch lines?   That’s all well and good and it’s very important.

But what about the rest of it?  Who approaches who for the handshake, whose eyes dart to the left while speaking, who can’t stand still?  Those of you who have children can probably tell when they’re fibbing or nervous or having fun.  It’s all over their faces.  Adults are much better at hiding that but it never completely goes away.  Oliver Sacks, author of “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat” tells the story of patients with aphasia watching Ronald Reagan give a speech and laughing their asses off.  They couldn’t process the language but they knew from his expressions that he was being disingenuous.

So, here’s my idea, turn off the volume.  Watch the debate without any auditory input.   Then ask yourself, which person impressed you just by watching what they did and not what they said.  Then, back the DVR up and listen to what they said.  Do you have a different impression?  Now, ask yourself, if you were not the analytical type, would you be more persuaded by what you see or what you hear?  What if you are just an average Joe with an average vocabulary?  Would visual input be more or less important?

One Response

  1. Here’s what I am going to do with tonight’s debate: not watch it. I’ll watch the Celtics-Mavericks game, and read the transcript of the debate tomorrow. This is largely for basketball reasons (I assume Matthew Yglesias is making that same choice!), but also because the debates when watched live are too much like watching stock-car racing: you are always on the edge of your seat for fear of a crash, which you don’t really fear if it’s not the one you’re rooting for.

    The way to recover the substance of the debates is to experience them in a more detached way, so that’s what I have chosen. And I won’t kid you–there’s a third reason. Much as I support Hillary and much as I think Obama is a brilliant man, they both make me cringe in these formats. Obama seems cloying and Clinton seems mechanical. I’ll stick to words on the page, if it’s OK with you!

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