The Baby Boomer generation is the first to grow up with television. It has been an important and pervasive part of our lives. During this same period Madison Avenue cut its teeth on the same generation as depicted by the hit series “Mad Men”. The TV shows we watched and the breakfast cereals that we ate were designed to attract us. The science of advertising has been refined and TV shows are written to attract specific demographics which in turn will attract specific advertisers. If it sounds very manipulative and contrived, it should.
What we see on TV is designed to garner specific reactions and actions. What does this say about the media’s role in the world of politics. The now famous Kennedy/Nixon debates were only the beginning. We have all depended on TV to tell us what is happening and how to react. The incredible growth of TV options through cable enables us to have our own opinions reinforced by very authoritative personalities who are skilled at making a political point. Needless to say, all of the other media outlets, Twitter, Facebook etc. have very specific agendas. Additionally, there is no shortage of books to reinforce your predisposed opinion. With the addition of carefully crafted candidate advertising we are drowning in a sea of information all designed to help us make a decision.
Finally, we come to the party conventions. The climax of the convention is when the party nominees speak to accept the nomination. Each speech is widely anticipated. It is after all the “Word” that we are going to hear. Of course each speech is written by a team of professional writers to garner the specific reaction the candidate and his experts is seeking. The candidate is coached by experts regarding tone, volume, inflection and gestures. We are getting a carefully crafted and carefully rehearsed presentation. What is that supposed to tell us about what kind of president a candidate will be. Are we voting for an academy award or are we voting for a president?
So how can a voter make a decision? The right to vote comes with responsibility. The lazy, easy way is to just take what is handed to you through TV and other media and vote accordingly. But to do it right, the voter has to read and investigate and learn what a candidate is really like and really believes. It has become easy to get away with out and out lies this year because the candidates are assuming that the voter will take the easy way out. This is the cynicism of the Republican Party in action. Romney and Ryan are depending that you will not take the time to learn and investigate and find the truth. If they are right, our electoral system is in jeopardy. Prove them wrong.