Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Join the Madrid/Wilson Debate Frenzy Frenzy!

When it comes to Wilson/Madrid right now the fervor is over determining who won the Congregation Albert debate, followed somewhat closely by statements throughout the blogomediasphere about what the important issues in the race are. Even a fleeting glance of local blogs illustrates that there is definitely no shortage of bloggers willing to tell us what to think on both of these points.

Which gets me to smoking pot.

Statistics are somewhat hazy, perhaps due to reluctance for respondents to be honest in this area, but roughly 50 percent of Americans between the age of 20-50 have smoked marijuana at least once, at least as of 2002. Regardless of whether that figure is a bit high or low, pretty much everybody concedes that. Now by having written those last two sentences, you, the well-trained critical thinker might be saying to yourself:

  1. "Scot is for Patsy because he's softening Madrid's own admission that she smoked pot back in the day by saying that what Patsy did is the same thing roughly half of American adults have done."
  2. "Scot has smoked pot, and may still be smoking pot. In fact, he might be stoned right now and is assuaging his own guilt by coming up with some numbers saying he is far from alone."
  3. "I wish I could find some decent pot, it's been forever since I got really baked."
My point here? Oh, yeah, that. My point is that what we have here with questions like "who won the debate?" and "what issues matter?" is a group of folks writing stuff telling us what to think, stuff that gets filtered by our own critical thinking as readers, and leads us pretty much nowhere. Democratic blogs tell us Patsy won and pot doesn't matter, Republican blogs tell us Wilson won and that pot does, and the newspapers have to be the newspapers and don't tell us much of anything in an attempt to be objective.

Which is why I don't think debates, even TV debates, matter much. The actual attendance at these debates is small, and the ability for those who attempt to convince us critical thinking readers who won is also small. Even typical TV debate viewership (which really isn't that big despite how important we try to make it) consists almost exclusively of already convinced voters looking for reassurance their candidate is best. Then they go try to tell some other folks who didn't see that their candidate won.

All of which is ineffective for two reasons: 1. that critical thinking thing mentioned above; 2. the head-scratchingly irritating fact that tons of adults don't give a rat's ass about the Wilson/Madrid race, the debates, or what certain political-junkie bloggers think who won what or whether a candidate smoking pot is important.

Regarding the second point above: yes, one wonders if the "tons of adults" who don't care about politics might be the same large group that has smoked pot, but I haven't seen any data on a direct cause/effect relationship.

Thinking that debates don't matter much is not a popular blog/media position these days, days in which reader/viewership is heightened by: 1. zealous candidate backers looking for validation; 2. guilty possible voters who slept in Sunday instead of going to the debate.

To those who consider pooh-poohing debates as unimportant to be politico-apostasy, let's see how much the polling/voting numbers change because of these debates. Let's see how many undecideds decide to vote for the candidate judged the "winner", somehow, in this haphazard string of upcoming Madrid/Wilson debates. I submit that studying those figures will eventually show that this blogomediasphere debate frenzy will prove to be no more important than the TV hype about the latest version of "Survivor", regardless of who is chosen to have "won" the debates, smoked pot or much else.

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