DEBATING THE OPTICS,By Louise Annarino, October 1, 2012

1 Oct

DEBATING THE OPTICS, By Louise Annarino, October 1, 2012


Even Howard Dean is falling for Republican talking points today advising us to mute our televisions and simply watch the debate without sound. Newscasters on every cable and broadcast network are discussing the upcoming debates as if all the audience is capable of is watching body language,especially in camera shots of one candidate’s reaction to what the other is saying. The only value given to what is being said,rather than to how the candidates look saying it, is the search for zingers. I do realize optics matter; but, they do not matter more than the substance of what is being said. Such discussions as I have been hearing are disrespectful to the American public. We are not children. We are not fools. We understand the spoken word. We can think and we can analyze. We want and need to listen the details of where and how each man intends to lead our country. Romney consistently refuses, and so, does not want us to listen to President Obama tell us this. Distracting viewers from listening means Romney need say nothing; and what President Obama says goes unheard.


Certainly, newscasters and pundits do not intend to insult us. They need us to continue watching them. But,it is just so easy for newscasters to fall into the Republican trap. They understand optics because looking good means a wider profile and bigger bucks when delivering television news. It’s radio for the less lovely.  Howard Dean may have fallen into the trap because he recalls how the “Dean Scream” became a deflating debate zinger in his own run for the presidency. Republicans know they have messengers ready to fall into the trap. It is a brilliant strategy.


The Republican strategy is also brilliant,however, for more sinister reasons. If the debate can be reduced to optics only, Romney can appear on stage as President Obama’s equal. Both can appear equally presidential,even when only one sounds that way. Even worse, the white guy in the business suit almost always trumps the Black guy in the business suit. Although, with changing demographics, Romney may alter his tanning times to appeal to a broader audience, as he has done in the past. How better to attack an African-American president than to make the debate all about optics. This further broadens the appeal of Romney to subliminally racist viewers,without any use of coded language. The racial coding is within the image itself.


If we devalue what is said by the candidates,and focus only on how it is said we allow ourselves to be set up  for another Republicantactic Obama is a liar who uses his gifted rhetoric to lie to the American people. If no one is listening to his responses to the moderator’s questions, it is much easier to attack him in this manner. If we fall for an optics only debate,we fail our responsibility to be a fully informed voter.


Understanding the optics does give us additional information about each candidate. However, using optics as the central and most significant analytical tool while watching the debate is simplistic and makes us susceptible to propaganda. Listening to news analysis of the debate only from an optics viewpoint demeans American viewers. We deserve better. We have a right to be angry with those who are suggesting we set aside all of our senses to use only the one they can most easily manipulate.


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