So I have watched all the debates and followed the news as I usually do. Tuesday’s debate really caught my fancy so I got my debate snacks together, set my iPad on Facebook and turned on the television. I know that these things are not real debates and have little substance in terms of issues. The platforms are already laid out. There is no honest dialog on the subject of racism so only liars and mental defectives are actually undecided less than a month before we perform the ceremony that ends the ritual of the presidential campaign. Here perhaps was fodder for a blog post.
Well if they’re not debates what are they? you might ask. They seem to most closely resemble a boxing match. They are the rumble in the political jungle. They are the high drama we seek. They are the big time face offs of people with power and money, not the silly spectacle of the Jerry Springer show. They have rules (though they are not really followed) and they are scored (loosely on opinions, not on debate points). But they get coverage. Several channels, endless wordy pundits expounding endlessly before and after. One day they will make it to pay per view and be shown in HD on huge screens in movie theaters. And their some of their content even has a separate life on Twitter, Facebook,etc. They make a contribution to pop culture.
This past Tuesday we were treated to a boxing match of sorts. There was almost a threat of physicality as the participants ominously circled each other, stared each other down, intimidated the less than adequate moderator. There was the reiteration of talking points and the refutations of them. You could see Obama looking remarkably relaxed and confident, polite even in his angry rebukes. And Romney looking strained, angry in that CEO way that can’t believe that there is a person over whom he has no real power (and a black guy at that. His people weren’t even allowed into heaven until…but I digress).
Well if the debaters did not present issues, the pundits were even more vacuous. They acted, appropriately for my metaphor, like fans rooting for their favorite boxer. The pundits were like junior boxers, kids pretending that they were the big time broadcast debaters talking about the issues like they mattered. They matter about as much as the fluff of any mindless sports chatter that fills the airwaves while we wait for the next pitch or pass or basket.
The issues that I think will likely be remembered and may drive the emotions of the brainless are Big Bird and Binders. Who knew that such seemingly innocuous subjects could possibly wield such power? Enter the internet (remember I fired up my iPad) and little things that tickle the fancy of the online addict suddenly get a disproportionate amount of attention. They have “gone viral”.
It’s actually easier to see how Big Bird can capture the emotions of people raised watching Sesame Street or watching their children adoring these huge puppet creatures. Big Bird and his ilk are a part of popular culture. But “binders”? What the hell are binders? There were no television shows with characters called binders.
Well it doesn’t matter what the provenance of “Binders” might be. The fact is that within minutes of Romney using the term, it went viral. The internet, twitter, Facebook, etc. were flooded with this “meme”. Now there’s a word I think could mess up a politicians efforts at getting a message across.
I, being of what I call the pre computer-literate generation, have had to learn about things like this. Computer literacy requires more effort for me, not having been exposed to it until perhaps the late 1990s. So I took some time to understand what “meme” means. And I found that Meriam-Webster defines it as is “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” And in the computer age we have the “internet meme” And biologist Richard Dawkins is credited with the popularity of this concept.
The issue here is that the internet spreads these memes so quickly that they overtake the issues around which they were first mentioned and take on a life of their own. So now Big Bird and Binders are the major take aways from this last “boxing match”. Big Bird and Binders may result in the defeat of Mitt Romney and the success of Barack Obama.
What scares the average politician is that there are no tried and true method of generating or controlling these memes. They seem to be given life and record fast gestation by lowly blogger types such as yours truly. But bloggers and other internet nerds also have little idea of how to control these little factoids and what makes them powerful enough to overwhelm more rational seeming facts.
I enjoyed my snacks which had an eerie resemblance to the boxers. Perhaps they are pictorial memes hoping to make the big time. And I now sit here pondering the possibility of making a meme to solve my problems, social problems, etc. If I could only crack the code I could really make a difference.