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Detrimental Effect Of Television On American Politics

1166 words - 5 pages

Image is everything. In the modern world of sleek cars, towering glass buildings, carefully designed websites and carefully designed women on the front of magazines, this comes as no surprise. What does come as a surprise, what should come as a surprise, is that this fascination with image, this obsession with physical appearance, has seeped into the one area it least belongs. Politicians, the men and women who are supposed to be leading our nation, now have to be just as careful of their image as any supermodel or screen star. Much of the blame for this image-addiction can be placed on the age of television, that wonderful little machine that brings every important event, whether that is a football championship game or the speech of a political candidate, to any American that desires it. Although this ability to allow all Americans personal access to political campaigns does serve a purpose, it has also reduced the serious business of being chosen to run the country into a contest of showmanship.
Television has done one thing right, at the very least. By providing a “new, direct, and sensitive link between Washington and the people,” as one Dr. Stanton eloquently states it, the broadcast of political debates and speeches has allowed the people of America to become intimately involved in the politics of the country (Campbell). And involving more people in the politics of a country that relies on elected officials to act on the will of the people, in their best interest, seems to be undeniably a good thing. And as ratings and viewership of the Presidential debates rose from the advent of this new technology in 1960 to the debates in 1980, it seemed it was doing its job. However, in more recent years, both ratings and the number of viewers have fallen relatively steadily, from nearly 81 million people watching in 1980, down to just above 46 million in 1996, only sixteen years later (Chart). As the population in the United States grew, it seems that interest in these political debates was falling. This lack of interest was one of the causes with the first problem with broadcasting political candidates.
Candidates felt it was necessary to connect with the common people on a personal level, to show that they are not just dull, Ivy League educated scholars who know nothing of the real world. They do this, apparently, by discussing underwear. Unbelievably, presidential candidate Bill Clinton once discussed his preference in underwear on television (Hart and Triece). The question was asked of him, admittedly, he did not bring the topic up himself, but this just further demonstrates that television has fostered an environment where the candidate’s choice of underwear, his pet dog, his favorite sport team, and his adorable daughters are more important than what he actually believes about running the country. After all, if a man supports my favorite football team, he must be right for running the country. Television gives us a look into the lives of...

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