Even the terror promos are eerily similar, right down to the drumbeat-heavy Doomsday soundtracks. When you don't see Jihadi John glaring at you, you see Donald Trump glaring at you. There's even a countdown clock to make it even scarier.
If you happen to watch tonight's debate from the alleged safety of your bed, you will probably watch the dumbness oxymoronically streamed over your smart device. I don't think this has anything to do with Trump being easier to take on a smaller tablet than on an over-sized wall screen. And it's not just the false sense of security you feel from cowering under the covers as you clutch your gizmo. I think it has to do with the convenience of being able to click back and forth from watching the festivities to checking out the various live analyses of the festivities. It is incumbent upon you to compare your reactions to those of the corporate pundits also watching in unreal time. Do you believe your own lying ears that these clowns are sociopaths, or do you trust the experts telling you that Donald Trump is semantically winning by a landslide, and that hurling vitriolic word salads is tantamount to an intellectual zinger of historic proportions?
Even if you have intelligently cut your cable cord to protest both the outlandish price and the outlandish content, CNN is generously providing tonight's show for "free" over the Internet, waiving the usual fees and sign-up rigmarole:
The cable network announced it will lift that paywall from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. the night of the debate and feature the live stream on its homepage. The move is meant to "showcase the value of 'TV Everywhere'" — the name CNN gives to its streaming service.
CNN's Andrew Morse, who heads the network's editorial operations in the United States, told Mashable the company is banking on giving its streaming feature more exposure. He told the website CNN is not concerned about losing ratings, because he believes people with a cable subscription will continue watching on traditional TV.
"I think if you have a TV and you're sitting in front of a TV and you have a cable subscription, you're going to watch the debate on TV," he said. "If you don't happen to be sitting in front of the TV, it's historic moment that we think people are going to seek out."If I do take the hyped-up bait and watch the "debate," I will probably view it on regular TV. (Month after month, I've been swearing that this is the month I'll finally cancel cable. And then every month some event makes me change my mind. This month, it is the Pope's visit. My "provider," Time-Warner, is even adding a special Pope Channel to bait me as a continuing customer. And I am ashamed to admit that I am taking de bait.) Of course, whenever I watch "the news" I do so while obsessively playing Bejewelled on my iPad. My attention span is shot to shit by all the smart devices littering up my life. I suspect that I am not alone.
CNN knows this, and is hyping up the debate for all it is worth. And it is worth many, many, many billions of dollars. The cable outlet is reportedly charging 40 times its normal rates for ads running during the debate. A 30-second spot usually costing $5,000 will go for $200,000 tonight. Not quite Super Bowl territory, but getting there.
Jake Tapper (whose adenoidal delivery always makes me want to rip my cable cord right out of the wall) is the lead moderator of tonight's extravaganza. He admits that he is more interested in sparking a fight among the contenders than in holding their feet to the fire.
Not for nothing have I been referring to the Eternal Campaign of Cluttered Mindlessness as "Neoliberal Death Match" over these many months. As the L.A. Times' Steven Battaglio writes,
If the commercials promoting CNN's Republican primary debate Wednesday make it look like a highly anticipated pay-per-view boxing event, it means they're working.And from the New York Times:
"That was the idea," CNN President Jeff Zucker said last week. "This is Round 2 of a heavyweight bout."
Or the second episode of a wildly successful hit show. CNN anticipates its largest audience ever when Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and nine other contenders meet Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. It would achieve that plateau by getting 75% of the 24 million viewers who watched the first GOP debate of the 2016 presidential race on the Fox News Channel on Aug. 6, the surprise must-see TV event of the summer.
“Jake Tapper is going to do whatever he can to get the candidates to go after each other,” said a strategist advising one of the candidates, who declined to be named delivering what could be seen as a criticism of the network. “If somebody is knocked out, CNN will be happy. In the first debate, the moderators controlled the candidates; in this debate, the candidates will have to moderate themselves.”
Though the moderators say they will look for opportunities to let the candidates interact, they may have to tread carefully to avoid appearing as instigators. The network garnered some criticism in 2012 for its handling of several memorable debate moments.The piece refers back to John King baiting Newt Gingrich on his history of marital difficulties, and Candy Crowley fact-checking Mitt Romney in unreal time. No mention is made of the fact that the two Green Party candidates were prevented from creating a real ruckus during one Rombama Show by being handcuffed to chairs at an undisclosed police location so that the staged theatrics could continue without actual democracy cluttering up the script.
Although CNN apparatchiks insist that their version of Neoliberal Death Match will be more staid than the sports arena venue of the last bout, tonight will be every bit as much of an unreality show:
Hehehehehe. Grandeur, meet surrealism. History, meet comedy.A CNN construction crew also built, from scratch, the elaborate scaffolding that elevates the debate stage to eye level with Reagan’s Air Force One, adding grandeur and history to the already striking backdrop.It will be Mr. Tapper’s first time moderating a presidential debate. Just days before the event, Mr. Tapper appeared relaxed and confident as he took a break from the preparations.But, he admitted, part of the thrill of the debate is that even he, scripted questions and all, does not know what will happen.“It’s difficult to control my 5-year-old son,” Mr. Tapper said with a half-laugh, “much less a 55-year-old governor who thinks he should be ruler of the planet.”
David Uberti of the Columbia Journalism Review is not amused:
The framing is mystifying at best. Trump’s spontaneity and vulgarity make him more compelling than his counterparts in the GOP race, to the point that CNN’s own journalists have openly remarked about the glut of media coverage. Trump’s politics-as-entertainment is inherent to his campaign. But rather than holding an important discussion that happens also to be captivating, CNN’s pre-debate promotions have openly framed Wednesday’s contest as entertainment. They are fueling an already out-of-control wildfire: The debate is not just a live event to highlight differences between presidential contenders, but rather a title fight between Trump and the world.As Nan Socolow so pithily responded in her comment on the New York Times article,
A cluster of dunces up there tomorrow night on the wannabe POTUS Second Republican Debate stage - provided by CNN with The Gipper's Boeing Air Force One the backdrop of the "intimate" venue, adding "grandeur and history" to the Second Two-Tiered GOP Primary Debate of this campaign 2016. As we recall the monumental goofs and memorable moments of previous Republican debates, we will be looking forward to a few of the candidates falling into the California tar pits of also-rans tomorrow night. This is the pinnacle of American tragicomedy. Fifteen Conservative Tea Party declared candidates bashing each other like sock-puppets delivering sound bytes to one another for a couple of hours while the American couch potato heads scarf down doritos, cheez-doodles and other finger-lickin' good junk snax, washed down with neon colored sodas and faux waters in plastic bottles. It is - as first-time Presidential Debate moderator Jake Tapper avowed - thrilling that we don't know what will happen. Maybe there will be a "you're no Jack Kennedy" moment. Maybe an explosion or implosion of a few leading contenders. This is high drama among the Republicans and we have no idea when the first of the primary debates on the Democratic side will occur. CNN is the dubious beneficiary of this "combative spirit". What about all the Americans who can't afford cable-tv? How will they receive the news of tomorrow night's debate? Maybe they have more worries in their lives than the Debate Watchers.Just be careful not to wet the bed with your fake bottled water as you watch the schlock horror. Also watch out for Dorito breath and telltale orange fingerprints on your touch screen. Be especially wary of stray popcorn kernels. Those things are even deadlier than terrorists bearing knives and the political/media knaves selling them.