[...]. . . But TV got in the way. The candidates responded to most of this with their over-rehearsed, well-spun, often-used cant: empty words about change and experience – and if anyone mentions a soldier in the family, the candidate is obligated to deliver the thanks of the nation. This is how politicians behave before the big cameras. But the folks on the YouTube videos were speaking to little cameras; they were more direct, intimate, authentic.
The two media did not mix well. CNN displayed the YouTube videos in small squares on a big screen shot by a big camera – reduced, finally, to postage stamps on our screens at home, so we could barely see them. It seemed the network was afraid to show the videos full-screen because they would not look like real TV. But, of course, that’s just the point. They weren’t real TV. They were bits of conversation.
But TV doesn’t know how to have a conversation. TV knows how to perform. The moderator of the event, prematurely white-haired Anderson Cooper, acted almost apologetic about the intrusion of these real people, who speak without benefit of make-up. He interrupted the candidates constantly, allowing them shallow soundbites a fraction the length and depth even of a YouTube video.
So I wish we’d have the YouTube debate on YouTube and leave CNN at home. A few of the candidates are beginning to answer voters’ questions and challenges directly, small-camera-to-small-camera (as Nikolas SP Sarkozy did in his campaign and as David Cameraon does on his web site). Thus they are opening up a dialogue between the public and the powerful that was not possible before the internet: a conversation in our new public square. That is how elections should be held, amid the citizens. . .[...]
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