Creating a News Narrative from the Debate

Judging from a promo for “Hard Ball” that I caught while grabbing a cup of coffee yesterday, the pundits are doing their best to amplify the irrelevant pseudo-disagreements that Mr. Stephanopolous tried so hard to create in yesterday’s debate and turn it into “must-see TV.” A huge “controversy” was what the Matthews show was hyping — something that bore almost no resemblance to the debate itself, let alone to any kind of substance.

And of course, since nobody actually saw the debate, nobody can say whether the little snippets that will be pounded on are representative. This gives the punditry and the networks much greater power to create a narrative — a narrative that has very little to do with reality.

When two kids in my junior high schoolyard would argue or play the dozens, a crowd would often form and try to get them to fight. They’d call out “you take that from him?!” and egg the parties on. Somehow it feels very old and pre-verbal — the tribe needs to establish the alpha-dog. So I suppose there’s nothing new about Stephanopoulis’ approach, as long as you assume that we haven’t evolved much in the last 10,000 years or so.

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