When politics become unrecognizable from reality TV
The short answer is yes. Just turn on the TV this American election season, and you’ll know what I mean.
Fear mongering and scare tactics are coming from both sides, everything from mudslinging and name calling to expensive ads that nit-pick every little irrelevant detail of the opponent’s life. Where are the substantial issues and things that actually matter?
It seems like they’ve taken a backseat. It appears that the American voter is more concerned over Hillary’s wardrobe and Donald’s hand size than whether or not they’ll be a catalyst for World War Three.
Political discourse has gone significantly downhill over the years, and the media would rather tell the population information that would be found in People Magazine, and not Politico. But it’s not 100% their fault. The candidates perpetuate it, and they use it in their campaign tactics. Granted, many voters see right through it, yet it can’t be argued that it doesn’t waste time.
Now, don’t think this is solely an American issue. I’ve heard plenty of Canadians say that American politics is a circus (which is true), but I have a problem when they say sensationalized politics doesn’t happen in the great white north.
Remember elbow-gate, when PM Trudeau accidently hit a female NDP Member of Parliament in the chest with his elbow in the middle of Parliament? The story completely blew up and totally distracted us from many important issues.
Instead of hearing about the latest developments in the Middle East, we were treated to stories about Parliamentary nudging. This is the sensationalism of modern politics.
People have become disengaged from the political process, voter apathy is extremely high, and people feel like their government is not representing them. This is undoubtedly because headlines change from one sensationalized subject to the other, and people find it hard to connect their place in their communities to the bureaucracy in Washington and Ottawa.
Looking at political campaign coverage, often the media would rather stir a buzz than truly report on the events. For example, in the early primary season of the 2016 election, mass media attention was almost given exclusively to Donald Trump, because they were so shocked someone like him was running.
This lead to biased coverage of Trump, while candidates such as Bernie Sanders were ignored. According to PBS, only 11% of media coverage during the primary season focused on candidates’ policy positions.
Foreign and economic policy just aren’t entertaining enough, apparently. It’s hard to tell these days whether we’re watching political coverage, or an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians.
As entertaining as it might be, I don’t need to see Trump smashing a table on WWE or having the fact that Clinton went cross eyed in an interview extremely exaggerated. It takes away from the importance of what is really happening.
Politics is serious business, every little thing that happens in Congress or Parliament affects you in some way, shape, or form. It’s a shame that we’re seeing modern politics being turned into a reality show.
It may not be sexy, it may not be entertaining, but politics is important. It’s up to politicians and the media to return to serious coverage and discourse. I, unfortunately, am not optimistic about the future.
I see the continuation of sensationalism in politics for many more years to come. As long as there are viral memes and SNL spoofs, there will always be a lack of seriousness.
Now, this is not to say that satire is bad- humorous critique of political figures is a cornerstone of our culture. However, I no longer want to see the “Kardashianisation” of modern politics perpetuated.