Sunday, November 02, 2008

Downtown in Jerusalem

Here I am in downtown Jerusalem on Emek Refaim, leeching a connection outside of Masryk and listening to the bands tune up for an annual free concert / fair / food festival in honor of something or other.

I've never live-blogged, and I doubt I'll start now. I'm just waiting for my daughter to show up.

Applause Kills Conversation

I was listening to a BBC political discussion. Panel of five insiders across the political spectrum, and an audience of a hundred or so students. It was an hour long.

In the first five minutes, the questions were intelligent and the responses from the panel equally so; long and full of substance. Then the applause started.

It wasn't an immediate shift, but a few minutes after the first applause came the next applause. From then on, bouts of applause followed every thirty to forty seconds.

It wasn't that the panelists became more brilliant. Quite the opposite. As the applause became more frequent, the panelists became worse: more polarized, more sound bites, more extreme, less nuanced, more throwing down gauntlets. It was a feedback of descending value.

This is the death of political conversation: applause. This is why politics are the way they are: we are trying to win, rather than to inform. Impress rather than convince. Steal elections, rather than implement what the majority think is correct. The audience responds to simplistic sound bytes and fear, the politicians win by fortunately timed approval.

There are going to be a lot of people waking up on November 5 to find that the world hasn't changed much. Governments, problems, opinions, wars, and economies tend to move slowly, even with the occasional rapid descent into chaos. Save your applause for later.

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