Sounds Like Political Theatre to Me

24 10 2006


Now that’s what I’m talking ’bout — it’s the sound, stupid?

But the differences voters likely are to notice when the two veteran politicians square off are widely contrasting styles.

Athletically trim with photogenic smiles, both candidates have a natural ally in the TV camera.

Nelson’s soothing baritone carries a folksy twang, leading to a frequent criticism that he lacks sizzle. A policy wonk, Nelson reels off statistics comfortably, like a veteran corporate trainer.

Harris’ Ivy League diction has a harder edge. She proved at a Jacksonville candidate forum this summer that she can quickly turn up the heat on an opponent or a questioner. Liberals and the news media are a favorite target.


Something else just occurred to me about this, that might be relevant to understanding how kids learn about their own freedoms and acting politically to protect them — read the post again and notice how tuned in my son is to “sounds.”

He loves music and he does voices and accents. He even imitates instruments and sound effects when he sings, acts in sketches or tells stories.

He could hear that O’Reilly and Limbaugh “sound” the same, without knowing or caring that their political thinking is similar. He trusted his own ears and drew his own conclusions, completely in his own mind. Who knows what else he has already decided for himself about the world?

When my husband and teen daughter did get home last night, they had been listening to the Bill Nelson-Katherine Harris Senate debate on public radio. I had tuned into it on the local PBS channel to see them side by side, though I already know a great deal about each of them as politicians, and all their issues. So I was watching (but not listening much) while Favorite Daughter and her dad were listening intently in a dark car and seeing nothing at all. Shades of Nixon-Kennedy!
We pooled our different impressions to get a more complete overall picture than any of us would otherwise have gotten. Even if we’d tried to hear and see it all at once, it would have been a different story in some ways.

So — we think we’re so smart with our public framing and electoral partisanship and universal civic education, but do we really have a clue how the target audience (the next generation especially) is actually “hearing” the stories and scripts we’re broadcasting, and what they are learning about us or our beliefs and values?

Daryl’s motley crew is discussing some new Republican ads with a target audience of inner city black voters — and I have more thoughts about this week’s televised debates and some strange media politics coming up here at Snook, or maybe Culture Kitchen, later today.



2 responses

24 10 2006

Just got back from my daily trek to the college campus, listening to talk radio (alternating NPR and Glenn Beck) while thinking about political theatre and and the part “sound” plays. Lo and behold, Glenn Beck is interviewing media-guy-turned-press-sec Tony Snow, who says the President’s thoughts are much better on paper than when we hear him speak his words with all his halting, fumbling patterns.

Which made me remember Barack Obama’s debut in my consciousness from national convention season two years ago. I hadn’t seen his speech but my online buddies were raving about his charisma and intelligence, ideas, common sense, power of story, politics — you name it. I couldn’t wait to see what they saw and be similarly inspired, so I went right to the linked transcript of his TV comments and eagerly pored over them.

No magic at all! At least not in the words or story; apparently it was all in the seeing and hearing. So Obama would be the opposite of both President Bushes in that personal way, as well as in his party politics.
(I never thought this was a party-wide difference but I could be wrong, are Dems just generally better seen and heard than read, I wonder?)

OTOH, I heard the clip of Ted Kennedy trying to evoke Barack Obama as a Dem star but mangling it into Osama – and then quickly meaning to correct his misspeech adding, “Bin Laden!” So maybe what we hear and internalize is more about individual personality than party or policy ideas or principles after all, whether we like it, or admit it, or not. 🙂

27 12 2006
“Sound Is My Servant” « Cocking A Snook!

[…] He did. And this is what he said. (Not word for word because *I* do not have perfect aural recall — help, please, if any of you think this way or have children who do; I’m enchanted as mom but as educator, I’m out of my element on this one!) […]

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