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The televised Democratic presidential sound byte pageants will not be true debates by any realistic standard. They are reminiscent of the 2016 Republican primaries that started with 16 candidates preening on a platform and enduring “gotcha” questions by reporters/moderators trying to get themselves into the news story. Until the nominee field narrows, these shows are almost a parody of real debates in the Lincoln-Douglas or Oxford Union manner.
That’s too bad. We need to bring back real debates in America, and not just among candidates. Name the issue (climate change, foreign interference in our elections, abortion, immigration, tariffs, privacy online, the future of artificial intelligence, the meaning of “free speech,” whatever): Americans are badly divided. Since media and politicians often operate in inward-looking communities, they tend to ignore or distort views that differ from their own. In this environment, mere calls for greater civility don’t work. What can work is facing issues straight on and together.
Debate - Confrontation - Views - Set - Rules
A proper debate is a robust but orderly confrontation of views, where set rules assure that both sides are displayed in such a fashion that people can judge for themselves which seems most correct. Conservatives, who enjoy relatively little access to academia, newspapers and television, and who therefore lack many chances to confront their adversaries on common ground, should take a special interest in debates.
Walter Lippmann, one of the 20th century’s leading essayists, noted that “the modern media of mass communications do not lend themselves easily to a confrontation of opinions … Rarely, and on very few public issues, does the mass audience have the benefit of the process by which truth is sifted from error—the dialectic of debate in which there is immediate challenge, reply, cross-examination and rebuttal … . Yet when genuine debate is lacking, freedom of speech does not work as it is...
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