Monday, August 25, 2008

Conventional Wisdom

Though the opinion is as predictable as the conventions it decries, I still call your attention to this column in today's Los Angeles Times by Gregory Rodriguez, entitled Big Mac Politics.

Don't do it. Don't tune in to this year's political conventions.

For two decades, Americans have been wising up and increasingly tuning out those quadrennial made-for-television pageants that pass for participatory democracy. In 1976, roughly 22 million people watched Jimmy Carter receive his party's nomination. By contrast, four years ago, only 16 million viewers enjoyed the high jinks at the GOP convention. Over the years, declining interest has persuaded broadcast networks to scale back their coverage, and I think a lot of us suspect we didn't miss much.

But this year, thanks to heightened interest in the presidential campaign, both broadcast and cable news networks are bumping up their coverage. And starting today, it's going to be extra hard to resist the allure of all that elaborately conceived stagecraft.

My revulsion for the conventions doesn't stem simply from disdain for partisan politics. Nor am I suggesting that Americans ignore the substance of politics. But to my mind, conventions are emblematic of everything that's wrong with American culture. For all our belief in freedom, which by definition breeds unpredictability, and our pride in our cultural dynamism, U.S. culture is becoming ever more self-conscious and scripted.

I couldn't agree more, and I'm only grateful that I watch as little TV as I do lately so I don't have to be annoyed that it's going to be pre-empted by these informercials. Feel free to read the rest of it.

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