For there are only two ways in which candidates at all levels are allowed to compete with each other under the ground rules set up for them by the media. One is in mouthing platitudes, truisms and inspirational autobiographical vignettes, and the other is in casting aspersions on the moral or intellectual character or the bona fides of one’s opponent. That’s how the thing has been set up to run because (a) anything substantive would be too boring to command the sort of audience the media have come to depend on and (b) the substantive differences between the candidates are, in any case, relatively small — though that, too, is probably as a result of the media’s demands — and must be made to seem much larger than they are, as well as more exciting and dramatic, by being moralized and personalized. Besides, a debate which took place in the realm of what the media wise men are pleased to call reality would provide no interpretative role for the media themselves in telling their audience what the candidate’s words really mean.
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