Sunday, May 05, 2013

BC debate 2013 - keep the sound on

Lots of talk recently about why Christy Clark and the Liberals are doing better in the polls. The only analysis I recall is that point spreads always diminish after the election call as the undecideds, probably mostly Liberals, are now coming down off the wall.  However here's another theory: the visuals of the debate.

If you were to have watched the debate with the sound off, as Marshal McLuhan might relish, it was won hands down by Christy Clark. She was confident, relaxed, engaging, constantly smiling, and by the looks of it, in complete control. Adrian Dix on the other hand, looked like a petulant school-boy from the debating club, who has steeled himself for the big debate against the head cheer leader, trying to use his rationality and solid policy as a foil for charisma. His visual awkwardness, rocking back and forth on his feet, shocked reacions to the lies and half-truths coming from Christy didn't work with the sound off, and barely did with the sound on.

When Mr. Dix challenged Ms. Clark about untruths in her arguments, it didn't have the intended effect. It didn't even seem to matter. Mr. Dix couldn't get the exasperation out of his voice that someone would actually stand up there and say things like that. He doesn't get it, that the visual (or the medium) is the message. In debates, unfortunately, the visuals are crucial.

I certainly don't blame Mr. Dix and the NDP. My exasperation is the same as his. The NDP don't want to play the game, but unfortunately, others still are. How do you go up against professional spin delivered through 100-watt smiles?

It's interesting that political campaigns are the same as they ever were, even though there does seem to be a concerted effort to change the tone by some. However, at the very least, and 50 years after McLuhan, all parties need to realize the effect of the medium, and how that is just as important as the message.

 In Adrian Dix's case, he's probably worked hard to be as media presentable as he currently is, good for him, and it should carry him through to an election victory. And I think, with the sound on, he held his own with the substance of his arguments. I just hoped people were actually listening.

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