I Wrote This Essay On The Fly: What Bugs Me About Political Debates

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

The big takeaway of last night’s VP debate was… a fly on Mike Pence’s head. It landed on his hair, stayed there for about two minutes, then flew away.

The fly demonstrated just how political discussions cater to a dramatically misinformed audience.

In any other conversation, if a fly landed in your hair, you’d wave it off. But this is politics, and politics are Stern and Stoic, and if Mike Pence had waved a fly away – or worse, waved a fly away ineffectually – then that would have been seen as “unpresidential,” because we all know that politicians are immobile robots who must not respond to external stimuli.

Which is really the problem with the debates – they’re not about substance, but about two candidates trying to look Presidential… And what looks “Presidential” is literally inhuman. They can’t appear distressed (even when the stuff that’s being brought up should be upsetting), they can’t stammer, they can’t roll their eyes or snort or burst out laughing.

Basically, there’s a large segment of voters who think the best – perhaps the only – quality to make someone the President is being Serious.

Serious is not the same as effective.

Serious doesn’t mean someone’s logical or informed.

Serious is merely a set of behaviors that can be easily duplicated – in fact, they’re behaviors that are easier to mimic for people who aren’t personally involved. It’s pretty easy for someone to remain calm when saying that wildfires have burned down a house, but staying dispassionate when it’s your house that got burned down is difficult.

Essentially, for archaic and arbitrary reasons, we have a society that’s decided to reward people who don’t react to bad behavior – which is to say, we make it easier for psychopaths to function.

I’m not saying Pence is a psychopath. But what I am saying is that last night, we had a human on stage who had to pretend he didn’t notice a fly in his hair because admitting that a fly bugged him would have been seen as proof that he was unfit for office in the eyes of many…

And seriously. How fucked up is that?

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