The Debate Died Early

The Obama/Romney debate was unimpressive (big looser?  Jim Lehrer).  From what I hear about the Stewart/O’Reilly debate it was livlier but uninsipriing.  Everyone’s already talking Twitter, Facebook, and how that impacts the debates.  Big Bird is a meme, the Stewart/O’Reilly debate’s technical glitches are being discussed, and the debates kind of fade away.

I miss the idea of good, substantial debate.  Catchphrases, bumper stickers, and blatant lies aren’t exactly the substance of great historical import.  Neither is statistics diddling or mathematical games.

So I began speculating that perhaps the internet is replacing debates.  There you can post length discussions and link to numbers.  There the dialog is ongoing.  There things happen.

My answer to this is, possibly, yes.  But I don’t think the internet killed the debate.

I think that it died a lot earlier in our media.

Everything is turned into media sound bites, spectacle, and sensationalism, and our supposed politics and policies aren’t much different.  It’s an age of sensationalism and catchphrases, of what makes audiences angry over any kind of discussion, of what sells ad time.  Politics is entertainment – it’s always been, but it’s pretty much merged as far as I’m concerned, accelerated by television, media empires, and 24-hour news cycles people have to fill.

Worse, it’s a mix of advertising and reality television.

To put the final capper on it, it’s been entertainment long enough for people to imitate it.  You’ve heard the catchphrases bubble up in people’s political discussions.  You know the people who ape their favorite media-news pundits.  This reality-TV politics has infected us.

So debates are dead.  We just started killing them early – and I think the internet is replacing the gap.

Even if that gap sometime is using LOLCats as template for political discussions.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at

Despite All Your Rage You Can Leave The Cage

Are you a lab rat?

Chances are good that if you're in America, in these troubled times, your state is probably engaged in some kind of experiment.  It might be the changes in Florida () or Wisconsin's cuts (and the weird statements on the National Guard), or California's cut-and-confront budget.  You're probably seeing a lot of very experimental things.

I've ranted on this before – we're seeing a lot of social and financial experiments in the Great Recession.  Some of these are legitimate, a great deal seem to be ideology over practicality.  The thing is they're being done.

After talking to friends in different states, I've come to two conclusions about this:

  1. If you aren't paying attention to your state and local budget you're missing a lot, and could be blindsided by some very nasty surprises.
  2. You should have a backup plan in case whatever experiments going on in your state/city/location fail miserably.  Or in short, where would you move if all the geniuses making budget decisions screw it up.

Be careful.  Apply all those geeky relocation tips we've discussed here over the years.  Right now it's a pretty unsure time, and that ideal city or state you live in now could end up being the site of a failed experiment.

This applies even to me.  I love California and Silicon Valley, but I like to have a backup plan or too.  I just don't want to USE them.

Steven Savage

* Bonus question – what's the inspiration for the post title?

Frustration Friday: Can The Recession Keep People From Hating the Unemployed?

One thing I'm hoping about in the Great Recession is that people will finally get over the idea that The Unemployed Are Bad People.

I know that's probably a naive hope, since people without jobs appear to be the favorite whipping boys/girls of any politician who wants to score quick points in the "personal responsibility" category, or preachers who want to single someone out as worthy of their god's wrath.  But I'm hoping, perhaps beyond hope, that people are going to learn the valuable lesson that people without jobs are not Bad People.

I'd like to hope that this comes about from empathy.  As people see their friends and family suffer unemployment, they will understand that the unemployed are all of us.  As we find ourselves encountering the unemployed, we will realize they're like us, they're trying, and things are hard.  As we see more of this suffering, we will come to understand it.

Of course for the case of some people, that is a terribly naive idea on my part.  So I also figure that some people will learn that the unemployed are not Evil Incarnate by joining their ranks for awhile.  It's hard to claim some legion of people are a faceless bane on existence when you're part of them.  If anything, it'll at least take a few egos down a peg and humble them a bit.

Sadly that may be naive as well.  I suspect those who need to believe that others are Bad People will cling to the idea the unemployed are Bad since they make such easy (and powerless) targets.  Those who wish to paint the unemployed as bad people, even if they are unemployed, will find ways to claim they're different.  Their egos can't handle anything else.

But, hey, I can hope – and write rants like this with the hope of helping people change.

– Steven Savage