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Excluded From the Debate of the Party of “Inclusiveness”

Did you know a Democratic presidential debate was broadcast from Iowa on Saturday night? If you didn't, you're not alone. Eric Scheie covered it for Pajamas Media - at least he tried: not just anyone could view the "nationally broadcast" event.

by
Eric Scheie

Bio

December 2, 2007 - 1:15 am

I was honored that PJ Media asked me to write about the Democratic Presidential Forum being broadcast on HDNet, and without any hesitation, I said I’d do it, although I did allow that it might take me an hour or so after the debate was over to write my post. After all, I’d have to watch it first, right?

Not so fast!

After agreeing to blog about the debate, I turned on my television to verify the time and channel, and lo and behold, there was no such channel as “HDNet” anywhere on my DIRECTV guide. Thinking I must be crazy or just stupid (for the Democrats would never hold a debate on a channel that wasn’t generally available to the public, would they?) I spent quite a bit of time fiddling with the controls looking for the silly channel. (Maybe it was newly added, or inadvertently blocked by my settings, something like that.)

Finally, in desperation, I resorted to Googling “HDNet.” (Yes, I know Googling now constitutes stalking, but this is for a good cause.)

Sure enough, HDNet is supposed to be on DIRECTV, although there’s litigation I don’t understand between them. But the channel listed (79) appeared nowhere on my guide, so I visited the DIRECTV website, where I read it is offered it as an add-on. I figured that I might be able to add it for a night, or maybe just subscribe then cancel after on night, but as I couldn’t figure out how to do this online I finally just called customer service.

Was I in for a shock! As it turns out, the only way to get this channel is to upgrade my monthly service to “HD TV,” (plus pay an extra charge for “special” channels like HDNet), but that even then my existing equipment (which I paid for and had installed) would not work. To actually receive the new signal, I would have to buy a new receiver, and on top of that I’d have to buy a new satellite dish, have old one yanked off the wall and the new one installed!

I love PJ Media, but spending hundreds of dollars to watch one lame debate just isn’t what I had in mind. In any case, they wouldn’t have been able to install the blasted thing in time for tonight.

It did occur to me to call a couple of friends who watch a lot more TV than I do, but they don’t have the right packages. One of them has HD TV through Comcast, but he told me that HDNet isn’t available on Comcast because of another lawsuit.

He also told me that HDNet is the new home of Dan Rather.

So, the Democratic Party — the party of the working class — is broadcasting tonight’s debate from an elitist network run by billionaire Mark Cuban that requires expensive equipment and high monthly charges to access.

What’s up with that? Is this a signal that despite the egalitarian rhetoric, that they’re actually the party of the rich and famous? Imagine the outcry if the GOP broadcast its debate from fancy network that ordinary people couldn’t access. There’d be cries that the Republicans were in a “gated community.”

Well I’d say this is a RATHER gated community! And I’m feeling locked out by their lack of inclusiveness.

But they need not worry. I won’t take hostages to demand access. Rather, Instead, I’ll just blind-blog the debate. I couldn’t watch it, and so I can’t tell you what the questions or the answers were. But here’s what I think probably happened.

Hillary won, hands down.

For starters, she handled herself so skillfully yesterday that she’ll be greeted as a conquering hero.

In the interest of actually writing up the debate, I decided to modify this news report, which I will modify with the help of “age progression” so that it becomes an accurate account of what might as well have happened on the network of and for the rich and famous:

HDNet aired a live Democratic presidential debate on Saturday night, making it the first channel broadcast exclusively in high definition to do so. In another first, the debate also made modern history as the first broadcast that the majority of Americans found themselves wholly unable to watch.

Even though most Iowans don’t get HDNet, the debate (“focusing on black and Latino issues — intriguing, given the lack of blacks and Latinos in Iowa“) was held in Iowa on billionaire Mark Cuban’s network. It was moderated by NPR’s Michele Norris and PBS’s Ray Suarez and was broadcast exclusively on HDNet — the network where exclusivity matters the most!

HDNet is an exclusive (and we do mean exclusive) satellite/cable channel that airs high definition programming 24/7, including more original HD programming than any other networks in the same category. The debate was the first presidential debate to air on a specialized HD channel.

Frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were present, as was Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and Bill Richardson.

The debate aired at 8:00 PM Eastern time, with a pre-debate show which started at 7:30. HDNet’s lead news anchor Dan Rather hosted the exclusive 30-minute preview.

The event was so exclusive that excluded bloggers were forced to speculate about in advance about a debate that might as well have happened where they could watch it.

HDNet hopes to air more exclusive debates in the future, for the rich and famous only.

There.

Sorry I didn’t see it, folks, but I hope I did OK in what was my first-ever blind-blogging exclusive.

Because of the exclusive nature of the debate, I think it’s fair to add a word about Hillary’s exclusivity. While her aloofness to reporters is legendary (Howard Kurtz recently described her style as “Catch me if you can,“), this debate raises the bar considerably, carrying her aloofness to a an unprecedented height of disdain. No longer is Hillary Clinton off limits merely to reporters. This debate sent a clear signal that she and the other Democrats are off limits to most Americans.

If the general public doesn’t approve, why, let them buy an expensive new dish!

Eric Scheie is a licensed California attorney (UC Berkeley ’78; USF Law School ’82) currently living in the Philadelphia area. A registered Republican, war-supporting, small “l” libertarian and self-styled “culture war traitor” he writes (often satirically) about cultural issues and politics at ClassicalValues.com.

Eric Scheie blogs at Classical Values.
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