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Roger L. Simon

South Carolina Report 2: Pre-Debate Notes from the Media Center

January 19th, 2012 - 4:39 pm

I arrived at the debate venue at what I thought was an early 6:30PM but the parking lot of the North Charleston Coliseum was already jammed. It’s a big place, not the Staples Center, but close. It took fifteen minutes or so to find my way to media center.

What impresses me that is despite Twitter and Facebook, despite other new media companies you may or may not love, when it comes to the flow of information, to who is or is not let in the door, this is still an old media MSM world. The debate coverage here is entirely a CNN show, straight down to the mediocre catering (okay, it’s free). They determine who gets in the door and who doesn’t.

One of the things they determined is that PJM only gets one seat at the table, so that will be me and not Bryan, not because of any reason more special than I was the one who sent the original email and was credentialed. Bryan will get the privilege of viewing the debate from a more interesting venue, like a local bar, and interviewing the patrons who will be, in all probability, more interesting than the perpetual talking heads here in the media center.

Many of them are recognizable faces but I’m not exactly sure for what. Maybe for being the ones to gain access first – and they are determined to keep their perquisites. Journalism, after all, is not a highly skilled endeavor, not cardiology – or even screenwriting. Almost anyone can do it to some degree if they pay attention and try to be honest. So the protective walls are up and not crumbling as quickly as we sometimes think.

Of course I won’t be seeing the debate directly either. I will be watching on one of two huge screens provided for the press by CNN as four hundred of us sit there and dutifully type away on our wifi connected laptops (pw: CNN=WIFI), anxious to be the first to report the crucial gaffe or whatever

Our democracy has become a spectacle that outruns reality. It is mostly bad theatre, although today the theatre has been stepped up a notch with the gods of comedy prevailing – history being played the second time as farce, as Marx famously said in the 18th Brumaire, one of his few statements to stand the test of time.

As I type this, I watch one of the screens where Gingrich is being shown, walking into the complex. The lower third reads: “Gingrich-ex: He wanted an ‘open marriage’”

Open marriage, I think. What a phrase out of the past. I remember using it often in my 1974 novel Wild Turkey. The second time as farce, indeed.

Politico has called this the “campaign’s wildest day.” They’re probably right – so far. But it’s time to give this all some serious thought. What exactly do about our democracy? And I’m talking about real democracy, not democracy as played out by CNN, et al. (Simon, stop being rude to your hosts. Okay, okay.)

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