Izzy Schellenger || Staff Writer
This week’s Common Hour lecture was delivered by Lonnie Isabel, who discussed how politicians are perceived throughout the presidential race. Isabel is a journalist and a senior lecturer at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. However, he identifies himself as a reporter, as he has had the privilege of viewing politicians from a closer perspective. For example, Isabel interviewed Ronald Reagan from the men’s bathroom during the 1980 New Hampshire primary elections. Isabel’s lecture focused on the political strategies of the politicians as well as the role of the media in shaping the presidential race.
Because of the influence of social media, the discussion of politics has become more widespread across the nation. However, Isabel noted that this discussion of politics has also become less substantial. Isabel believes that not enough reporting has been done on the actual political process, so he described the difference between the primaries and the general election. He calls the primaries and the caucuses the “filtering out” stage, as many politicians begin to drop out of the race due to financial and monetary reasons. These monetary factors are a key part of the process, but the question of who is paying for the general election is becoming more hidden. Instead of informing the public on concrete aspects of the presidential race, such as who is donating to which campaigns, the headlines that people will see during this early stage in the election are centered on the negative insults that politicians call each other or an uncomfortable moment during one of their speeches.
The reporters have learned to adapt to this new media environment through the “quick-click world” of social media outlets like Twitter. Many videos have been shortened to only display small pieces of politician’s speeches as a way to appeal to the fast-pace and short attention spans of the public. However, this practice creates a reality TV-style drama amongst the candidates as some people are drawn in for the “entertaining” side of the presidential race, just as they would be attracted to reality TV shows. This can be demonstrated through how presidential candidate Donald Trump maneuvers through the news circuits. Some of his supporters might not even support or know all of his ideas, but they agree with how he presents them. As a society, many people disagree with certain issues, but no one wants to talk about them in great detail. While more information on these candidates is readily available to the public, social media outlets intensify certain aspects of their campaigns as a way to gain attention. Isabel emphasized that we are the unaware “targets” of manipulative political strategy.
Not only are politicians controlling the public through the media, Isabel said, but many have also launched a cultural war as well. He gave an example of Republican candidate Ted Cruz saying that Trump exhibits New York values. Many New Yorkers had strong reactions to this comment and an edited picture of the Statue of Liberty giving Trump the middle finger began to circulate online. Isabel believes that this is an example of how the public is also being manipulated through national and ethnic pride. With a focus on entertainment and manipulation that hides concrete and valuable information from the public, Isabel asks the political candidates: “How do you win? You trick us.”
Sophomore Izzy Schellenger is a Staff Writer. Her email is email@example.com.