Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

Because ideas have consequences

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As a citizen who gave up a night of watching ice hockey to watch the Republican debate, I believe I have earned the right to put forward a Modest Proposal for improving political debates: create a penalty box.

There were several incidents during the debate where various candidates continued to talk over the moderators or attempt to insert themselves when someone else had the floor. At one point, Wolf Blitzer even reminded the candidates of the ground rules that they had agreed upon, but the reminder did no good. This situation rewards the boorish at the expense of the well-behaved. A parallel of Gresham’s Law sets in where bad behavior drives out good behavior.

Let Moderators Moderate

I thought that Mr. Blitzer behaved appropriately as a moderator. He did not assert himself in a nitpicky way every time a candidate went past the bell. He only spoke out when there was a serious infraction of the rules. But he had no recourse when candidates refused to observe the rules. Since we have ample evidence that this will happen unless there are consequences, we need to impose consequences.

A penalty box would be an unlighted and soundproof booth into which a candidate would be sent for an interval after committing a serious infraction of the rules. Not only would the candidate not be able to speak during the interval; he would also not be able to hear what others were saying in order to rebut their points later. He would be in the dark, so that no one would be able to see his adolescent gestures (a certain candidate that I don’t want to provide free publicity likes to do this). This would provide real, significant negative reinforcement to dissuade the candidates from blowing off the moderators.

A minor penalty, such as ignoring the moderator when called upon to stand down, would result in five minutes in the box. Shutting off their ability to dominate the debate would hit the offending candidates where they live.

It would not be necessary to call infractions for behaviors such as Ben Carson complaining about not getting air time. He publicly shot himself in the foot for all to see, and responding to that would only be piling on.

Cleaning up the Debates

I would even go further. I would like to see a list of informal fallacies distributed to the candidates and made available to the public. Reliance on these fallacies in argument would draw a five-minute minor. Flagrant fouls, such as abusive remarks, would result in a ten-minute misconduct penalty.

By imposing these penalties, we could raise the debates to a meaningful conversation that citizens would actually get something useful from. My primary concern is whether one penalty box would be sufficient.



Written by srojak

December 16, 2015 at 10:37 am

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , , ,

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