Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Up For Debate

The dreadful hoax that passes for "debating the issues" is the main reason I swore off cable television news this year.

You know what I'm talking about: The opposing lineups of usual-suspect pundits relegated to tiny on-screen boxes on either side of the screen. The host posing some nutty question, and one "expert" after another attempting to boil a complicated policy discussion down into a 15-second sound bite.

Almost inevitably, the thing devolves and a shouting match ensues. The issues don't get anywhere near a full airing. Then, the host announces s/he has to "leave it there" and move onto another pressing agenda item, usually the celebrity scandal du jour.    

Well, the debate format has not deteriorated completely, as I learned this year when I belatedly found Intelligence Squared US, a British export that started in New York City in 2006. The format, a series of live,  Oxford-style debates, pits top thinkers on really important issues. Because there are rules and sufficient time allotted to real discussion, the debates are interesting and enjoyable.

I find the debates a tonic to the ridiculous nonsense on TV. It's especially valuable to have both leading conservatives and liberals participating. Too often, we have one side or the other preaching to their own base and there's no airing of ideas across the ideological divide.

The lineup for 2012 has just been announced. While it would be a lot of fun to attend one in person, for those of us who can't, there are a number of ways to watch them online or on PBS or hear them on NPR or on a podcast. Check them out and let me know what you think.

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