03 Apr

Bread and Circuses

These television events that are breaking out everywhere like a rash are not political debates. A debate is a verbal contest conducted according to rational principles, featuring the arts of sequential thought and rhetorical skills. Last night’s septet was just bread and circuses. So what’s the point of them?

They are done for the sake of the broadcasters. It gives them things to do: first the relentless trailers, billing, advertising and promoting the whole nonsense; then the farce itself; and then, for a bonus, the endless analysis. What analysis? There is no more genuine analysis than there was debate in the first place.

Such drivel is not susceptible to analysis. They’d be better off analysing the entrails of a dead cat.

But see how it fills up the air time – and that’s all the broadcasters want.

Actually, it’s not quite all. What they hope for – and usually get – is some solecism, some slip, some unguarded remark by one or more of the participants. Then they run over this again and again in endless gleeful repeats.

Would it be possible to have proper debates? It might be, but really there would be no point to them. A public debate is only as good as its public. And the British public is so intellectually debauched and linguistically deprived by generations of lousy schooling and the ravenous pop culture that it wouldn’t recognise a rational argument if it were to sit up and bite them on the bum.

Scrap the debates. Bring on the gladiators, the Christians and the lions. If we must, let’s at least have some real bread and circuses.