Debate night in America. We tune in because we need to know: Who can withstand the punishment of live television? Put anything on a screen and it absorbs the logic of entertainment: heroes, villains, conflict, and resolution. All other plots become secondary to our craving for zingers and tears. Our debates are, as Daniel Boorstin said sixty years ago, little more than a “political quiz show.” And the production quality was spectacular tonight. A stage so glossy it looked like a mirror. Ornamental neon and aerodynamic podiums. Red, white, and blue bunting everywhere.

Boorstin also said that a “pseudo­-event tends to become ritualized, with a protocol and a rigidity all its own.” But protocol was torched in the first three minutes when one candidate said, “We’re running against a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians”—a statement that applied to the former New York mayor who’s attempting to purchase the Democratic nomination as well as our current president. The protocol did not improve. Two solid hours of trembling, sniping, garbled insults, red-faced hollering, and woozy moments of tension. It was fantastic television. And when it was over, I felt dirty because tonight’s event gave me what I craved.


M83 – America

From Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts | Gooom, 2003 | More

The sound of our political conversation. An appropriate soundtrack for reading Daniel Boorstin’s The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America.

Each night in 2020, I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these days into my memory. Before the world changed completely.
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