The scare quotes are deliberately included there, as we’ve become well accustomed to the these versions of “debate” that mass media presents us that aren’t really debates at all, but dim parodies of actual dialogue and reasoned discourse.
If you’ve watched any CNN or other cable news networks lately -- or any time, really -- you know what I’m describing. Every single news item is accompanied by a shouting match between two commentators taking “sides” even in cases when the issue isn’t even especially “debatable.” Sad! (As one of the subjects often discussed such contests would tweet.)
It reminds me of an funny track from The Credibility Gap’s Bronze Age of Radio album (from 1977) titled “Editorial Reply.” A news station allows a citizen to come on the air and offer an opposing view to an editorial calling for an increase in safe driving. The commentator is introduced as Dr. Lewis de Longpra, Executive Secretary of the de Longpra Institute of Editorial Reply.
The editorial -- delivered by David L. Lander (best known as Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley) -- begins with the observation that the argument in favor of safe driving “completely ignores the documented value of reckless driving as a form of self-expression.”
From there he lists several complaints sounding the theme of unwanted governmental intrusions.
“There is no area of modern life more highly regimented and controlled by the government than life behind the wheel,” he complains. “Between speed limits, mandatory headlights, and divided highways, today’s driver is encased in a web of womb-like precaution. We believe he should once again be able to enjoy driving in reverse down a mountain road -- that driving should once again stand for freedom, dignity, and grisly death.”
“It is the position of the management that Mr. de Longpra is brain damaged,” he concludes.
Then comes a short commercial for “Credibility Gap Potato Chips,” subtly underscoring the larger, cynical point being made about commercial news.
To be fair, the short six-minute segment on CNBC was at least well moderated, and there was some dialogue between Somerville and Butler, at least in the form of each refuting points made by the other. (Often in these spots it doesn’t even seem as though the sparring speakers are even aware of anything the other is saying.)
Both Somerville and Butler manage to get across their main points quickly and succinctly in the short time each is given as well. Butler overdoes the moral objection to gambling, although doesn't sound as crazed as Mr. de Longpra or other online gambling opponents from whom we’ve heard over the years. That said, his arguments aren’t really specific to online gambling (though still apply, from his perspective at least).
Meanwhile Somerville did well, I thought. I believe he’s only actually on camera and talking for a minute-and-a-half or so (total), but still communicates several points, including the most persuasive ones that (1) the rest of the world (practically) does license and regulate online poker; (2) Americans are already playing in high numbers on unregulated sites; and (3) other forms of gambling like betting on horse races and lotteries are legal in the U.S.
If you haven’t seen the clip, you can click over to PokerNews and watch it here:
Click here for a summary of Mercier’s appearance over on PokerNews, including a link to the show.