Debate vs. Theater
By Arnold Kling
Many years ago, when I was the guest on a show whose host I knew, I was struck by how much less pleasant a person he was on the air than off. I concluded that he was doing the job he had been hired to do. Being nice is less dramatic than being nasty. Treating people you disagree with honestly and sympathetically, conceding the parts of their argument that are correct while disputing the parts that are not, is less effective theater than telling them what idiots they are—especially if most of your listeners are already on your side.
If I read Paul Krugman or listen to Sean Hannity (what does it say that I can easily mention the two in the same sentence?), it seems to me that anger must be very successful from a marketing standpoint. If so, then I am certain to fail in the political debating marketplace.
In a real debate, you recognize that your own position has weaknesses that must be addressed. In the theater that passes for political debate, insults are the norm. I prefer real debate.
What are some other characteristics that distinguish real debate from political theater?