The YouTube Republican debate was on tonight, and YouTube has a link at the top of their home page right now saying “The CNN/YouTube Republican Debate: Watch it NOW!” But, when I follow that link, I can only watch the posted questions. Not any of the actual debate. I assume that somebody at YouTube is busy encoding and uploading the debate so that the “Watch it NOW” link will eventually allow you to actually watch it. Even so, it is somehow darkly amusing that it seems that the most important part of the participatory debate is that the public gets to see little YouTube clips of themselves asking a few (generally loaded) questions, rather than the actual answers. It all seems a bit ego maniacal in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on precisely enough to be able to really explain why I find it so odd.

That said, you can see which candidate was chosen to respond to each question. Five of the questions I see on this page are apparently meant to be asked of only one candidate. (I haven’t watched all of them, so I don’t know exactly what issues they address.) Now, seriously… For fuck’s sake! How the hell can you call it a debate if only one person gets to speak on some of the topics?! It also looked like there were quite a few questions addressed to only two candidates, and I saw only a single question aimed at eight candidates.

It seems like the whole point of a debate is that you let a topic loose on the candidates and see what they think about it. They actually debate and argue and speak about opposing and differing perspectives and viewpoints. You know, like an actual DEBATE. When the debates are structured such that most of the candidates don’t even get to speak about a given topic, you wind up with a massive preselection bias. How well you are able to articulate an opinion at the debate seems to be less significant than how well you have managed to position yourself so that people want to ask you questions in the first place.

The word debate is useless in modern speech. It’s one of those words which no longer means anything, I think. A fact which is emblematic of a whole host of problems in our modern political system.