Given that Quebeckers are facing yet another pivotal election on April 7, over the past couple of weeks, I paid close attention to the two political "debates" held between the leaders of the province's four main parties.
I bracket the word "debates" with quotation marks, as these two two-hour sessions were debates in name only, and frankly, not much different from most political encounters of the ilk. There was very little intelligent discourse, no thoughtful exchange of ideas and no rational drive to conclusion or resolution. Instead, viewers were subjected to a mish-mash of accusations, threats, lies, and reputation-shielding, all smothered in a tsunami of dizzying, unverified and contradictory statistics.
So much mud was slung that I wished I owned the dry cleaners and industrial disinfectant company closest to the TV studio.
If there were truth in labeling, political "debates" would be called "Loud Bloodless Violence," as that is usually their end result...and perhaps the reason why people choose to watch them instead of another sporting match or a sitcom re-run.
On one hand, "debates" may not advance the political process, but at their best/worst, can be great television. After a most genteel start, things always rapidly degenerate into chaos. Victory usually goes to the one who yells the loudest, interrupts the most, and/or ignores the time limits imposed upon them to continue yelling and interrupting. And just like people who follow NASCAR waiting for the car crashes, vicious partisans and enemies tune in en masse to see who can land "a knockout punch."
If the organizers could convince scantily-clad females to periodically parade around the studio holding cards emblazoned with debate topics, I'd bet you could run this on pay-per-view and rival the UFC.
While watching the latest round of "debates," I couldn't help bemoaning how perverse our political process had become. And I wondered why, if the political "debate" has become such a recognized standard, what would happen if its form and spirit carried over to other sectors...like big business.
Imagine then, a televised "debate" between Ford, Chrysler and GM.
Heads of each company would disparage the other's products, safety record, history and integrity, and follow this up with the usual whitewash of arcane, misleading crunched numbers that would require an army of forensic accountants months to corroborate or deny.
The chairmen would be grilled for faults of their predecessors or even company founders, forced to defend rumors or totally-invented falsehoods, and if that weren't enough, have their own personal baggage pried open and ransacked. To throw off the balance even more, a smaller, niche car company with nothing to lose -- say Tesla -- would be thrown into the mix and given equal presence and timing.
"Winners" would be decided in both the short and long term; the former by the next morning's opening stock price, and the latter by upward or downward tick in quarterly sales.
And why stop at car companies? The political "debate" concept could also work for restaurants (McDonald's vs. Chipotle vs. Starbucks) consumer electronic manufacturers (Apple vs. Samsung vs. the latest Kickstarter crowdsourced darling), Internet giants (Google vs. Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Yahoo)...even TV networks themselves (HBO vs. FOX vs. CBS vs. A&E). Remember the "Cola Wars" of the 1980s? This merely ramps up the concept for the reality TV/last survivor standing/social media age...and dangerously, dramatically ups the stakes between winners and losers.
So is there any great "learning" this week? Any takeaway lessons like usual?
Not really...except I learned that I can do anything I want to do here.
And I'm ready to debate the first dirty scumbag who says otherwise.