Saturday, May 5, 2007

Rocky v Hannity Recap, I Grow Discouraged About The Tone

Overall, nothing happened last night that wasn't to be expected. Rocky laid out his case against Bush and the war, Hannity brought up every right wing talking point from 1979 to the present instead of arguing his point. The pro Hannity crowd loved everything he said, and hated everything Rocky said, and the pro Rocky crowd responded in kind. The middle ground, if they were represented, must have seen this as the circus that it really turned out to be. So here's what I saw and heard during and after the debate . . .

The Moderator

Let's face it, he had the toughest job in the building, but that being said, I think he didn't perform his role very well. In my biased opinion, his choices in when to apply the rules (that came up very seldom) and when to control the crowd was very one sided. Those heckling Rocky were free to chime in as they pleased, but those doing the same to Hannity were told to present his argument (although Kingsbury Hall staff did eject a few people that I saw, from each side of the political spectrum).

The Crowd

This attitude seemed to reverberate through the crowd, as I saw a few people who had just minutes before yelled things like "traitor" at Anderson, turn and yell at someone who had attempted to yell something equally irrelevant at Hannity. One such exchange resulted in a Hannity supporter telling a Rocky supporter that he was going to "kick his fucking ass" as he "didn't pay to here him talk, he paid to hear Hannity." Which is understandable, had he not been yelling at the mayor shortly before. Now let me just say it's not that I don't think Hannity is an ass face, he is, but that wasn't the point last night. The majority of people who walked into the hall last night had already made up their minds, and weren't willing to listen to the other side. I'm probably guilty of this myself, I'd like to say that's because Hannity didn't so much provide a case for his argument, as he summarized his radio/tv show for the last few weeks, but I'll get to that later.


The mayor laid out his case in a well thought out, logical way. The Hannity supporters didn't get it. I'm not saying they weren't smart enough to comprehend what the mayor was saying; more that Rocky wasn't getting enough sound bite jabs in there. The people whose mind he was trying to change are used to FNC and am radio, they aren't used to logical thorough argument, they are more swayed by emotional knee jerk reaction causing arguments. I'm not calling anyone dumb here, just saying that Rocky and the Hannity supporters were talking past each other. Rocky laid out his case, they called him a traitor and said that he didn't have the right to put a 9/11 picture in his slide show. To me he won the debate, but I agreed with him going in, and I've never been much of a Hannity fan. To those around me that didn't agree with him his argument wasn't concise enough to change their minds, he was too methodical. The only other criticism I have of Rocky's performance is his opening ran long, it happens, don't try to finish it during question time, that's your opportunity to put Hannity on the spot. Instead the Mayor made long statements that furthered his argument, but didn't force Hannity to respond in any meaningful way. This allowed the Hannity supporters to stay rallied behind their guy. Overall I came away with the impression that had Rocky put Hannity more on the spot with directed, short questions, Hannity wouldn't have been able to answer them. But the 'questions' Rocky did ask, Hannity was able to blather around (yes I said blather, that's what I thought he did; I never claimed to be unbiased here).


From the childish body language to the Jay Lenoesque comedy/impression attempts, Sean Hannity was merely being his media self. He didn't come to Salt Lake to debate anything, he came to make some jokes, show some video that he produced, and generally polarize political discourse. Statements like 'have you ever noticed how liberals don't like to hear other people speak' and 'if the liberals would let me talk' while the conservatives in the audience were doing the same if not worse to the mayor only sent the crowd into their predetermined mind set of Hannity. Calling Anderson a part time mayor, and doing what I can only describe as the worst Bill Clinton impersonation I've ever heard didn't help either. No one gave him a chance to change their minds, and he didn't do anything that would make them wrong for doing so. His presentation seemed to be strained to me, from pausing for applause repeatedly, showing numerous video, and bringing up everything the right wing media has talked about for the last two and a half decades he showed he either didn't understand the topic at hand, or he didn't want to talk about it. In staying with my not calling anyone dumb theme here, I'll say he didn't want to talk about it, but why should he. He knows his case is a stretch, the majority of the crowd was on his side, and nothing the mayor said forced him into an answer. Rocky tried to get an answer several times, but in his typical FNC fashion, Hannity answered by talking about Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Congressional Democrats 'not providing supplies, armor, and ammunition to our troops,' and any other talking point he could come up with to excite his fans without answering the question.

I'm not sure who I'd blame for the distinct division that was so evident last night, was it the debaters, the crowd, or the issues at hand? One thing I can say is that as long as political talk in this country remains this divided, no one will ever change their minds. Why would they when it's all too easy to find someone supporting what you already think? In my opinion Anderson should have used the debate to try and point out the weakness of Hannity's argument to show his supporters why he's wrong. But that's what I already thought, Hannity supporters could very well be saying something along the lines of 'Hannity should have said why Rocky was wrong, instead of talking about John Kerry and Hillary Clinton' today. But what I'm wondering today is, is this just a local thing, is Utah really just this divided of a state? Or is this the state of politics now. Do we really need to entrench ourselves and fight an ugly political fight, or is there a more civil option?

Wow, I had more to say about the debate than I thought, did anyone make it all the way through. Oh, and I can't help but finding blogfights fun, and the one that went on over on A Liberal Mormon's blog was just classic. I think without people like Jessica out there I wouldn't enjoy politics as much as I do, they just add that element of wow to it. I wonder if they ever look back at what they've typed and think 'what was I thinking?' Probably not, but I'd like to see the look on her face if she ever does.

UPDATE KSL has the video if you missed anything.

2ND UPDATE KUTV has the video broken up into sections and a poll on who won, 50-40 for Hannity last I saw it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure who I'd blame for the distinct division that was so evident last night, was it the debaters, the crowd, or the issues at hand?

    Consider the polarizing effect of the two-party system for the increasing nastiness in the nation's political discourse.