The media and other slovens insist upon calling the kind of playground brawls that CNN put on with the GOP presidential candidates "debates." A bunch of malevolent juveniles shouting insults, abuse, and falsehoods at each other and the public is not a debate. The Oxford English Dictionary specifies what comprises a debate:
debate |diˈbāt| nouna formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward.• an argument about a particular subject, especially one in which many people are involved: the national debate onabortion | there has been much debate about prices.verb [ with obj. ] argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner: the board debated his proposal | the date when people first entered America is hotly debated.• [ with clause ] consider a possible course of action in one's mind before reaching a decision: he debated whether he should leave the matter alone or speak to her.There were no arguments assembled and put forward. Most of the session was dominated by the participants spouting vilifications and defamations at President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and each other. There was nothing resembling a debate or an intelligible discussion of issues that actually concern the state of the nation or the concerns of its citizens. Nearly all the accusations were aimed at discrediting somebody and most of the claims of achievement were false. The affair did not stand up to much fact-checking.
A New York Times editorial confronted the inane affair:
Peel back the boasting and insults, the lies and exaggerations common to any presidential campaign. What remains is a collection of assertions so untrue, so bizarre, that they form a vision as surreal as the Ronald Reagan jet looming behind the candidates’ lecterns....
Let loose by the CNN moderators, the candidates spun their visions freely. Despite an abundance of serious issues to talk about, nobody offered solutions to problems like child poverty, police and gun violence, racial segregation, educational gaps, competition in a global economy and crumbling infrastructure. On looming disasters (the changing climate) and more immediate ones (a possible government shutdown over, of all things, Planned Parenthood), the debate offered no reassurance that grown-ups were at the table, or even in the neighborhood.
A major theme in George Orwell's 1984 is the indoctrination and control of the people through the use of the media to assail them with a constant barrage of alarming disinformation. That is what the debate and its hyping and responses were. The alleged debate gave Americans their version of the five minutes of hate that the citizens of Orwell's fictional country were required to participate in each day.
And, apparently, only a few writers at the New York Times noticed. The rest of the nation celebrated the subjugation of the American mind.