Others have pointed out how many times debate moderator Lester Holt slanted criticism toward Trump, rather than Hillary. Others have suggested Hillary and Holt were a tag-team, with Hillary throwing hand signals to Holt indicating she was ready to hit Trump with a zinger.
On a different level…
Watching the debate-host, Holt, working his way through Trump vs. Hillary, sitting in his chair, bathed in a spotlight glow against a sea of total darkness, eerie metallic glimmers reflecting from his glasses, I was reminded of Dr. Eldon Tyrell, the barely human chairman of the corporation that designed androids in the film Blade Runner.
—Holt, the man who had the script and the questions and the facts at his immediate disposal. The brain. The wisdom figure. The synthetic guide with a touch of humanity built in.
Quite an archetype.
As I pointed out recently, the ridiculous notion of a debate with a moderator is modern. When Lincoln and Douglas famously debated slavery for hours at a time, over the course of several weeks, there was no intermediary voice. One man spoke for an hour, and then the other man spoke for an hour.
The moderator is a prop, a pretense of introducing objectivity into the proceeding.
The moderator is the “voice of rationality,” as it were. From that perch, he can, of course, slant the event—and Holt certainly did.
His dry speech patterns, in fact, resembled those of Barack Obama, when the President is reciting script.
Watching Holt operate, I was also reminded of the technocratic wet dream of a human brain hooked up to a computer, from which emanates undeniable wisdom.
Holt adopted the persona of a machine, and he pulled it off.
Which means? This is where the world is heading, if the technocrats have anything to say about it. You “need the best data—and one day soon you’ll get the data from a computer your brain is connected to. All will be well.”
Holt is also NBC’s national news anchor, which means he tells the stories of our time, every night, to millions of tranced viewers who are seeking a voice not their own.
Anchor and debate moderator—a powerful combination.
Replay the debate moment when, out of nowhere, Holt’s words suddenly crackled like dry autumn leaves: “[Stop and frisk] was ruled unconstitutional.”
The narrator thus spake.
A brain not their own…a voice not their own…a narrator of reality…a fount of instant wisdom…the answer from on high…there are many, many people who want those things, and they want them embodied in a machine-like structure that assures them of dispassionate “honesty.”
It’s no surprise that giant television networks have made these debates their own property. After all, the companies consider the events media-moments. Hosting them and appointing the moderators is no different from designing and presenting the nightly news broadcasts.
Of course, when you stop and think about this arrangement for debates, it’s absurd. Why would Lester Holt be more qualified to guide the proceeding than a car mechanic from Peoria?
Why have a guide at all?
Why allow media companies or government entities or even non-profit organizations a place in the debates? The two ruling political parties are the correct sponsors. We’re watching their candidates.
Holt was a well-groomed device. A hint of the near-future. A figure of “just-enough-authority” sitting in the darkness, dispensing voice-of-god to the masses, backed up by a production crew with split-screen, miced-up, podium-on-stage technology to provide a fatuous imitation of a real debate
Instead, let there be a stage in a glen. Two or three television cameras. Let there be a topic. Foreign policy. Hillary ascends the stage and speaks for an hour. Then she leaves. Trump appears. He talks for 90 minutes. Then Hillary comes back for 30 minutes. The candidates never speak to each other. There is no moment-to-moment exchange of daggers or jokes or gotchas. This isn’t entertainment. It isn’t grins or hair or dress or tie or teeth.
If there is a moderator, he stands down off-stage and to the side, grumpy and frowning, holding an umbrella in case it rains. He reads a book while the candidates speak, he eats a hot dog. He combs and re-combs his hair. He waits. He thinks about his 20-dollar-an-hour salary. He must remain absolutely silent.
He’s an actual prop put there to remind people of a time when things were different, when the so-called news was delivered by media stars, who competed to see which ones were the most clever at inventing reality that seemed factual, but wasn’t.
In a world with a shred of sanity, that’s what Lester Holt would be doing.
What is modern television news (including debate moderation)?
From their perch, anchors can deign to allow a trickle of sympathy here, a slice of compassion there.
But they let the audience know that objectivity is their central mission. “We have to get the story right.” “You can rely on us for that.”
This is the great PR arch of national network news. “These facts are what’s really happening and we’re giving them to you.” The networks spend untold millions to convey that false assurance.
The anchor is the narrative voice of his time, for all people everywhere. The voice that replaces what is going on in the heads of his audience—all those doubts and confusions and objections in the heads of the great unwashed. The anchor will replace those and substitute his own plot line.
The network anchor is The Wizard Of Is. He keeps explaining what is. “Here’s something that is, and then over here we have something else that is, and now, just in, a new thing that is.” He lays down miles of “is-concrete” to pave over deeper, uncomfortable, unimaginable truth.
The anchor must become comfortable with having very little personality of his own. On air, the anchor is neutral, a castratus, a eunuch.
This is a time-honored ancient tradition. The eunuch, by his diminished condition, has the trust of the ruler. He guards the emperor’s inner sanctum. He acts as a buffer between his master and the people. He applies the royal seal to official documents.
Essentially, the anchor is saying, “See, I’m ascetic in the service of truth. Why would I hamstring myself this way unless my mission is sincere objectivity?”
All expressed shades of emotion occur and are managed within that persona of the dependable court eunuch. The anchor who can move the closest to the line of being human without actually arriving there is the champion.
The vibrating string between eunuch and human is the frequency that makes an anchor great. Think Cronkite, Chet Huntley, Edward R Murrow.
The public expects to hear that vibrating string. It’s been conditioned by many hard nights at the tube, watching the news.
There are other reasons for “voice-neutrality” of the anchor. Neutrality conveys a sense of science. “We did the experiment in the lab and this is how it turned out.”
Neutrality gives assurance that everything is under control.
Neutrality implies: we, the news division, don’t have to make money (a lie); we’re on a higher plane; we’re performing a public service; we’re like a responsible charity.
The other night, Lester Holt was the machine-like agent of the Cosmic Charity of All Souls dedicated to higher wisdom from an unimpeachable source. That was his role and he played it.
“I take no sides. I have no opinions. I am objectivity personified. I am…The Fact Checker.”
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The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world.