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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.



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IPS Blog

Entries tagged "television"

What Not to Do on Camera

October 4, 2012 ·

I think the Republicans set themselves up for a tough challenge when they cast Barack Obama as the outsider, Kenyan usurper while Mitt Romney was supposed to represent the traditional white establishment. Henry Kissinger even recognized it during the Vietnam War: "The guerrilla army wins by not losing; the conventional army loses by not winning." I'm pretty sure he stole that from Mao, who was a horrible ruler, but a smart guerrilla strategist.

Romney and Obama debateRomney needed to decisively rout Obama, while Obama simply needed to not fall flat on his face. In the end, I don't think many minds were changed. If Big Bird stood out as the most memorable phrase of the first presidential debate of 2012, then Romney's much-lauded performance failed to land an attack that will stick in voters' minds. It was a soft victory, elevated by low expectations going into the debate. Obama should have pushed back on those outrageous lies, but his weakness is that he always tries to stay "above it all," which comes across as aloof.

I watched it on CBS, which used a split screen for almost the entire debate. Romney's privileged smirk and mannerisms probably hurt him more than his own words. I'm curious to see if CBS viewers thought less of Romney because of his "off-camera" behavior compared to other network viewers.

Obama learned in 2008 that what you do when not speaking is matters. It's a lesson I've learned the hard way. I've probably done a hundred on-camera interviews over the years and it took me a long time to learn that I should never look around the room or move my head when I'm not speaking.

The camera can cut to you at any moment. If I'm distracted by the activity in the studio or other shiny things, my eyes dart back and forth. If the camera catches me in that moment, I look as shifty as a cartoon villain. Always look forward at the camera, at the person speaking, or downward while appearing to take thoughtful notes. Otherwise, the viewer doesn't see the distractions you're looking at and — at best — it makes you look disinterested.

Looking at anything the home viewer can't see is dangerous. Perception matters on TV. On the other hand, it's possible to take too many notes and come across as disengaged — as Obama learned last night.

Sanho Tree is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. IPS-dc.org

Glee and the Dems Get in a Funk

November 3, 2010 ·

Tonight, my politico side wanted to watch every painful second of election returns. But tonight is also my fifth grader's favorite show, Glee. So I had to watch the returns during the commercials of Glee. I found it confusing to remember which was which.

The theme of tonight's election was "Funk"...No...wait, I mean the theme of tonight's Glee was "Funk."  Either way, I knew I was headed for Funky Town...I had to watch them both through the same lens.

Mr. Shue is the lovable teacher who leads the gloriously talented if geeky Glee Club kids to heights of song, dance and morality plays each week. Imagine they are the Dems—liberal, diverse, idealistic, talented, tolerant. And Sue Slyvester, the mean-spirited, socially conservative Cheerleader Coach who hates Shue and Glee Club and diversity and tolerance represents the Republicans. Not a stretch, really.

Glee Club, in tonight's Funk Episode is being obstructed once more by Sue Sylvester as they attempt to compete in a regional Glee competition with other schools. Mr. Shue has tried compromise, reason, and bipartisanship to get the evil Sue to leave them alone. Hasn't worked. So he decides to play hardball. Says "I tried playing nice with you. But nothing seems to work." President Obama would have done well to have learned this some time ago.

Then Glee tells us "Fasten your seatbelt, everyone. It's going to be a funky ride."  And it has been. Boy it has been. The Dems held West Virginia as Gov. Joe Manchin easily won that Senate seat. But lunch-counter-rights-doubter Rand Paul won in Kentucky. Christine O'Donnell proved to be not much of a witch, losing badly in Delaware. But Indiana, Ohio, and Florida went down the road of funk. Looks like the suspiciously well-tanned Boehner will become the next Speaker of the House.

As a Glee member lamented, "Is it that bad Mr. Shue? That we're doing the wrong songs? We're in a deeper funk than ever..."

Yes, we are. It seems the Obama administration and the Dems are doing the wrong songs. What if we had sung potential hits like Universal Healthcare, Direct Public Job Creation, and Ain't Gonna Fund War No More?

Then perhaps we wouldn't have to say tomorrow, as Sue said to Mr Shue after his dirty tricks, "Have you come to gloat?" Perhaps we wouldn't have to endure the injustice suffered by Glee Star "Rachel", who gets egged as she naively runs to former BFF from the opposing team, thinking he loves her again.

Two years ago, the glee was ours to squander. Squander we did and now we have to wipe the egg off our faces, buck up and fight. The Glee kids still have the talent, the good intentions, diversity, idealism, tolerance on their side. Obama still does too. Progressives still do too.

The question is, will the anti-democratic forces take the country down the dismal road to Funky Town or will we fight back? I still say Yes We Can, Yes We Will. Look to be gleeful again in 2012.