October 01, 2008
by: jovial_cynic

image: Sarah Palin vs Joe Biden (cc) Thomas Hawk

Folks appear to be up in arms over Gwen Ifill's pro-Obama book, on account of her role as moderator in the upcoming VP debate between Palin and Biden, crying foul and unfair bias and other such things. I think that's a reasonable complaint -- Ifill has a responsibility to be impartial towards the opponents, and she has received criticism for not being so during the 2004 VP debate between John Edwards and Dick Cheney.

To be honest, I think the scale of the outrage is a little silly. As shown by the polls, most people are incapable of being impartial, and the people most offended are those strongly biased in the opposite direction. And I'm sure that many of them feel they would be a better choice as moderator.

Additionally, the complaint itself is rather cynical. To claim that bias will affect a debate assumes that the general public is stupid, and can be easily tricked by a biased moderator. However, I suggest that any partiality during the debate will be painfully obvious, and that it's rather newsworthy to point out unfair bias during a debate. If I was keeping score, I'd say that any negative press about unfair bias during the debate would help the McCain campaign earn a few points. And I think that the current press about the situation may already have done so.

That said, it would probably be prudent for Ifill to step down as moderator because of the appearance of impropriety, as well as her reputation from the 2004 VP debate. If the public feels it will be unfair, what better way to further support your chosen candidate than to remove as many roadblocks as possible, even if it means yourself?

Note: The image above is followed up with the following comment by the creator:

I took the transcript from Sarah Palin's VP acceptance speech at last night's Republican convention (top) and compared it to the VP acceptance transcript given by Joe Biden from the Democratic convention (bottom) using wordle.


Luke said:
Well I don't know much about Ifill. I'm sure she's an excellent reporter but think about it this way.

She's got a financial stake in Obama winning the election because of the windfall revenue she'll no doubt lose if McCain wins regarding her book. I think that she can't be objective because of that and even when she covered the Palin speech she did so with noticable disdain in her voice.

Going back to your point, I'm not so sure that everyone will be able to see through it and might be swayed because as South Park put it, "40% of people are retarded." I'm just kidding of course but I think that there are a legitimate part of the population that actually lean on these debates to help them make their decision, and if Ifill is subtle but effective in her bias she could affect things negatively.

I think that while we all have our political bents, the moderator of a debate should be as close to 'above reproach' as possible.

October 01, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
Luke - I agree that they should be above reproach as well, which is why I think it would be prudent for her to step down. And I also agree that she has a lot to gain if Obama becomes president.

The thing is, I think that people who are swayed by the result of the debates are as much swayed by the commentary that follows, and the media loves a scandal. If there is strong evidence of bias during the debates, they'll be talking about it, regardless of their political affiliation. The mainstream media loves ratings more than their pet politician, I believe.

October 01, 2008

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