In the wake of a relatively brisk, civilized debate, ringmaster Gingrich is complaining about losing his rabble-rousing rights.
Reacting to NBC’s control of the kind of whooping and cheering that went on in South Carolina, Newt’s morning-after regret is that “I wish in retrospect I’d protested when Brian Williams took them out of it because I think it’s wrong. And I think he took them out of it because the media is terrified that the audience is going to side with the candidates against the media.”
“We’re going to serve notice on future debates,” he tells Fox. “The media doesn’t control free speech. People ought to be allowed to applaud if they want to.”
For a historian, Gingrich has failed to recall that the Kennedy-Nixon debates took place in a closed studio with only a handful of press and that the New York Times reported the next day that “the exchanges were distinguished by a suavity, earnestness and courtesy that suggested that the two men were more concerned about ‘image projection’ to their huge television audience than about scoring debating points.”
The process has now been transformed from a relatively civilized exchange into an ugly spectacle of candidates under pressure to tear down one another with unchecked (until the next day, when TV viewers are gone) exaggerations, distortions and lies—-anything to stir up the partisan blood.
No wonder Gingrich is miffed. It’s not “free speech” when partisan claques are allowed to override moderators trying to conduct debates based on exchanges between candidates.
There’s another word for what he wants. It’s “demagoguery,” and even Fox News must know the difference.