What Once Seemed Long.Or Matters of Perception.
One day this past week I met a producer for a quick dinner
down in SoHo, not far from where we once lived. As I left
the Spring Street Station of the 6 Subway Line, I remember
thinking, when I first used it, that I thought it was a long
walk from the subway exit to our apartment.
The walk this week to the restaurant was virtually the same
as to that old apartment yet it now seemed short.
The distance hasn't changed; my perception of the distance
has. This small moment was life illustrative.
Life is almost as much about perception as it is about actualities.
The subject of perception has been much on my mind since that
short walk, just as the season of politics has been on my
mind. Is there anyone who hasn't been thinking about it? Politics
is probably more about perception than actualities than anything
else in life.
During the first of the Presidential Debates held this past
week, perceptions were formed that will shape the election.
Both Democrats and Republicans will spend the time between
the first and the second debate figuring out ways to overcome
whatever negative perceptions had been created during the
The debates are all about changing perceptions for these two
men. Can President Bush find a way to convince people who
are unsure about him that he really is more than a tongue
tied war monger who has led us into a dangerous place in the
world? Can Senator Kerry find a way to convince the voting
electorate he is more than a somber elitist who flip flops
on issues and is unable to articulate a plan for the country?
Watching the first debate was all about watching to see how
these two men were altering perceptions.
It was interesting to note during the day before the debate,
e-mail boxes were flooded with requests from loyal Democrats
and loyal Republicans to log onto news websites and to write
letters, immediately after the debates, to various news organizations
so that those efforts will help shape the perceptions of the
rest of the voting public. The rationale for this was based
on a careful analysis of both sides about the power of the
"after-natter", based on an exegesis of past debates.
It is interesting how powerful the natter has become. While
watching the debate I wanted very much to have my wireless
working so that I could see what was happening on-line.
The way public perception is formed is changing.
Walk the streets of New York and you will see people speaking
incessantly on cell phones. Drive any road and you will see
people doing the same. On trains and planes people are hunkered
down over their computers and the cached knowledge they contain.
With Wi-Fi becoming ubiquitous, the data streams are becoming
We are forming our perceptions based on a constant stream
of data that is so much more than it was, even when Clinton
ran for President. We are living in a world that is so electronically
connected that we are rapidly becoming our own science fiction
world. A far wider data stream is forming perceptions than
the world has ever known before.
But no matter what the number of data streams, the single
most powerful data stream is that one that comes with words
and visuals: television as we know it today. Television probably
won't be the same in a few more years but the most powerful
perceptions of this election are going to be formed by watching
the data stream that is our current version of television.
I think we learned that during the Kennedy/Nixon debates.
Having learned that, this year's two candidates are going
to be investing huge energies into the next two debates. Bush
must hold his own; Kerry must gain ground. They are the most
interesting, and thankfully most real, moments we will probably
have in this current campaign.