Sunday, January 15, 2006

[politics] I've got/a miniature secret camera

iStockphoto - copyright Greg Bruins I've been thinking about the complaints that I've read recently from both the right and left about the Alito hearings: too superficial, too much grandstanding, too self-aggrandizing for the Senators involved. I've also been thinking about the two remedies that I have heard discussed: limiting the access of television to hearings, and creating a Select Committee to handle nominations either before or in lieu of the full Senate hearings. Frankly, the idea of creating yet another committee for the Senate strikes me as an awful idea. And the idea of restricting the access of the press to public workings of the Federal Government in an era of press conferences that consist of stonewalling and talking points repeated ad nauseum, restricted access to information previously deemed public, and entrenched talking heads and pundits who exist primarily to preserve their own access to politicians and power brokers... Well, let's just say that I think such a restriction counts as a Bad Idea-comma-Colossal. But I have an idea - and I think it's a good one. I think that not only does this idea tie into our current culture wonderfully, it would decrease public corruption (no more Abramoff-style scandals), elevate public debate (no more grandstanding in lieu of informed discussion), and increase public participation in the political process. And we already have the infrastructure (or at least most of it) that we would need to do so. Turn the Federal Government into the ultimate reality TV show. I'm not talking CSPAN's dry and boring gavel-to-gavel coverage that is devoid of context (and interest). I'm talking Survivor. I'm talking Fear Factor. I'm talking entertainment, baby! Think about it: every office in Washington, DC, becomes wired for video & sound, MTV's Big Brother on a grand scale. Everyone who wants to work for the Feds needs to sign a waiver stating that they understand that everything that they do might be recorded. You want to be a lobbyist? Same applies for you. Congressman? Yup. Bureaucrat? Uh-hunh. Anything that anyone does in the name of The People or The Republic or Plain Old Greed gets recorded (with very specific exemptions for, say, national security). Oh, we can guarantee certain kinds of privacy for family time as well, but even that will be conditional. You see, we then create a special Public Accountability division of the NSA. They filter every phone call, every taped meeting, every video tape, and apply their Sooper-Seekirt data mining voodoo to it. Then they focus on the high points, and spin a feed off to the television producers. All the juicy bits, all the arm-twisting, all the deal making and alliance breaking, all the payoffs and promises. All the seductions, fiscal and sexual. All the tradeoffs, personal and political. If something in your life, private or public, triggers an NSA red flag, off it goes into the queue. Everything. And they turn it into a slick TV show. And then we get to vote on it, just like American Idol. We get to choose what stories to pursue, what questions get asked in hearings, who should be booted off the island. Imagine the voter guides and campaign commercials that could be made! And you know how we'll know it's working? When we have to cancel the series because of low ratings. [title from Peter Murphy's song of the same name (from the Pump up the Volume soundtrack); image from iStockphoto]

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