So We're Finally Muting the Mics

Illustration for article titled So Were Finally Muting the Mics
Photo: Pool (Getty Images)

Just days out from the last ordained shouting match of the 2020 election, the Commission on Presidential Debates has declared new guidance for Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s final matchup. That’s right folk, we’re cutting the mics!

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Trump frequently interrupted his opponent during the first debate—a situation anyone could have foreseen—while moderator Chris Wallace did less than nothing to intervene. Trump then famously refused to participate in a virtual second debate specifically because he feared that audio would be cut off. “It’s ridiculous, and then they cut you off whenever they want,” he told Fox business at the time. (This refusal of course resulted in the competing town halls circus, which NBC and ABC were all too happy to facilitate.)

In an apparent attempt to avoid a repeat, the final debate will have mics muted but only some of the time.

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Here’s who it’s going to work: The debate is broken up into six topic segments, which CNN reports will be on covid, climate change, race, and then some yawners like family, national security, and “leadership.” According to CBS, Biden and Trump “will have two minutes of uninterrupted time at the beginning of each 15-minute segment [...] the candidate who does not have the floor will have his mic muted [...] After the two minutes of uninterrupted time, the mics will be on for open discussion.”

So what we’re talking about here is an incredibly small concession towards normalcy, leaving Trump with almost an hour and 20 minutes of the 90-minute program to berate, steamroll, and signal to white supremacists. (Naturally, his campaign manager has already objected to the new guidelines, calling themcompletely unacceptable.”)

“Neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today,” the Commission told press in a statement. “One may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough. We are comfortable these actions strike the right balance, and that they are in the best interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held.” It did not specify if the moderator, a member of the Commission, or just some very lucky AV guy would be responsible for doing the actual muting, but we’ve reached out for comment on the matter.

While muting Trump’s mic exactly six times may, in fact, go off without a hitch, it’s not exactly foolproof, since this final debate is in person rather than virtual. A muted mic would not, for instance, stop Trump from:

  • shouting very loudly
  • bringing his own, smaller PA system or megaphone on stage
  • running over to Biden’s podium and attempting to commandeer his mic
  • leaving the debate stage in frustration

If we’re lucky, all four will happen.

The final presidential debate will take place this Thursday, from 9pm to 10:30pm ET.

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Senior reporter. Tech + labor /// bgmwrites@gmail.com Keybase: keybase.io/bryangm Securedrop: http://gmg7jl25ony5g7ws.onion/

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DISCUSSION

Would a silenced mic drop have the same effect if no one can hear it?

If only we can silence the whole thing - these debates have become a completely meaningless tool to simply judge personality. Give me policy declarations along with voting and law-making history, then give explanations for why you voted one way or another and if you views have changed and why. You know, some real accountability rather than yelling loudly what you would do without any specifics.

We make our high school students do this kind of exercise in English class, why can’t we make our politicians do the same?