Will HDTV Decide the Presidential Election?

A legend of American politics is that TV defeated Nixon and delivered victory to Kennedy—in their televised Great Debates Nixon looked old and haggard, Kennedy, young and tanned. TV viewers said Kennedy won the debate; radio listeners said Nixon did. It was all about looks. Now, consider the HDTV/porn problem: Every little flaw is in glorious HD. And now consider that John McCain is older than your grandpa, ravaged by a rough campaign and melanoma surgery. Slate ponders the question: Will HDTV kill McCain?


How? I mean, I've always known that McCain played with dinosaurs, and so have most people, and we've all seen him on newscasts (mostly standard-def) and YouTube. On SNL over the weekend, though, his face was in full HD unglory, as recounted by Timothy Noah:

As someone who'd pooh-poohed the age issue, I found myself gasping at McCain's mug as transmitted in glorious HDTV. Wrinkles, blotches, liver spots, scarry tissue—none of these were hidden by McCain's makeup...I found myself thinking, Jeez, he doesn't look like a guy who'll turn 72 this August. He looks like a guy who'll turn 82.


Noah's not the only one who's noticed either, as he rattles off a list of other pubs noticing how much hell HD plays with McCain's visage, while leaving comparatively spry Obama mostly untouched (Hillary is in McCain's boat: "OMG, it's Palpatine's wife!"). You could argue that people will see past the wrinkles and liver spots, but age is an issue for McCain—hence his appearance on SNL to try to defuse it.

The ironic part? McCain was a big proponent of HDTV (in his actual maverick days), hating on broadcasters for not switching to digital spectrum fast enough, and calling the Feb. 17 2009 switchover date "too late." Noah goes so far as to say McCain is the reason HDTV has the penetration that it does. So he might have actually doomed himself. The first high-def election, that has a nice ring to it. [Slate]


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