Saturday, January 9, 2010

State of the Union vs. "Lost"

Media-savvy President Obama has decided not to give his “State of the Union” address on Feb. 2 after all. Fans of the TV show “Lost” mounted an unprecedented outcry via social media. The White House knows, you don’t mess with the Twitter-verse.  See the Christian Science Monitor article.

We're looking at a most democratic institution, Twitter, to begin setting the agenda for a media driven nation (and it's President?). I wonder how many other movements can ramp up response like this on other more serious issues.

"Lost" has unified the nation. Right and left, Dem and GOP, anarchist and fascist, Buddhist and Baptist, Jew and Muslim... "Lost" has won fans of every stripe. I wonder what it says about a nation that values its TV fables (story!!!!!) more than the real-life issues laying around in the "State of the Union" speech. Should we get J.J. Abrams (producer of TV's “Lost” and “Alias,” and director of the latest “Star Trek” movie, whose work I love) to "produce" a more media savvy State of the Union experience?

From the time Ronald Reagan pulled out a dollar bill and a few coins to dramatize his point ("the great communicator"), the medium of the speech has been on a downward slide. Preachers are one of the precious few who command a voluntary audience of dozens, hundreds or thousands for a weekly 40-minute monologue. (Rush is interrupted by commercials, CSPAN's ratings are nothing special.) America is out of the habit of listening to great speeches any more often than the political presidential 4-year cycle. The Chautauqua movement of 100 years ago is dead and gone. If you want to sway the nation, dissipated, diverse and distracted as it is, a speech won't do it. Should we give up?

Probably not. It's constitutional. It's the only time the President actually is required to speak to the entire Congress. We all know it's important. Just not more important than "Lost.

No comments: