Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Aura: How pundits and politicians preserve their image (part 2 of 2)

continued from Aura Part 1
One way to endear yourself to an audience even when losing in a debate or presenting an opposition viewpoint is to be the bigger man. If you can demonstrate that you have a sense of humor and that you don't take yourself too seriously, it can nullify the sting of an attack.

Take Mike Stark from Calling All Wingnuts, a liberal mischief maker who frequently called in to pester and duel with Sean Hannity. Whilst other conservative radio hosts would have muted Mike, Sean entertained Mike's shenanigans. When Mike snuck in an unflattering sign on the Hannity and Colmes show, Sean self deprecatingly linked to it on his website. Mike acknowledged that Sean was a good sport in a folksy call to Hannity's radio show.

Listen to Mike Stark and Sean Hannity riffing
Note: My thesis seems to fall apart here, as the CallingAllWingnuts posters don't give Hannity an inch Despite Mike's non-hostile sentiments towards Sean in the phone call. I still stand by the fact that Sean's self deprecating approach to the sign mollifies the taunt and ultimately makes him look better in this instance

An important factor in creating aura is choosing your opponents carefully. The boldest APF pundits are probably Bill O'Reilly and Bill Maher. Whilst most pundits carefully control who they appear with, the two Bills are game enough to debate in hostile environments. Bill O'Reilly in particular invites the challenge. Whilst this fearlessness in dueling enlarges O'Reilly's aura it can also lead to embarrassment if he is overmatched and underestimates the opponent. To an extent Bill can still manage how he is perceived if losing in a debate but TV requires more finesse than when on the radio.
Not only does TV capture discomfort more fully, its also much harder to cut off a guest or caller visually whereas on the radio they can simply be muted. In any case the host of the show still has the final word.

Watch Bill O'Reilly flexing his muscle by "conquering the secular progressive tv circuit"

Watch Bill use his infamous line 'Cut the mic', to disqualify himself from a debate

Watch Bill's tussle with a formidable civilian, disqualifying himself and retaining the belt.

Watch Bill in an epic duel with Phil Donahue. Bill enlarges his aura of fairness and competitiveness by reading out some reader comments of the debate.

At the end of the day, Aura determines the hierarchy of the APF pundits. Whilst they can be appraised by how many viewers they have and their influence on the wider political landscape. They are ultimately only powerful in their own fiefdoms and in the context they've created. Since its rare that APF pundits from the left and right clash mano-a-mano, we are left to rank them against one another through their Aura.

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