Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Abuse of the Soundbite

I recently read an article (or was it on NPR?...) stating that nowadays, the majority of political candidates really abuse the soundbite. Long gone are the days of in depth speeches that reach out to the masses; most modern political pundits are very guilty of relying on short, to the point, and succinct statements that can easily be bundled in a brief video, easily replayed on news stations or quoted within texts of newspapers, magazines, and web articles. These soundbites are chock full of emotion, intended to stir the viewer or reader into a heated frenzy either for or against the speaker in question. They also represent a certain clarity, a message that sums up the politician in question's views in a short, concise sentence. The report I referred to also stated that as technology has increased (i.e. the prevalence of the internet), the average length of the soundbite has decreased to almost half of what it was before. I believe it states that the average soundbite is now only 7 seconds in length. This also relates to current society's focus on immediacy of information.

Think of the buzzwords and phrases that McCain and Obama have been employing in their respective campaigns: "Change you can believe in", "Barack Obama: More empty words" (from a McCain attack video), etc. These soundbites are easily quotable, easy to remember, and easy on the ears. This goes along with the concept that rhetoric is employed as a means to persuade, a way to convince the masses that they are making the right choice by supporting this individual. While the soundbite isn't inherently evil or good, it certainly says something, at the very least, about current society's attention spans.

4 comments:

ddmarie said...

i definitely agree. our nations attention span has gotten so small it has resulted in 30 second or less youtube clips that are viewed on a regular basis. have you ever tried to watch a silent film, or any older film for that matter, with a young person who ISN'T a film major or buff? they don't get it and they don't stand still. they completely miss it. kinda sad really.

Ain't Heard Nothing Yet said...

This is why my children will grow up watching silent films/films and television of good caliber and not MTV and other such crap. I also think that the immediacy of access to information that the internet provides for us is contributing to the short attention spans of this generation, and ours for that matter.

I've been noticing lately that when I sit down to read, if I think of anything else I could be doing at the time I have to complete that task or else I am eternally distracted (I forgot to call Mom, I was gonna clip my toenails, What day is that meeting again?, etc.). I'm getting pretty depressed about it, and trying to quell these urges as soon as they crop up in my brain. It's been a task though. Ritalin is looking more enticing every day...(um wow, Ritalin is actually in my computer's dictionary, ahhhh...)

Princess Leah said...

There was a reviewer (forget who wrote it, pretty sure it wasn't our beloved Pauline) who commented that most entertainment produced in the pre-television age plays waaaaay too slowly for a modern audience. We are conditioned to bark with laughter every few seconds and to have everything wrapped up in a nice, neat little package at the end of every half-hour. Make an audience wait a while for a payoff or (heaven forbid) make them work a bit? Horrors! Makes me wonder why Memento did as well as it did.

Ain't Heard Nothing Yet said...

MEMENTO still employed quick editing and jumped around enough to make it interesting. It's backwards linear structure alone, I would argue, makes the audience eager for a payoff. The first scene is also so intriguing (the backwards moving scene of Teddy being shot) that anyone who doesn't watch beyond that first scene to figure out what is going on is pretty much an idiot.

I just saw a Harold Lloyd film last week called SPEEDY. I thought it was hilarious, even if the gags and laughs were a little more spread out. Is there only satisfaction in immediacy? I think with the common mental state of mind, this could very well be the truth. Everyone has become impatient. And I know I am not void of blame with this. If my wireless internet takes too long to get to a site, I want to punch it right in it's digital face. Immediate access to information is essential, otherwise the iPhone and Blackberry wouldn't be as popular (and for some necessary) as they are.

Sigh...