Fox News announced Wednesday that only (ahem, only) 10 GOP candidates — the leaders in the polls — will be permitted to participate in the first presidential debate on Aug. 6 in Cleveland. Likewise, CNN will limit the first part of its Sept. 16 debate to the top 10 polling candidates, while allowing any who exceed 1% to come on stage for the second half. Certainly, we understand not wanting to have 27 people on stage competing for a few seconds of airtime. The GOP field is crowded this year, nearly to the point of being silly. But the decision to limit this to poll numbers is asinine, especially for the first debate. Voters don’t know the candidates very well yet, so why limit the stage to polling on people who are as-yet unknown quantities? It amounts to making early name recognition the bar of entry, which then — ta da — limits name recognition for those who haven’t got it yet. This is a good example of what we like to call pollaganda, a propagandistic disinformation technique where political polling masquerades as “objective journalism” and instead advances a particular bias. The networks can thus use the restricted GOP field to drive public opinion rather than reflect or inform it. Our solution: If candidates have done the necessary paperwork and are qualified, put ‘em on stage one way or another, even if it takes multiple debates in varying arrangements.
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