THE NEW TWILIGHT ZONE – Rich Paschall

Episode 1: The Campaign, by Arod Serling*

Opening scene:  Rural state rally, small town folks and area farmers in attendance.  A candidate for office is at the podium.  To the left of the stage are two of his aides.

Candidate: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell—I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.”

Cut to Narrator standing at undetermined location, presumably at the rally.

Narrator

Narrator: The man at the podium has recently announced that he is running for the highest office in the land.  The tall gentleman to the left of the stage is Michael who is attempting to control his candidate, a reality TV star.  Next to Michael is a young intern named Billy.  He wants to get some experience in political campaigns.  They all think they will be heading to the nation’s capital when in fact, they are about to enter “The Twilight Zone.”

Fade to opening credits, theme music. The scene will resume at the same rally.

Candidate (speaking on his own popularity): “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Billy (to Michael): Did he just say he could get away with murder?

Michael: All politicians are getting away with murder in one way or another.

Candidate (speaking about opponents): “How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”

Billy: I am unclear. What is he saying?  The people of Iowa are stupid or the other candidates are speaking crap? (Pause) Both?

Michael:  If you are unclear, so is everyone else.  Don’t worry about it.  We can spin it whatever way we want.

Candidate (speaking on ISIS):  “I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”

Billy: What could he know about ISIS that the generals don’t know?

Michael:  Look, you ask too many questions.  Just watch and learn.  It’s all a television show and he’s the star. (pointing to the candidate on stage).

The candidate

The candidate is giving the cheering crowd two thumbs up.  Fade out for a commercial break. “The new Twilight Zone is brought to you by Preparation A, for those nasty flare-ups”

Episode resumes with quick shots of various rallies around the country.

Billy (to Michael in South Carolina):  Did he just give out the real phone number of the opponent?

Michael (laughing):  Yeah, that should generate some press.

Candidate (to crowd trying to eject protester in Missouri): “Part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore.”

Billy: More violence?

Michael: Whatever works!

Candidate (at another rally): “Do I look a president? How handsome am I, right? How handsome?” (Looking smugly at the crowd) “I feel like a supermodel except, like, times 10, OK? It’s true. I’m a supermodel.”

Cut to Billy shaking his head and Michael laughing.

Candidate (in New Hampshire): “That could be a Mexican plane up there. They’re getting ready to attack.”

Billy: That can’t possibly be a Mexican plane and they certainly are not going to attack.

Michael:  The crowd doesn’t know that.  You can say anything, no matter how outrageous, as long as you are willing to stick with your story.

Quick cuts to various rallies.  The candidate is always looking smug and/or giving a thumbs up to the crowd.  The crowds always seem to love whatever he has to say.

Scene: Hotel room at debate site.  Michael and Billy our waiting anxiously for the event to begin.

Michael and Billy

Billy: I don’t have a good feeling about this.  I mean he would not even practice for the debate.  How can we get the message across if he is not prepared on the topics?

Michael:  Don’t worry, if he doesn’t have an answer, he will just change the subject and throw some dirt on an opponent.

Billy:  But some of those things he says are not true.  That will not work in a debate.

Michael:  Of course it will work.  These are not real debates, they are reality TV shows and we have the star.  Just watch.

Cut to the television studio where the debate is underway.

Candidate (replying to a Senator in the debate): “I never attacked him on his looks and believe me, there’s a lot of subject matter there.”

Cut Back at hotel room.

Michael:  See Billy, he did not have to actually answer the Senator.  And take a look at the Senator’s face.  This is hilarious.

Cut to television studio.

Candidate (referring to female primary opponent): “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!”

Hotel room:


Billy:  Do you think insulting a woman like that is good?  I mean, even if it is an opponent, people might get upset.

Michael:  His fan base will eat this up and who cares what the others think. We are well on our way to success.  A few more debates like this, a few more rallies and he will have the nomination.  From there it is just a few easy steps to victory.  I don’t think there is anyway we can screw this up now.  The fans love us, we are getting a lot of press and the ratings are good.  Best show in town!

Billy looks lost in thought for a moment.  Then finally speaks.

Billy:  I think I should leave the campaign now.  It is not really what I expected.

“You can not leave the campaign now. You know too much…”

Michael (angry): You can not leave the campaign now.  You know too much, and nobody likes it when someone can give away the magician’s tricks.  Our candidate has a way of getting even with people who cross him.  You are in this until the end. I wouldn’t bring this up again if I were you.

Camera settles on Billy’s astonished face as the Narrator speaks over this shot.

Narrator: Billy wanted to learn politics and make his way to the nation’s capital.  Instead, he found a permanent address in The Twilight Zone.

Fade Out.

*Arod Serling is also the Narrator and Executive Producer of this program.

Candidates quotes courtesy of: “The 155 Craziest Things Trump Said This Election,” Politico Magazine, November 05, 2016.

EXTRA TOPICAL

What About Obama?  Huh? by Rich Paschall

You may have heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, aka the Great Debates of 1858.  Yes, this is history and there may be a quiz at the end so pay attention.

Abraham Lincoln and the incumbent Senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, held a series of debates around the state trying to sway voters on the important issues of the day.  Each hoped their party would control the state legislature, as US Senators were chosen by the legislature, not by popular vote.  Lincoln was well-received at the debates, but Douglas was elected Senator.

We know how it turned out for Lincoln two years later.

Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A . Douglas

Now Lincoln-Douglas debates are mostly a high school competition.  They are “values” debates where students often argue the greater good.

“Solvency” is not an issue.  A debater does not have to know how to implement a solution, just should be better for society.  Of course, he/she will attempt to bring into evidence material from authoritative sources to bolster his/her position.

One of the suggested topics for the coming year is Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.  There is no need to say how this should be applied, but that there are situations when it should or could be.  Historical examples would provide support.  Law and order arguments may be common on the negative.

These debates, like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, are one-on-one.  The first speaker has a set time. The second speaker a slightly longer period, then the first speaker gets a rebuttal interval.  Total speaking times end up the same.  The first speaker may have a plan. The second speaker may have a counter-plan or could argue that no plan is reasonable under the resolution.

Shouting, name calling, unsupported positions all result in a ballot for the opposition by the judge. Contestants must research, write, think, and propose.  Obviously, acting like modern-day politicians would not produce a winner.

So-called debate

Two man team debate, also known as Policy Debate, will propose a resolution where the tactic not only includes interpreting the resolution but also implementing a solution.  Some debaters may have so many points to make that they speak quickly.  The judge will usually take notes to be sure that the speakers arguments flow logically from point-to-point.  Both speakers on each side of the debate topic make a presentation, both are cross-examined.  Then each speaks in rebuttal.  In many leagues, constructives are 8 -minutes, cross-examinations are 3-minutes, and rebuttals are 5-minutes long.

You’d better come prepared!

A topic for next season’s two-man debate will be Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its restrictions on legal immigration to the United States

The topics for the debate season are often timely and include something prominently in the news.

Debaters must research both sides of the issue as they will be called upon to be on the affirmative or negative, depending on the debate or round within a debate.  In mid-summer, debaters are already starting to study the issues and gather evidence pro and con.  There will be no flippant remarks, insults of opponents, or made up evidence.  General and stereotypical comments mean nothing without support.  Judges will dismiss these comments. and opponents are wise to challenge them.

Because there are obvious “stock issues” implied with any current events topic, it is incumbent upon the debaters to deal with these intelligently.  Bombast and supposition will not do.  Instead, they must deal with the significance of the issue, solvency of the plan they present, the harms of the status quo or the affirmative plan, and the advantages of one side along with disadvantages of the other.

A key part of any debate is “Topicality.” With time to fill in rebuttals and possibly cross examinations too, it becomes important to stay on topic.  With an audience of debaters and judges taking notes, you can not stray into areas that are “Extra Topical.”  There are no random viewers waiting for a debater to pull out stock arguments on other topics or to launch into inane attacks on the opponent.  It’s just critical thinkers judging the merits of the debate.

Why do we bring you this small lesson in the fine art of debate? Perhaps you have noticed that debate is a lost art in the political arena, television news shows, and especially social media.  In the last election, you saw one party presenting something other than primary debates.  Even as an entertainment show, it was generally lacking in substance.  The other side had two candidates who actually seemed to study the topics, but they also found time to present “extra-topical” discussion points.

The presidential “debates” that followed frequently strayed off topic.  One candidate spent time talking about other administrations rather than what he would do as president.  The attempt to belittle your opponent through insults to family and associates may influence some viewers, but it would not work well with debate judges.

On my Facebook news feed, I see “discussions” of a social or political nature often degenerate into a series of personal attacks and Extra-Topical points.  One friend often posts news articles on current social issues.  A person I am acquainted with will usually make a comment on sanctuary cities.

If I point out the topic has nothing to do with these cities, he tells me to wake up!  For him, that is the only topic which really matters.

Another friend likes to engage me in a debate.  I try not to fall for it anymore.  If he says something about 45, I might respond (on topic), “As a former military man, how do you feel about Trump sharing military secrets with the North Koreans or Russians?”

The response is likely to be “What about Obama?  Huh?  You never said anything against him when he was president.”

“Yes, I did.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“You weren’t listening.”

“Well, what about Obama? Huh?”

There is no staying on topic sometimes.  It is particularly frustrating if you are a debate coach or judge.

SHARING THE WORLD – APRIL MOVING ALONG NICELY

I am delighted to report that nothing is going on. Soon we’ll have flowers and shortly thereafter, trees. Then, caterpillars. Maybe they won’t be as bad this time, but it’s hard to know. We will put in the air conditioners shortly. It’s getting warm. This is the least eventful period I can remember in a long time. I love it!

Share Your World – April 17, 2017


When writing by hand do you prefer to use a pencil or pen?

I do everything on the keyboard. I have pens because sometimes, I have to sign something. Probably there’s a pencil somewhere in the house, but I have no idea where that might be. But we have almost everything here, so I’m sure we have one of them, too.

Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I wrote out more words than I needed for grocery list or birthday card. But I do sign things. There’s always something that needs a signature.

Would you rather be an amazing dancer or an amazing singer?

Amazing indeed if, at my age, I were suddenly to become a great dancer or singer. The amazing would be that it happened. At all.

I used to have a pleasant voice, but damaged my vocal chords many years ago. I wouldn’t  mind being able to sing a little, but amazing? I don’t think so. And, to be fair, that was never on one of my “lists” of things I wanted to do or be. I did want to be a great pianist and I tried. Didn’t quite make it, but I tried hard.

Not since my post-toddler days have I yearned to be a dancer. That dream ended before it got started. Too much like work!

If you were on a debate team, what subject would you relish debating?

Once upon a time, I could have written a list of thing I would like to debate. Once upon a time, long, long ago. Because I think I have completed all the arguments about anything that mattered. I’ve battled for health care, women’s rights, equality, tolerance … and against war. During the 1960s, we all got together and tried to change the world. I’m pretty sure that what we really accomplished was making blue denim jeans and sport shoes really hot clothing. Otherwise, the world is as appallingly terrible as ever, except worse.

So I’m not debating with anyone about anything. I’ll sign petitions, call my congressperson, and post articles that I think will help those who have a mind for facts. Otherwise? If you are happy about the state of the world? Go away. Do not annoy me with your stupidity.

What are you a “natural” at doing?

Writing about things that happen and are true, but little or no aptitude for fiction. And certain kinds of photography.

I could always write. I don’t remember a time in this life when I couldn’t say it better on paper–  or these days, a monitor.

As for photography, I have a good eye for landscapes and casual portraits. Other things, not so much … but I keep trying and I am getting better at some of them. I don’t work terribly hard at photography. These days, I don’t work terribly hard. On anything.

WHO DO YOU TRUST?

It’s Not A Game, by Rich Paschall

Many game shows are centered around the idea of trust.  Whom do you trust to answer a question correctly or perform a task accurately?  This critical questions is, of course, tied to the winning of money and/or prizes.

In 1956 CBS television introduced a game show called “Do You Trust Your Wife?”  Married couples would answer questions for the chance to win money. The husband got to choose whether he would answer a question on a particular topic or trust his wife to do it.  The idea was to provide entertainment and comedy as much as to hand out small amounts of money.  The show was hosted by ventriloquist and comedian Edgar Bergen, father of Candice Bergen.  It was a vehicle for his famous act.

The show was handed off to a new host in 1957.  Young Johnny Carson got the chance to interview guests and provide comedy.  The show was later changed to “Who Do You Trust?” so that the contestant pair did not have to be a married couple.  After a year Ed McMahon was brought in as announcer for the show.  You probably know what happened to their careers just a few years later.

The game was similar to another popular show of the era, “You Bet Your Life?”  Here the famous member of the Marx brothers, Groucho, was host.  This gave the popular comedian a chance to show off his famous wit as he interviewed the contestants.  Unlike Carson, who frequently participated in stunts and demonstrations with contestants, Marx stay seated and left that to his announcer.  Failure to get a question right might be cause for a wisecrack from the host known for such things.  The show ran for eleven years.

You Bet Your Life
You Bet Your Life

Many game shows that followed are based on trust or at least knowledge of the other person.  The Newlywed Game is based on knowledge of a spouse.  How did he or she answer certain questions?  Family Feud asks the winning family to send one member to the final round.  It is sometimes amazing to viewers which one they trust with the chance to win big money.

There have been many other game shows that rely on an element of trust.  You might have to “Beat the Clock” to complete a task in a certain time.  The task might include your partner get wet or facing broken eggs on his head, depending on how well you did the task.  The little tasks were also meant to provide comedy for the audience.  Trust, competition, money, comedy, entertainment!  What is not to like?  Perhaps you can add more shows to the list in the comments below.

This season there are new game shows and the contestants are not very funny.  In fact, few find them entertaining at all.  There certainly is the famous issue of trust, but in this case it is whether the audience trusts the answers of the contestants.  Like all good game shows, there is a lot of money at stake.  Oddly enough, these contestants will spend a large amount of money (their own as well as others’) trying to win the final prize.  The show is periodic and will last until the Fall.

These shows are called the Democratic Debates and the Republican Debates.  The same contestants appear each time but the ones who have performed poorly in past weeks drop out.  This is so they can combine the shows into one later in the year when just one contestant from each show is left.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The eight Republican debates so far have drawn significantly higher average viewership than the six Democratic debates.”  That may be because there are more contestants and much more comedy is involved.  When the leading contestant did not show for one of the Republican debates, viewership fell.  This introduced an element of drama into the contest. Higher ratings and more contestants must be the reason for more debates for the Republican teams.  Just like American Idol, we are all waiting for the show to get down to the final two contestants.  Without Ryan Seacrest as host, the debate season seems too long.

Republican debates
Republican debates

Since the object of the debates is to get the viewers to trust them, the show is much like the old “To Tell The Truth.”  In that show the viewers see one person who is supposedly the real person to be identified and the others are imposters.  A series of questions are asked and in the end it comes down to “Who do you believe?”

The problem for the viewers of the current competition is that all of the candidates may not be telling the truth.  The Pulitzer Award winning PolitiFact finds that all of the Republican candidates are wrong on most facts.  Amazingly, the leading candidate on this show is found to be wrong almost all the time!  This does not seem to bother the viewers as he continues to have a wide base of support.  FactCheck.org (A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center) has dubbed the front-runner on the Republican shows “King of Whoppers.”

Can you imagine a show where the contestants consistently get the answers wrong, but win anyway?  That indeed may be what is happening.  For those unaware, this is No Truth and Major Consequences.  It is not a game either.

 

Related: Fact Checking The Eighth GOP Debate, FactCheck.org, Feb. 7, 2016