We live in a world of constant interconnectivity, with access to news long before all of the details are available. In July, we witnessed this when CNN and several other news organizations incorrectly reported that the Supreme Court had struck down The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. This collective gaffe caused quite a bit of confusion and controversy among viewers, especially when it came out that the healthcare bill was actually ruled constitutional.
Perhaps the more interesting (and entertaining) example of the speed at which news travels is Clint Eastwood’s conversation with an empty chair at the GOP convention last Friday.
Shortly after Eastwood began his bizarre speech, an unknown Twitter user launched the account @invisibleobama, with some well-played tweets in response to Eastwood’s speech, including “When Mitt Romney says ‘Mr. Chairman,’ do you think he’s referring to me?”
@invisibleobama even garnered a response from (visible) President Barack Obama’s Twitter account.
For those of us deeply connected to the Internet, it was a night of comedy and laughs all around, but there were more serious matters at hand. We were all so caught up in laughter that we didn’t see the more troubling event. Eastwood did not appear well, and while the Romney campaign released a statement that said Eastwood was “ad-libbing,” it doesn’t make the event any less worthy of discussion.
While Eastwood staunchly argued for Hollywood’s conservative base, the Democratic Party garners much more support from Hollywood and artists. The Romney campaign used Eastwood to appeal to young Republicans with lighthearted conservative banter, and to add more flavor to the stereotypically unexciting Republican Party. Eastwood fulfilled neither of the GOP’s expectations.
From Olympic athletes to Hollywood icons, Friday night at the RNC seemed more like a carnival than a political rally. The GOP pulled an aging, sick man from Hollywood because he was the only one willing to speak in support of the GOP. This was not only disrespectful to the Eastwood legacy and his family, but it came off as inappropriate to conservative and liberal viewers alike.
We would not ask for a plumber’s assistance on a computer program, much like we would never rely on a gas station clerk for his or her help in analyzing court documents. It is unclear exactly why the GOP would feature an actor with less-than-substantial political experience at a major political event.
Political campaigns are no place for actors and artists. Trying to incorporate them into our political landscape only compounds our country’s misunderstanding of politics and doesn’t directly address how we can implement positive change in America.
Many of us took part in #eastwooding Friday night, but it distracted us from Romney’s more outrageous claims. Without all the information and details on hand, it is impossible to have an accurate and intelligent discourse. While receiving news at breakneck speeds may sometimes save lives, it can also keep us from paying attention to what is real and what is important.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @calebvaroga.