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Why do people show up prepared and polite for C-SPAN?


Cruise through cable listings and you’ll find C-Span, short for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network.

Nothing fancy, not a lot of camera angles, just someone at a podium speaking, or on a panel.

No drama, not histrionics, so what is it’s purpose?

C-SPAN shows what legislation looks like, what authors sound like, and more often than not, people who prove that radio is a better alternative for them.

That’s the best part.

Who is ever ready for their close-up on a national platform?

Do your level best, lay out the facts as you know them, then afterwards anguish about what you said and how you looked.

It’s not for everyone, and the ratings show it. Some call it the most boring stuff on television, and they’re right.

I call it Slow-TV for early information seekers.

Yes, people drone on and on, reading things from ‘the record,’ like it matters.

And it does.

Remember the old threat from grade school? Behave yourself or this will go on your ‘permanent record?’

Where did that permanent record end up?

Most people with a record are either musicians, singers, or law breakers.

Your permanent record, the one that matters, is your word. Keep it and you’re golden.

In some ways C-SPAN reinforces the idea that appearances, and what you do, matters.

People you’ve never heard of grace the screen explaining things you know nothing about.

Exciting, yes?

More exciting than watching knitting, or train rides, or video shot through the windshield on a drive?


One  gig I did was writing for a financial forecaster. He’s send me the data, I’d organize it and put in readable terms.

I started noticing the information I worked with usually came out on the news a day or two after he sent it to me.

More than once I wondered who the heck I was working for.

He traveled the world to money conferences, speaking to the rich and powerful who came to learn where the new money is and how they can tap into it.

That’s where my future-seeing boss came in. He knew where the money was, they knew how to get it in their pockets.

Perfect match.

Until I felt the discomfort of association. That’s a real condition. It’s usually related to being an accomplice.

C-SPAN feels the same way when it shows the process of making laws. No one’s an offender yet, but they will be.

You’ve seen that one play out.

It’s all good until an FBI team sweeps into an office to separate people from their computers, then leave with everything packed up.

The Wolf Of Wall Street had a raid scene that felt pretty sincere.

The panic, confusion, and attempt to hide at the last minute makes a good movie, but that’s not Slow-TV, not relaxing.

Instead, you get people with bad haircuts just like yours explaining things in the sort of voices you get from tenured professors who force their class to engage in the material, not them. Or fail.

In a world dialed into COPS, the original NCIS with Mark Harmon, and sports action, C-SPAN just drags on and on.

Until you see the consequences of their talk down the road:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”

People show up prepared and polite because they know what they say will result in you getting on the ground and spreading for a cop on the job.

And you are their new job.

About David Gillaspie
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