Unintended consequences: Can video ever cover reality?

Glenn Beck, the conservative-leaning talking head on CNN Headline Prime, made an interesting point while appearing as a guest on his own show last night about video taping nomination confirmations:

[W]e live in a world now where we will send people off to fight and die. We will send people off to kill in our name. And politicians will use the confirmation process to become contentious, to talk about the past, to make political points?

You know what? Take the TV cameras out of Capitol Hill. Don’t let these people on television while they are questioning when it comes to war, because all they do is posture. All they do is campaign. And it’s really — it’s abhorrent.

This brings out an inherent problem with some forms of transparency. The more spotlights we put on politicians, the more we run the risk that the politician will posture for the camera and not be a legislator. Maybe that’s what we have today with floor proceedings, which are generally prepared statements and don’t really represent the legislative debating going on, which is instead in committees and behind the scenes. And the committee hearings that are televised are filled with posturing. So…

If we make all public committee meetings recorded and streamed over the web, will we just be pushing the legislating further into the back rooms? By recording a meeting, does the recording itself necessarily destroy the very thing it sought to record?

The same type of argument can be made for many of the other recommendations we’re making, to varying degrees. By making CRS reports available, do we jeopardize (as some would claim we do) the nature of CRS reports as a nonpolitical resource? It’s certainly possible — members might try to use CRS as a tool not for research but for propaganda, knowing the public will eventually get the report. I don’t know — it’s probably still worth it to make the reports available.

But back to video, I find Beck’s point convincing. Video for the sake of “transparency” may be an impossibility.

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