Recently there were local elections in the Netherlands. These elections serve to democratically confirm which representatives can call themselves member of the local governments. How this is related with sound bites is simple. In presenting and promoting themselves the politicians involved receive attention from the Dutch media. Some politicians promote their parties and their candidates in their own peculiar way. When Geert Wilders and the media met I did not think much of it. He provokes and they hype again. Lately he did it again and the effect is vomit inducing to say the least.
The vomit inducing effect is easy to explain. Someone says something others take offence to and does not explain him or herself. Afterwards let certain people hype the issue. Incremental escalation takes place and more people become and are involved. Eventually the verbal ‘offender’ explains the statement made and proves his or her statement was based on reasonable and nuanced arguments, evidence and or assumptions when the damage is already done. Geert Wilders is not the only one to provoke with sound bites and in Dutch Politics the sound bite routine is rampant in election seasons.
The sound bite can also have a positive effect. That still does not make it less provoking and less confusing. Just imagine that someone wants to make a point about a positive development. Instead of saying “we should appreciate our natural resources more” someone says “go green!”. My response in my mind would be “fuck off, eat grass and paint yourself green!”. Being polite I would remark “green is a colour” and walk on. When people recite “yes we can” and “I have a dream” I often just think nothing of it. When you have a good idea or an ideal, just explain it. Vague language is not clear nor interesting.
The sound bite phenomenon becomes worse when the media have a certain agenda. This agenda then serves as a set of guidelines to emphasis certain events and ignore less relevant events. This happens so often that I have decided to declare many Dutch newspapers toilet paper. In the case of Mr. Wilders he is often portrayed as a foul-mouthed villain or simply a clown in a suit. In the current Dutch media it is often the first option.
This time the media keep reporting on how terrible what he said was and the consequences of his statements. I wholeheartedly detest the attitude of the media in this matter. Politicians who want to provoke to provoke should be ignored. Anyone who wants to make a point is welcome to tell me about it and explain everything. I honestly do not understand why some politicians do not take the time to make their point.
The issue between the provoking politician and the Dutch media is something that makes my blood boil and makes me feel ashamed of being Dutch. The Netherlands are a unique and quirky country that is host to many sympathetic people. I am privileged to be born in this country yet the politicians in The Hague sometimes make me feel like the spectator of a mental institution for power hungry suit wearers. My opinion about the mentioned politician is pretty much the same.
The production of sound bites with the intention to generate hype is something I thoroughly detest. I understand that certain people in certain positions want to be noticed. I understand the media want something to write about. I do not understand the emphasis on exaggerating statements without proper explanation only to mobilise and confuse the reading and listening audiences. When that happens I think about the role of the media, sound bite producers and society. When another hype is generated I just hope I can stay at a safe distance…
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