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This One Doesn't
Go To Eleven

In a season of debating firsts -- the first online video debate, the first online mash-up debate, the first instant messaging debate -- here comes yet another first.

An online silent debate. Yes, you heard that right. A debate where nothing's said.

"Kind of like all the debates we've had so far this year," said the actor/satirist Harry Shearer, better known as the versatile voice behind some of the characters on "The Simpsons" (Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Waylon Smithers), in a phone interview with The Trail. Shearer serves as the moderator of the debates on, an online studio that produces original content. Today's first installment features Sen. Hillary Clinton debating former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney on issues such as the Iraq war, illegal immigration and the role of God in foreign policy. Clinton and Romney nod, blink and half-smile their way to the debate. A comment, posted at 6:45 a.m. by "rodgerma", on MyDamnChannel read: "Good coverage. And finally a political debate I can listen to without getting . . .eh, tired of repeated excuses and spins." The next episode will have a silent Rep. Dennis Kucinich going up against an equally silent Sen. John McCain.

Said Shearer in his introduction: "The historic CNN/YouTube debate was historic, at least according to the historic CNN/YouTube political department, but it still left some viewers feeling frustrated, complaining that the candidates said nothing."

The primary race is being fought as much online as offline. And the candidates, all of whom are campaigning online (some more effectively than others), have been quick to embrace the evolving new media landscape. But critics such as Shearer point out that the new technologies, great as they are, still don't get to the root of the problem -- "politicians totally dependent on prepackaged sound bites," Shearer said.

He continued : "So let's just size them up visually. Look them up and down. Watch them say nothing, which may be the best way to see them."

-- Jose Antonio Vargas

By Washington Post editors  |  September 18, 2007; 2:45 PM ET
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