Do you remember the time when you were an adolescent? That was the time when you could roughly split people into three groups: the trendsetters, the trend followers, and those who deliberatively chose to go against prevailing trends, irrespective of whether they were good or bad. Most people fell into the second category, people who would usually look around to see what the ‘correct’ thing was to say or do, for fear of being out on a limb and thus open to scorn from their peers.
As we got older, most of us became more comfortable with forming our own opinions, even if they challenged the unconventional wisdom. You would think that those people who work in the media would take such an adult view. But it turns out that some of them are just overgrown adolescents, fearful of expressing an opinion that is out of step with their peers.
For example, in my naïve way, I assumed that reporters watching the debates would do what I did: watch the debates, think for a bit about what they saw, and then write up their views. But that is apparently not what happens. This article by Dana Millbank reports on what he saw during the debates. He said that the reporters were not in the auditorium but were in a separate room in which the debate was shown on a large screen. But the reporters were also glued to their laptop screens reading other people’s Tweets, especially those of media bigwigs, about what they saw. And so you would find people’s views of the debate being rapidly shaped by other people’s views, sometimes of fairly trivial things, and even before the debate ended, a consensus had emerged which was then widely broadcast.
This may explain why I thought the first debate was a minor victory for Mitt Romney and was staggered to find the next day it being portrayed as a blowout that had crippled Obama’s candidacy.