Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Not watching

I posted the above on the AmeriNZ Facebook Page, and it reveals a secret: I don’t watch the State of the Union address. In fact, I haven’t for a very long time. I have other ways to keep up with it that don’t involve participating in the political theatre, and I prefer it that way. This is an evolved state of affairs.

When I was younger, I watched the address live most years. I can (vaguely) remember watching Nixon, as well as Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush the First, and Clinton. I moved to New Zealand during President Clinton’s first term, and that’s what started to change things.

Because of time zones, the State of the Union address is broadcast during the afternoon New Zealand time—during working hours. So, there was no way I could watch it live for many years after arriving here.

As the Internet got better, so did the opportunities to experience the speeches after the fact. Eventually it was possible to read the text online, and in April 2005, Apple’s iTunes added formal support for podcasts. The televised speeches of the then-president, Bush the Second, were distributed as video podcasts, so for the first time I could easily watch the State of the Union speeches.

YouTube was founded in February 2005, also during Bush the Second’s second term, but after Google bought it in 2006, there was an expansion of what was available. Eventually there was a Channel just for the White House, and media outlets and C-SPAN began posting unedited video of speeches like the State of the Union.

By the time Obama was president, and continuing to the present, I could easily watch video of the State of the Union.

We used to subscribe to New Zealand’s pay TV service, and it carried CNN and Fox “News”, meaning it was possible to watch the speeches live once I started working from home. Even so, I seldom did. Neither did I usually watch the video podcasts of Bush the Second’s speeches (I still have them filed away somewhere), nor President Obama’s on TV or YouTube. However, by the end of his term I did something that further change made possible: I streamed it over the Internet while I was working so I could listen to it. Earlier today I got an alert from TVNZ’s “One News” that they’d be streaming the State of the Union speech online, something they frequently do nowadays; it’s not something they’d normally broadcast, of course, since it has no relevance outside the USA.

All of which means that over time the opportunities to watch (or listen to) the State of the Union speech live became better and more varied, but I still didn’t watch them for the reasons I mentioned in the Facebook post. The bottom line is that I think waaaaay too much importance is put on them when the harsh reality is that they really aren’t important.

However, despite the fact that I seldom watch the speech live, it would be fair to assume that there was no way I’d watch the speech from the current occupant of the White House. I try to avoid watching him speak because I find his voice grating and performance irritating. However, one upside of watching structured speeches like State of the Union is that he can be expected to speak in more or less complete sentences and mostly whole thoughts on one topic at a time. Despite all that, my desire to avoid hearing or seeing him speak is not partisan in any way.

As long-time readers of this blog are well aware, I was never a fan of Bush the Second. Even so, I sometimes watched his speeches, and I made a point of watching the State of the Union in 2007 to witness him be the first US President to begin his speech with the phrase, “Madame Speaker”. And, as I said, I watched presidents of both parties in the years before I moved to New Zealand.

So, times have changed and things are different. It's much easier to watch or follow US news events like the State of the Union speech than it used to be. And, much as I have contempt for the current occupant of the White House, that’s not why I won’t be watching. It's just that I seldom ever do anymore.


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