Upstaging: Attempting to Steal the 2nd Presidential Debate

The Second Presidential Debate between Sec. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Billionaire Businessman Donald Trump was held on 9 Oct 2016 at  Washington University,  in St. Louis, MO. It was broadcast by CNN. The. moderators were two experienced journalists: Martha Radditz and Anderson Cooper.

First five minutes:  The visual is quite striking. There is movement. Abnormal and unscripted.  This is what the viewer see's on the TV screen at home in their living room. It's their take-away. The impression they are left with. For reasons it would take too long to write about here, books have been written about this phenomena. 

Ten minutes in:  It's called upstaging. Drumpf stalks the stage like an wild animal looking for his prey -  always landing very strategically behind her. In her space. He moves closer.

Upstaging.  Definition of:  "To intentionally divert attention from (X) to  oneself; overshadow,  Example: "She was totally upstaged by her fellow debater."

This was infuriating to all of us who have ever been forced to stand our ground on the rigged white male playing field. As a woman who has fought all forms of injustice all my life, I felt the unfairness of it to the bone. This was live televised assault and battery with intent to maim, politically rape, and kill. 

In my opinion, CNN did nothing to present and control the critical playing field. They allowed that animal to stalk her - moving around the stage such that he always wound up behind her. Like the predator he is - ready to pounce. Not by virtue of integrity or political position or even manners, but by chicanery. Showmanship. Knowing how to "upstage" his opponent.

I must digress. In theatrical terms, upstaging is a phenomena of the relationship created in the mind of the viewer. The upstager always steals the advantage. Actors who move upstage while another actor is speaking force the viewer to look away from the downstage speaker. To the upstager. These folk are not held in high esteem on stage. 

In scripted TV, this is controlled by the director. However in unscripted "reality" free for all's, it is up to the director or producer or even the moderators to level the playing field - by instructing the upstager to sit down. Not to interrupt. Not to stalk their opponent. 

I'm shocked that there was no de facto referee.   

Nothing about an orchestrated live, on-screen assault and battery with intent to politically rape Sec. Clinton should surprise me.  But it does. 

In my book. Sec. Clinton won the high ground. She stood tall, unafraid to take on a dirty street fighter. 

In others books, it will be written that Trump "won" the second debate by breaking with decorum and thuggery. The use of every dirty trick in the book to divert attention from his no-knowing narcissism.  The man was without substance - except for what he was using. Athletes take mandatory drug tests. Should Presidential candidates? 

Fifteen minutes in. He repeats these hulk-like predatory moves. He continues man grabbing her space. Interjecting his retorts.  Sec. Clinton sits in her assigned on stage seat. She seems slightly disarmed by what I believe she thought mere hijinks. I'm feeling fear. Me. From the safety of my living room, I'm afraid - for her. She is not prepared to be mugged by a cruel deplorable predator who always gets his way.

Twenty minutes in:  Refrigerator break. I'm nervous. When I return, he is a wild wounded animal. Inhuman. His face is more flushed.

Breaking with all rules of debate, he looks for the camera covering the Secretary.  He beelines for the space behind her - creating a big distraction from what she is saying. He throws everyone on set. Diversion. 

From behind Clinton he is essentially mugging for the camera.  He moves in closer so as to unsettle her. I'm sure she can hear his repetitive sniffing.  He places his two hands on the back of his chair and rocks back and forth.  He paces. Head down. Lost in thought. Shakes his head. Again he glares at her like an animal working himself up to come in for the kill.

Thirty minutes in: Besides invading her camera space,  upstaging her, he interrupts. He's prowling.  Retorts. Stalks her.  Quips. Moves up behind her like a mugger. Diversion. 

I'm feel my stomach churning.  I shout "This is not fair!" How many times in my life have I been disappointed by some white males who passed for human beings? What is Hillary thinking? Feeling? Is she thinking of football?  Piling on?  "Unnecessary roughness." Boxing? Polite boxers go to their corners. Hockey? Again what is Sec. Clinton thinking? That she, the most qualified person in history to be Commander in Chief, is forced to stand on stage like the last she is to face the lowest common denominator on earth. 

Forty minutes in: Now I'm really mad. For Sec. Clinton but also for me.  It comes together. The dirty tricks boys ratchet up the rancor and animosity.  The dirty tricks some men employ to get their way.  Testosterone fills the air. Yes, through the TV screen. You can smell him at your back - because every woman on the face of the earth has had that same moment. When the physical height and girth of even an obese suit looming behind you gives you pause. They hover over you. They learn at an early age to prowl. Of entitlement. That they can have anything they want. Grow up to be  President.  You know they want to "beat" you more than anything else. 

It was shocking to me that CNN's technical director on the master board seemed so lame. The TD tells the camera persons who to cover. What kind of shot he wants. He/She is to maintain a level of fairness in all things "on air."  This was not the case. Why were they not ready for Trump’s predatory moves?

Did Trump break all rules of Presidential debate decorum because he didn't understand them or because he chose to apply his own rules. It felt to me like he wore 24 carat gold brass knuckles. 

Upstaging. Manipulation of the TV audience is like taking candy from a room full of babies.  It's down to a science. He was there to play "Survival of the biggest brute."  Not debate.  All those tricks of the TV trade he learned guesting on "Raw" wrestling paid off. He leaned how to puff himself up like a wild animal - to make himself seem more threatening. 

Trump always landed behind Sec. Clinton - or at least within the camera frame. I know he's been coached. He rocks back and forth. He interrupts. Repeatedly invading her space.

I found myself wondering how or why CNN's technical director seemed to abandon all sense of what his/her role is intended to be. Did the staff run screaming from the control room when Trump started following the on camera light.  Anyone on live TV knows when a specific camera goes live. Beginners will often look for it. Pro’s sense it. They can easily confirm which camera is on. Trump is no beginner. Neither was he polished. Like a wounded animal, he tried to position himself without being seen. Always upstage. Looming large over Sec. Clinton’s shoulder, back, or due to “depth-of-field” down her neck.

The “bigglyest” take-away from the most abominable debate in Presidential history is simple. Those with production savvy must drum into the technical production staff of any televised event their multiple responsibilities - to their employer and producing entity, but also to the audience. Otherwise the viewer is made to feel great discomfort. Separated from the purpose of the event, they are distracted. Something else is happening. In this case, that which was once a civilized sparring between two political candidates for the Presidency becomes a free-for-all.

Have we all been gang raped on live TV by predator Trump and his equally predatory cronies -  Roger Ailes, recently ousted Fox News CEO, and street fighter Steve Bannon, executive chairman of the dangerous right-wing site Breitbart News?

Only time will tell.

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