The First Numbers Are Standing, And The Audience Is Sitting Comfortably

Nune Hakhverdyan

Art critic, journalist

A sudden boom of political debates was formed in Armenia. And if till the NA extraordinary elections the debate was an undesirable, difficult to organize and a genre that would bear a risky result that was trying to be avoided, then now it became clear that the channel that managed to invent their own TV debate during this short campaign won in the end.

In this situation, Public Television became the dictator. Due to the new appointments in the news section (one may say, after the release of the news department based on the orders of the previous authorities), debates were brought to the air. Before that, programs which were called “debates” were different, with a bland or unfamiliar entertainment format.

The download of reality on the television scene was not done so long ago, that the political forces began appearing on the screen as bearers of live reality.

Not only as balanced, edited reports (as required by the media), but other actors acting on their own behalf and in their own interests, competing, insulting, subjecting to manipulation, reminding of secret contacts and open figures, showing their rhetorical abilities or absence thereof.

And if all this happens live on the air rather than being edited in a period of time, everything becomes more attractive and enlarged.

And the December 5 “Great Pre-Election Debate” organized on Public TV’s pavilion received a record-breaking number of views, as it was important and historical to see the first figures of all the political forces participating in the National Assembly elections under the same conditions.

Even if this debate doesn’t change the viewers decision in terms of how they choose to distribute their votes, it’s the first step in changing the culture of symbol.

And the first symbol, which was conveyed during this long-standing debate, was visual.

The political elite were tense, and the viewers were comfortably sitting and ready for a good time.

The political applicants were standing for several hours without having the opportunity to sit or lean. They stood with difficulty but patience, because those were the rules of the game, and they had to follow them.

A direct symbol of accountability is that when the first faces are standing, and the audience that follows them is on the other side of the screen sitting comfortably.

It’s worth remembering that for years on end, television would only show images of the first faces of Armenia where they are seated and answering questions. Of course, the questions and those giving the questions, during the time of the previous authorities, had always been selected ahead of time, edited and  predictable, but even that wasn’t important.

The important thing is that the first faces have always had a positional advantage (for example, sitting on chairs made of fake gold or fake ivory, like Serzh Sargsyan, Karen Karapetyan, etc.), and other people on the scene appear to have a lower position, never equal.

It was a pyramidal managerial image downloaded in the subconscious of Armenians (pseudo-poetry, which is actually provincial).

Now, on December 5, we saw that there might be an alternative image space, a small area, a short period of time, people standing in a row as though they were taking an exam. And we are the one grading them, the viewers.

Watching was more important. Thinking about what they say, and why and how, it already had a contextual significance.

Debates, discussions, leisure

Public representation of ideas is commonly divided into two formats, discussions and debates.

The first one tries to outline new knowledge as a result of an exchange of opinions. To that end, the media also invites connoisseurs of different spheres who possess this knowledge and are ready to find a common ground. The auditorium, following the arguments and facts of the participants in the discussion, reaches its conclusion.

And the debate is built on oppositional views.

The intent is not to reveal new knowledge, but a conflict of opinions. The participants are trying to influence the audience and convince them that there are winners and losers and that there is a truth and a lie, that if you win then you are right.

The worth of a discussion is based on the professionalism of the experts, and in the case of a debate, it’s a struggle for votes, where it’s not as important to hold the information so much as to give a compelling presentation of that information (at the expense of the opposition and for the sake of self-promotion).

Public discussions in Armenia have always been either formal or extreme entertainment, even when addressing important social, economic or political issues. They have always been filtered by the ruling power or the television company’s management has not been willing to organize them.

Perhaps that is why discussions have never had public significance.

And now, they can become a demanded genre even after the elections.

After all, people who had a revolution and formulated a new government should also undergo debates and discussions on television, in order for us to see if their words from today will be different from their words tomorrow. It will become more convincing and credible without populist traps and manipulative tricks.

At least, the symbol of the revolution, the Acting Prime Minister is dancing with great pleasure and charm in public discussions, standing like everyone else, as an example to the viewer, A new example.

And it is already a fact that the best electoral bribe is quality entertainment for today’s Armenian voter in the pre-existing and precious sense of the word.

Nune Hakhverdyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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