The first official debate of the 2020 presidential election kicked off on Tuesday night, but many viewers had a hard time following along. The event pitted President Joe Biden and former Vice President Joe Biden against each other in a series of questions by moderator Chris Wallace, but they had trouble taking turns answering. Many viewers questioned why the event organizers could not simply cut their microphones between questions.
The debate came with a simple, standard set of rules — Wallace asked a question and directed one person to answer first. They had two minutes to respond, and their opponent then had an equal amount of time to respond. It rarely worked out this way, with Trump talking over Biden and speaking out of turn more often than not. Biden did so a handful of times as well, remarking that Trump was "unprofessional." The effect was often a babble that viewers could not possibly follow.
Genuinely want to know why they don’t cut mics*
And genuinely want to know what the moderators are there for*
*under the assumption this is supposed to be more of a debate than it is entertainment https://t.co/jEfKsnlYYM— Alvin (@alvinxbenavides) September 30, 2020
The debate drew a lot of engagement on social media, where commenters were tearing their hair out over this senseless noise. Many questioned why the microphones couldn't be set to be turned off when it wasn't that person's turn to speak. They had various suggestions — for example, some said that Wallace should have control of the microphones, while others said they should be automated. Either way, Americans all along the political spectrum agreed that the noise was anything but productive.
Talking out of turn has always been a problem with televised political debates, and many viewers blamed the networks themselves, speculating that the noise created more drama and therefore drove up ratings. However, amid the coronavirus pandemic, many viewers have newfound experience running video chat meetings, where microphone management is critical. They had more insight than ever on how these debates could be made to run more smoothly.
The debate continues until about 10:30 p.m. ET on most major news networks. Here is a look at how social media responded to the microphone clamor in the first half-hour.
Hard to Follow
can we cut the mics of the person who is not supposed to be talking— Mike Murphy (@mcwm) September 30, 2020
They certainly, CERTAINLY, have the technology to cut mics while the other person is talking— Čöłęÿ Mīçk (@ColeyMick) September 30, 2020
Did y’all know mics can be cut? #PresidentialDebate2020— Trae Crowder (@traecrowder) September 30, 2020
Moderators should be able to cut mics. Otherwise, it's impossible to manage a toddler on a stage.— Phillip Atiba Goff is Away! (@DrPhilGoff) September 30, 2020
I will never understand why they don’t cut the mics of people when it’s not their turn to talk.— Jenelle Riley (@jenelleriley) September 30, 2020
Calling Out Wallace
Also, CUT THEIR MICS WHEN THEY INTERRUPT WHY DO YOU NOT CUT MICS #CHRISWALLACE— Jackson Pearce is trying to stay off this site (@JacksonPearce) September 30, 2020
This is painful for all sides. Also very disappointed with Chris Wallace’s moderation. Take control. Cut off mics. #Debates2020— Mitali Chakraborty (@GoLeftMitali) September 30, 2020
Democracy Over Ratings
If cable news took democracy seriously they'd cut the mics, but that would hurt their ratings. https://t.co/3mV5sd9haM— Sam⌛ (@saminthecan) September 30, 2020
Teachers Weigh In
They need to cut off their mics when it’s no lt their turn to speak... This is chaotic. I usually show the debate to my students but I can’t show them this bc it’s not a debate talking over each other 🤦🏾♂️ #PresidentialDebate2020 pic.twitter.com/RqfpIUkyrQ— Roosevelt Mitchell (@DisabledScholar) September 30, 2020