Ken Bone: Image over substance

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The reaction to Ken Bone—he of the red of sweater and of short-lived fame—is exactly what has gone wrong with this election. The Illinois native stood up on stage during the second presidential debate and asked perhaps the most in-depth question of the night: How will each candidate’s energy policy promote sustainability and job growth while also meeting America’s energy needs? I will concede that some acknowledgement of the merit of the question was given. However, overwhelmingly, the reaction to Ken Bone was not about the content of his question, but for his appearance, personality, and later that week, his character.

Instead of considering the substance within Mr. Bone’s words, the media immediately skipped to analyzing his classic, if not a little nerdy, archetype. It was his appearance and the way he delivered his question that caught attention. It was because he was entertaining. All the while, his concern over energy policy, I would argue, falls under the scope of the especially pervasive global problem of climate change. However, driven by a reality-T.V.-hyped media, the “small-minded” approach won out over the fact and substance of Mr. Bone’s question.  Later in the week, several “scandals” from Mr. Bone’s internet history surfaced. He had posted racist and sexual comments on public websites. His fate was sealed. The myth of  Ken Bone’s wholesome, intellectual innocence was tarnished forever; instead, while we got the answers to the secondary and relatively unimportant question of ‘Who is Ken Bone?’, Mr. Bone’s timely and serious climate change question went unanswered.

For both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Mr. Bone is the most relatable person on the planet right now. He understands how it feels to have questions of his personality sway the public’s opinion more than the content of his words. This is not how the U.S. political system was intended to operate. Of course, personality plays a role in politics. However, when politics become a reality T.V. media show with drama valued over substance, it becomes a television ratings contest. Essentially, what each candidate says and why they say it has become overshadowed by how they say it and how they look saying it. It is then on us, the public, to cease supporting this trend of personal and small-minded attacks. In spite of the current media-driven, Twitter-reality show that our political system has become, it is still our civic duty to seek out only the facts and assess the candidates accordingly. If we focus on the facts, conceivably some real solutions to climate change and beyond may appear and answer Ken’s Bone’s question.