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Old 4th August 2020, 01:11 PM   #1
theprestige
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What Should We Have Instead of Presidential Debates?

The debates tend towards theater, and don't really give us a good idea of how the candidate will function in the day to day of horse trading at the head of the federal government.

So what would help us better understand how they'd wield the apparatus of shared power?

Their campaign speeches and such events tell us how they'd approach the bully pulpit - the president's celebrity power to influence public opinion. In theory, the debates should give us insight into how they'd handle other aspects of the job. But they don't, really.

I always thought the debate format is just a little too weird. It owes a little too much to the mannered, artificial forensic debate format.

So I wonder if something more like a long-form interview would make more sense. The candidate sits down across from a panel of interviewers, and answers a broad range of questions. Can they think on their feet? Can they give substantive answers to pressing or esoteric questions? Etc.

The trick is finding the right interviewers, and the right questions. You don't want a softball interview with pat answers written in advance. But you don't want a horror show of gotchas and sucker punches, either. Or do you?

I guess what I want is some sense of how they'll operate behind closed doors, negotiating the tough issues of the day with legislators, lobbyists, and their own cabinet. And I also want some sense of which parts of the job, and the government, they've given a lot of thought to, and which ones they really haven't examined yet.

And I guess part of the challenge is that the candidate isn't going to want to reveal his negotiating positions in advance. He may have a clear idea of what he wants to do about border control, or what it really means to be Commander in Chief, but he probably doesn't want to telegraph his intent until he's secured the best negotiating position he can.

Anyway, yeah. That's my idea. Something like American Idol, except the performance is "what I think of the Presidency". And there are a panel of judges testing the candidate's performance. A couple of former legislators (one from each party), a celebrity journalist, a regular celebrity, and Simon Cowell. Maybe crowd-source the questions. The panelists can ask questions from the audience* or questions they themselves have prepared. By having a variety of panelists, the risk of the candidate being able to fully prepare with leaked questions is lowered.

What do you think? How can we get a better idea of what the candidates will really be like in office, than via debates? Note that this is a really low bar, so probably any suggestion will be an improvement.

---
*Via some social media platform, and pre-cleared by the production staff, of course.
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Old 4th August 2020, 01:20 PM   #2
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Voters with intellectual standards who all agree on what reality is and have a primary motivator that's not "LOL I get to troll."

Until we have that everything else is puppet theater and can never hope to raise any higher.
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Old 4th August 2020, 01:28 PM   #3
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Mud wrestling. Granted, it's more of a linear sidestep to debates, but I think it might be more entertaining in the end.
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Old 4th August 2020, 02:16 PM   #4
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I'd like to see the campaigns cross-examine each other (strictly moderated) on policy.

Open book/internet and support staff allowed.

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Old 4th August 2020, 02:23 PM   #5
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I had a similar idea in mind.

Screw the debate format. Sit them down together and have them discuss the issues openly and live. The moderator will throw in a topic and have them discuss it for as long as they like. The moderator will interrupt the speaker to point out fallacious reasoning or blatantly false assertions ("we never went to the moon" level falsehoods) and offer the speaker time to respond if he wants. Any other intervention will be kept to a minimum until answering audience questions in the last phase.
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Old 4th August 2020, 02:23 PM   #6
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Duels with potato guns.
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Old 4th August 2020, 03:46 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Resume View Post
Duels with potato guns.
The Republican candidate gets a potato gun. The Democrat gets a bazooka.
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Old 4th August 2020, 04:42 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by shemp View Post
The Republican candidate gets a potato gun. The Democrat gets a bazooka.
Nice metaphor.

Oh, you weren't being metaphorical ...
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Old 4th August 2020, 05:20 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
I'd like to see the campaigns cross-examine each other (strictly moderated) on policy.

Open book/internet and support staff allowed.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-N920A using Tapatalk
Originally Posted by Venom View Post
I had a similar idea in mind.

Screw the debate format. Sit them down together and have them discuss the issues openly and live. The moderator will throw in a topic and have them discuss it for as long as they like. The moderator will interrupt the speaker to point out fallacious reasoning or blatantly false assertions ("we never went to the moon" level falsehoods) and offer the speaker time to respond if he wants. Any other intervention will be kept to a minimum until answering audience questions in the last phase.
These are both interesting ideas.
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Old 4th August 2020, 05:30 PM   #10
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There is no solution to the current American political system. It's totally FUBAR.
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Old 4th August 2020, 05:31 PM   #11
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I don't even think there's a need for a moderator. These guys want to be the most powerful man in the world, and they can't pick a topic?

There are two formats I would like to see (though we never will.) The first is a one hour long debate. The candidates are sitting in separate rooms, behind desks. A coin flip decides who goes first. When the debate starts, the camera is on the coin toss winner. His camera and microphone will be live for five minutes. At the end of five minutes, the camera and microphone of the other candidate goes live. Repeat for an hour. Or maybe an hour and a half. These guys ought to have attention spans longer than their audience. A timer will be set up for each candidate so he knows how long he has left for his discussion.

A variation on the theme would be to do the same thing, but allow a videotaped ten minute speech from each candidate to start the evening.


The second is completely different. A panel of columnists are appointed to ask a list of questions. They come up with a list of questions, which the candidates answer, in written form. Come to think of it, we're going to put them in separate rooms, and we are going to allow any five people, plus their vice presidential candidate to stay in the room with them. They have twelve hours to answer the questions. Make it a suite of rooms with a bathroom and kitchen facilities, fully stocked to feed seven middle aged men or women. However, no outside communications are allowed. That's really just to prevent them from having a focus group at the ready. At the end of twelve hours, they submit their written answers, and the questions, and both candidates' answers, are revealed to the public.

Each candidate is also allowed one question that he puts in by his own choice, so there's one that can be answered in advance by his team. For the other team, it's the gotcha question.

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Old 4th August 2020, 05:40 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Resume View Post
Duels with potato guns.
You wouldn't catch the founding fathers with potato guns. Specifically Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
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Old 4th August 2020, 08:27 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
I don't even think there's a need for a moderator. These guys want to be the most powerful man in the world, and they can't pick a topic?

There are two formats I would like to see (though we never will.) The first is a one hour long debate. The candidates are sitting in separate rooms, behind desks. A coin flip decides who goes first. When the debate starts, the camera is on the coin toss winner. His camera and microphone will be live for five minutes. At the end of five minutes, the camera and microphone of the other candidate goes live. Repeat for an hour. Or maybe an hour and a half. These guys ought to have attention spans longer than their audience. A timer will be set up for each candidate so he knows how long he has left for his discussion.

A variation on the theme would be to do the same thing, but allow a videotaped ten minute speech from each candidate to start the evening.


The second is completely different. A panel of columnists are appointed to ask a list of questions. They come up with a list of questions, which the candidates answer, in written form. Come to think of it, we're going to put them in separate rooms, and we are going to allow any five people, plus their vice presidential candidate to stay in the room with them. They have twelve hours to answer the questions. Make it a suite of rooms with a bathroom and kitchen facilities, fully stocked to feed seven middle aged men or women. However, no outside communications are allowed. That's really just to prevent them from having a focus group at the ready. At the end of twelve hours, they submit their written answers, and the questions, and both candidates' answers, are revealed to the public.

Each candidate is also allowed one question that he puts in by his own choice, so there's one that can be answered in advance by his team. For the other team, it's the gotcha question.
(Iím making a wild ass guess at the percentage) Do you think more than15% of Americans are going to read both of them all the way through?

Also, there is no ********* way that D.J. Trump would agree to work on a writing task for even 3 hours. Scratch that. There is no way he would agree to be locked in a room for 3 hours.
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Old 4th August 2020, 08:35 PM   #14
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Jeopardy format. Categories would cover history, structure of government, geography, law, US Constitution, science and technology, and general knowledge of foreign countries.
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Old 4th August 2020, 08:36 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
What do you think? How can we get a better idea of what the candidates will really be like in office, than via debates? Note that this is a really low bar, so probably any suggestion will be an improvement.
A very valid topic.

I cannot however imagine a format or list of topics that both sides would agree on for the 2020 election.
Maybe next time we will have two rational people who are prepared to demonstrate their adeptness at presidential tasks.
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Old 4th August 2020, 08:38 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Pope130 View Post
Jeopardy format. Categories would cover history, structure of government, geography, law, US Constitution, science and technology, and general knowledge of foreign countries.
Add US national parks and I’m on board with this approach.
Heck, you could even add “Names of Trump’s Children” and I think there would be a good chance that Biden would beat him.

ETA
whoops, I forgot every time that Trump got a question wrong, he’d insist he was right and that the test is unfair.
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Old 4th August 2020, 08:43 PM   #17
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I'd rather see an audience who is vocally insulted by canned answers and stump speeches. Whatever format is chosen, I think that's all you'd get. We need more critical constituents.
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Old 4th August 2020, 08:47 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Pope130 View Post
Jeopardy format. Categories would cover history, structure of government, geography, law, US Constitution, science and technology, and general knowledge of foreign countries.
Same, but Mastermind format.

It seems in recent times the USA manages to select presidents who are so blindingly dim and uneducated on even the basics of their intended positions that they would not even make the first interview list if it were a job application. Frankly, even as a non-American who was never taught anything about US law and constitution at school, just from seeing the discussions here on ISF alone I know more about those subjects than nearly all the current Trump administration with one or two exceptions. That is frightening - I am more qualified for the job of President of the USA than Trump is. And I can point to dozens of US posters here who would be streets ahead of me better suited, and who would do a reasonable job.

So candidates should be subject to a searching public quizzing Mastermind style, sitting alone and with no books or advisers. They will be tested on their knowledge of the above subjects, both general and specific, and also have to deal with hypothetical situations thrown at them without notice.

My suspicion for Trump is he would trip over the chair on the way in.
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Old 4th August 2020, 08:51 PM   #19
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Old 4th August 2020, 08:52 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
Agni kai!
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Old 4th August 2020, 09:14 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Pope130 View Post
Jeopardy format. Categories would cover history, structure of government, geography, law, US Constitution, science and technology, and general knowledge of foreign countries.
President Ken Jennings, here we come.
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Old 4th August 2020, 09:24 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Norman Alexander View Post
YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE
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Old 4th August 2020, 09:45 PM   #23
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Just read their platforms on their website.

That is it. That is all you need to do.
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Old 4th August 2020, 11:01 PM   #24
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A slightly more complicated version of Rock, Paper, Scissors called Person, Man, Woman, Camera, TV....
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Old 5th August 2020, 06:07 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The debates tend towards theater, and don't really give us a good idea of how the candidate will function in the day to day of horse trading at the head of the federal government.

So what would help us better understand how they'd wield the apparatus of shared power?
We don't have to replace debates just because President Sniffles don't wanna do one. They serve a useful purpose, as one of the few times in the campaign when a large slice of the electorate hears a candidate speak about issues that's not a carefully edited sound bite.

If you want to improve debates, take them away from the networks with their ratings-driven questions and moderation choices. Let the candidates submit a couple of their own questions for themselves and the other to answer, and bring in subject matter experts to ask subject matter questions. Each expert gets a prewritten policy question that the wonks can craft a canned answer for, an informal or personal question where the candidates have to look like they give a crap, and a trivia question about something the candidates should know already. The ambassador from the Dem. Rep of the Congo, for example, can ask a policy question about African conflict, a question about America's hopes for relationships with African nations, and ask the candidates to identify as many ongoing African conflicts as they can.
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Old 5th August 2020, 06:11 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
We don't have to replace debates just because President Sniffles don't wanna do one. They serve a useful purpose, as one of the few times in the campaign when a large slice of the electorate hears a candidate speak about issues that's not a carefully edited sound bite.
Why do you care about what a large slice of the electorate hears?

Has your vote ever changed because of the debate?
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Old 5th August 2020, 07:45 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The debates tend towards theater, and don't really give us a good idea of how the candidate will function in the day to day of horse trading at the head of the federal government.
I think it does. Presence is an important skill.

Given present formats, I'd agree it is extremely inefficient as a way to discuss policy. In a world where people are governed by pure reason it would be best cut out, but this isn't that. If a candidate can't exist in a high pressure situation under the bright lights with another candidate, do we want that person representing us in a job where that sort of psychology is relevant?
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Old 5th August 2020, 07:53 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Suddenly View Post
I think it does. Presence is an important skill.

Given present formats, I'd agree it is extremely inefficient as a way to discuss policy. In a world where people are governed by pure reason it would be best cut out, but this isn't that. If a candidate can't exist in a high pressure situation under the bright lights with another candidate, do we want that person representing us in a job where that sort of psychology is relevant?
What is the evidence that sort of psychology is relevant?
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Old 5th August 2020, 07:54 AM   #29
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ORANGE MAN BAD! Thats all we do here.....
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Old 5th August 2020, 07:57 AM   #30
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I'm of two minds. Yes, debates can be more of a measure of who's the best speaker or debater, more so than who would be the best president. Then again, being a good debater and persuader is a significant part of the job as POTUS, and their behaviour and posture during the debate itself can and does tell us something about them. Whether they can tell us anything we didn't already know from the rest of the presidential campaign is another question entirely. Trump stalking Clinton during the debate was telling, but not exactly unsurprising.

I say keep the debates. Change format if neccessary, and by all means, ask tough questions and moderate the debate, but keep the debates themselves.
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Old 5th August 2020, 07:59 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by rockysmith76 View Post
ORANGE MAN BAD! Thats all we do here.....

That, and waste valuable electrons on vapid posts.
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Old 5th August 2020, 08:10 AM   #32
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I'd like to add, though, that a better improvement would be to concentrate the election campaign and debate to the last months, or month, before the election.

Originally Posted by Joe Random View Post
That, and waste valuable electrons on vapid posts.
It's an investment. The wasted electrons cause opponents to waste further electrons giving him attention, and hopefully derailing the thread, in a process known as 'feeding trolls'.
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Old 5th August 2020, 08:14 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
The ambassador from the Dem. Rep of the Congo, for example, can ask a policy question about African conflict, a question about America's hopes for relationships with African nations, and ask the candidates to identify as many ongoing African conflicts as they can.
I'm not sure I would actually care if the President was up to speed on every African, or European, or Asian conflict going on. I'm more concerned if he, or she, can make the "correct" policy decision after being properly and fully briefed on the subject.

Maybe that might make for a better debate style, give each candidate the same briefings on various fictional situations and see what policy they go with. Show the briefing, and debate of the teams, as well as the conclusion. I'm not sure I would care to watch, but I think it would be more instructive.
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Old 5th August 2020, 08:15 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Leftus View Post
Maybe that might make for a better debate style, give each candidate the same briefings on various fictional situations and see what policy they go with. Show the briefing, and debate of the teams, as well as the conclusion. I'm not sure I would care to watch, but I think it would be more instructive.
Interesting suggestion.
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Old 5th August 2020, 08:15 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by rockysmith76 View Post
ORANGE MAN BAD! Thats all we do here.....
More than happy to visit the "orange man good" thread to see what it's got going on.

Care to kick it off?

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Old 5th August 2020, 08:18 AM   #36
eeyore1954
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The best thing about debates is watching how candidates are asked question "A" but are able to spend a minute or two never answering it.
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Old 5th August 2020, 08:20 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Just read their platforms on their website.

That is it. That is all you need to do.
Meh. They are politicians, so they lie.

I mean, those websites do contain some level of aspiration, but it can be hard to tell what things they actually care about compared to what things they just claim to care about. One would need to look at their record of actually implementing ideas, or look at what level of detail they might have in terms of future implementation. That's where some adversarial questioning can be helpful, to point out the basic hypocracies and poorly formed ideas.


So anyway. Back to the subject of the thread: Mixed martial arts death matches, either in a cage or an old quarry? That's how it best seems to be done in movies, and I think we all have a lot to learn from movies.
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Old 5th August 2020, 08:26 AM   #38
BobTheCoward
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Everyone's analysis is 4 steps ahead of where they are actually at. There is a lot of heuristics here on what is important for a president. How about actually trying to establish as fact that it is relevant before you start creating methods to assess it?
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Old 5th August 2020, 08:28 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by crescent View Post
Meh. They are politicians, so they lie.
Not really.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features...heir-promises/
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Old 5th August 2020, 08:32 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by crescent View Post
So anyway. Back to the subject of the thread: Mixed martial arts death matches, either in a cage or an old quarry? That's how it best seems to be done in movies, and I think we all have a lot to learn from movies.
Could we do the battle royale format, where the competitors are released into the woods for then to hunt each other down with primitive weapons, or is that going out of fashion? I know it was all the rage some time ago. Throw in some hungry big cats or a hungry bear for an extra challenge.
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"If you are still hung up on that whole words-have-meaning thing, then 2020 is going to be a long year for you." --Ladewig
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