There’s never an upside to moderation

There’s never an upside to moderation

Being a moderator on a conference panel is a thankless task. By implication, you’re the least important person on the dais (otherwise you’d be on the panel rather than moerating it). If you’re good and you’re lucky, no one notices you. For every other scenario, however, you get noticed for bad reasons.

Reading this New York Times account by Katrin Bennhold, I feel some small measure of sympathy for Washington Post columnist David Ignatius:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey walked off the stage after an angry exchange with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, during a panel discussion on Gaza at the World Economic Forum on Thursday, and vowed never to return to the annual gathering.

Mr. Erdogan apparently became incensed after he was prevented by the moderator from responding to remarks by Mr. Peres on the recent Israeli attack. The panel was running late and Mr. Peres was to have had the last word, participants said….

In a news conference immediately following the panel discussion, Mr. Erdogan said that he was particularly upset with Mr. Ignatius, who he said had failed to direct a balanced and impartial panel.

By all accounts, the discussion of the Gaza incursion was a lively one, with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, joining Mr. Peres and Mr. Erdogan. For the most part, participants said, Mr. Peres was alone in defending the Israeli role in Gaza, which is why he was given the final 25 minutes to speak. Earlier, Mr. Erdogan had spoken for 12 minutes about the sufferings of the Palestinians.

In an ideal world, as a moderator you always want each panelist to have two minutes apiece for closing remarks. In that same ideal world, politicians are capable of limiting their remarks to 120 seconds. In the real world, Ignatius was between a rock and a hard place.