Thursday, June 26, 2003

Winning the post-game analysis

I present for your elucidation two posts from Salon's Table Talk that present an interesting perspective on how to deal with negative media coverage:
Nancy Richardson - 11:32 am Pacific Time - Jun 26, 2003 Writing letters to the editor is fine. I really think it is a great thing to do... But I am getting to a stage now where I am getting to think it doesn't matter that the media is unfair. I am thinking we should start learning how to manipulate the media...and stay on message and bypassing the usual suspects, and rendering them irrelevant. After all, a lot of the stuff we are interested in is of limited to concern to all but the most hopeless political addict. The people who watch Cable and the Gasbag shows amount to maybe Five million of our population...many of them dittoheads. And it is just of no interest to people who don't live and breathe this stuff. And that most people don't get their news from Newspapers or cable.... I think we are spinning our wheels...and that scolding the media for just following their nature isn't going to make them change. And I think we would be a lot happier if we got into our heads that until we find ways to lead and make opinion in new and creative ways, we appear to be whiners who bitch and moan and do nothing else. I don't exactly know what that is that should be done, but what we are doing isn't working...we are educating each other...and we have to find new models for action. I want to spend more time thinking about how change truly comes about and how the left get get back into the game...playing by our own rules. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - JJ Conley - 12:24 pm Pacific Time - Jun 26, 2003 Trying to move Nancy's ball down the field a little, I suggest that we sell Dean as a "hot" candidate to whoever it is that wants to be up front with whatever's hot. Our increasing numbers do that in and of themselves, and also our increasing visibility. A strategy would be to represent the Washington insiders as the "old guard," dropping lots of hints as to who owns them and whose water they carry. Remind people of how worked up they were about impeachment and how the public saw through them. Our tone should be dismissive rather than aggrieved towards the presstitutes. Letters to the editor should be matter-of-fact--"you got it wrong again, try to do better" rather than "you filthy fascist bastards." But I think Nancy's onto something in suggesting we should be focusing on who to sell to instead of who we're pissed off at. I think it's John Dunagin who's been saying we need to work the youth demographic, and that suggestion works for me too. While we're working on this, the main thing is to keep on keeping on.
It's an unfortunate reality that a lot of people act primarily on a herd mentality when it comes to living their day-to-day lives. We could take advantage of this fact by, as JJ suggests, presenting Dean as the "hot" new thing out there that everyone should look into. There's really no point in getting pissed off at people who consistently get it wrong (i.e., much of the establishment media). Far more productive would be for us to encourage the idea that their opinions just aren't all that important. Russert et. al are square. Dean is hip (or whatever this generation's version of hip is). Recall the Adam "Major League Asshole" Clymer incident from campaign 2000. At the time this happened the conventional wisdom was that it would hurt Bush because he would be perceived as being a petulant loudmouth who can't take criticism. The opposite proved to be the case. The fact that Bush could so openly insult a member of the elite media was seen as a positive by the electorate. Most of them didn't know Adam Clymer from a hole in the ground. Nor did they understand what he did to piss off Bush. But they held the media in pretty low esteem to begin with (even lower than politicians) so being seen as disdainful of media criticism endeared Bush to them. Also remember the interview of Poppy Bush by Dan Rather in which Bush got into a shouting match with Mr. Rather and, by doing so, dispelled the "wimp factor". Consider this in the context of the Tim Russert's grilling of Dean on Meet The Press. Dean, again according to conventional wisdom, should be mortally wounded from his alleged weak performance on the show. But Dean didn't bat an eye afterward, didn't skulk off and lick his wounds. He just continued fighting on as if what happened was irrelevant. And by doing so, he is making it irrelevant. The old saying goes that there is no such thing as bad publicity. This is true, just so long as you know how to spin the publicity after the fact. Politics may be the only game in which the winner is often decided in the post-game analysis (2000 was just an extreme example of that).

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