Political Messaging

Everyone who follows media in the entire world likely knows that President Trump sends messages via Twitter. What’s been almost lost in the Twitter-storm, and the swirling claims and counter-claims about Russian influence in one form or another, is another, and far more ominous message.

In the United States, indeed anywhere, one form of “reality” is not what necessarily is, but what people believe is so. If people believe that foreign aid comprises twenty percent of federal spending or that public television and radio constitute five percent of the budget, then for them, that is reality, regardless of the facts. Unfortunately for actual reality, a majority of Trump supporters hold such beliefs, despite hard dollar figures to the contrary. So when Trump’s proposed budget proposes massive cuts to federal programs such as those whose total budgets in reality only comprise than five percent of federal spending, Trump’s followers truly believe that he is trying to make a significant cut in federal spending, while the observations by those who understand the numbers and the federal budget that such cuts cripple worthwhile programs while not really addressing the actual debt and deficit are largely ignored or minimized as just being politics as usual.

The problem is that Trump has no interest in confronting reality. His interest is, as is the interest of all promoters and snake-oil salesmen, to sell people on his version of reality, or to affirm their illusory version of reality to increase his own power and image. He also understands, as apparently the mainstream media doesn’t, that repetition turns anything into popular “truth.”

This is something that the mainstream media still doesn’t seem able or willing to confront. It’s one thing to argue about what national spending priorities should be. It’s another to put forth a spending plan designed solely to appease and appeal to one’s supporters, as Trump has, while totally ignoring fiscal reality. Unfortunately, even a sizable fraction of the GOP members of Congress seems unwilling to come to grips with this, and that’s understandable because Trump will turn on “defectors” and because a majority of Republicans also want to believe in Trump’s version of reality.

The media should be pointing out, daily, and loudly, that the numbers don’t add up. Have you seen a headline claiming “Trump Budget Based on Lies”? Or: “EPA Head, Oil Industry Cause 5,000 Earthquakes.” Or: “Trump Buys Off McConnell.” All of those are legitimate headlines, but you haven’t seen them, and you likely won’t, because if they show up, Trump will accuse them of being crooked liars, or the equivalent.

There seems to be a media assumption that people will see the truth on their own. Really? In a nation that requires remote controls for their televisions, ten second sound-bites, and news by Twitter, maximum 128 characters? Add to that the fact that most media publishes Trump’s proposals without strong critical analyses and worries more about his criticism than letting the public know what is occurring.

Establishing “truth” by repetition is currently winning… and all of us are losing.

11 thoughts on “Political Messaging”

  1. JSV says:

    The problem is that repeating the facts can also be easily defeated by calling them alternative facts or labeling it fake news, especially since enough of your supporters seem to think that you can do no wrong. The general alt-right philosophy is simply that of never backing down. A case in point are the briefings by Sean Spicer where he essentially keeps spinning and never admits to “wrong”. I am worried that if and when the AHCA passes, and trump supporters are negatively impacted, it will again be spun as a problem of Obamacare which couldnt be fixed due to legislative obstruction. In this scenario, what is the solution, if there is one?

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      The philosophy of the alt-left (the only left we have left) is also never backing down. It doesn’t matter who started obstructionism if both side practice it to the hilt.

      OTOH, government really shouldn’t get much done, so eternal deadlock is better than activist government taking more $$ (regardless of what percentage is spent on what useless domestic or foreign aid activity) and freedom.

      The only legitimate functions of government are securing borders, enforcing a minimum set of laws (most left to the states), and blowing up foreigners before they come here and blow us up. And I suppose the Post Office, since that’s in the Constitution. Most of the rest should never have been begun, and should be left “to the States respectively, or to the people.”

      1. JSV says:

        That is a fair criticism, especially if you ascribe to libertarian beliefs. Indeed, I have no problem with obstruction, if you can state your reasons for it and stick to them. My problem is simply that with our current administration, there seems to be no notion of honesty, since they change their story whenever they feel necessary (Note: I am not even arguing about “truth”, just “honesty”).

        1. R. Hamilton says:

          Which of his predecessors practiced honesty?


          Even the legends of George Washington’s honesty may have been flexible in the face of what seemed justifiable circumstances:

          It comes with the job. The more competent ones mislead with partial truths rather than telling outright lies, but these days, a whopper that can later be discounted as hyperbole seems almost as acceptable.

          1. “The more competent ones mislead with partial truths rather than telling outright lies, but these days, a whopper that can later be discounted as hyperbole seems almost as acceptable.”


            And what does that say about today?

  2. Sasha says:

    Thanks to Donald Trump, ‘Fake News’ is now a part of our vocabulary and creates the potential to polarize even more those for and those against in deeply divisive situations. Trump has given us permission to disregard facts and to stick with our prejudices and preconceived views in a dangerous way. I’ve been watching the ‘Russia hearings’ on C-Span. Comey says there is no information to confirm Trump’s wiretap claims. I suspect Trump lovers will continue to believe there was. The pointed questions about the connection between Russia, Trump and other people in the ‘Trump cohort’ are good, but we are not being given enough facts to make an informed opinion. We, the people, are not ever going to be privy to everything the Secret Service, Homeland Security, FBI, MI5, MI6, Interpol, etc. ‘knows’. The lack of ‘complete’ information, whatever that is, will always leave room for doubt and the reliance on beliefs and perspicacity in wading through the flood of sound bites and twitters. Jung wrote about ‘Psychic Reality’. We only touch ‘reality’ through the filter of what we believe about ourselves and the world around. Our ability to be ‘objective’ and to look at things ‘factually’ is always subject to a certain amount of shaping and filtering – what we have made of our past; our social circle; where we get our information from and our ability to analyze and distinguish between information (data) and value words (adjectives and adverbs).

  3. darcherd says:

    The solution, of course, is for enough citizens who are not taken in by the ‘alternative facts’ to get politically active – attending rallies, writing letters, signing petitions, and above all, voting intelligently in each election. That’s crazy talk, I know.

    1. Tim says:

      @darcherd. Not crazy but most moderate people I know will do none of these things. They get on with life, leaving the protests to the more extreme elements who make the headlines for the hungry journalists.

      That is probably why UK political polls have been dramatically wrong in the recent election and the BreXit referendum. The majority were the silent ones. And they will stay that way I feel.

  4. Tom says:

    The reporting of news incorrectly appears to be a newly discovered genetic disorder: at least if one notes Trump’s son twittering on today’s London Terrorist Attack use to politically attack the Mayor of London.I may be wrong; it could be that he also has a reading disability or it may simply be a matter of the twit in the twittering. What ever the cause the result is unfortunate for the nation and the media.

  5. Frank says:

    We seem to have lost the critically important skill of listening; we have relegated compromise to someplace between an anachronism and an epithet; and we have most assuredly lost the consensus to require civility from our leaders and ourselves.

    This is not an endorsement of or an attack on either the right or the left…it is just a comment on the sad state that has overtaken us.

  6. R. Hamilton says:

    “what does that say about today?” – to my way of thinking, that those who were raised watching Jerry Springer or “reality” TV (including “The Celebrity Apprentice”, if you wish) have had their threshold for rudeness, shock tactics, and unreality set so high, that reason and calm speech is thought by many to go unnoticed. Doubtless reality TV itself is but a symptom, but perhaps having been raised in front of a TV set or computer rather than interacting with actual humans may be a factor.

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