Thursday, August 26, 2010

Effect of the media on political rhetoric

The media cause politicians to be careful about how they vote and also on what they say about issues, writes Dan F. Hahn (Political Communication, Strata Publishing Co., State College, PA, 2003, p. 259).
On one hand, to be politically correct politicians avoid "class warfare," but yet to get elected they have to boast about what they have done and will do for the middle class. To be credible they have to appear sincere.
Hahn quotes Robert Brustein, the former dean of the Yale School of Drama, who claims credibility is created by good acting, not politics. It concerns "simulating the role of sincerity" rather than "verifying facts or discovering the truth" (R. Brustein, "News Theater," New York Times Magazine, 16 June 1974, p. 7).
This is driven by the media focus on personality. Shakespeare was right, says Brustein. Because "all the world's a stage," the audience's attention is directed toward the political actor and away from the political action. While television allows the audience to get to know the president, the president is unable to reciprocate. The sense of familiarity may work against the president. President Obama's "hope and change" platitudes may have backfired as he fights to raise his popularity in the polls from the lowest figures of any previous president. His words don't match the perceived in action of the economy.
One technique is to present all issues as crises. The president directs us away from the one-sidedness of the relationship by making every instance in which he speaks sound like a crisis. The crisis brings us together as a people, making us far easier to manage than if we were individuals who feel dejected because the president can't address our needs.
However, sometimes the crisis approach backfires. President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanual, stated, "Rule one: Never allow a crisis go to waste" (Jeff Zeleny, Obama weighs quick undoing of Bush policy, New York Times, 9 November 2008, The result has been the quick passage of stimulus bills and healthcare reform, both unpopular with the American public.

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