Archive for the ‘Public Affairs’ Category

There are two physicians on my street that have Trump signs in their yards. I have been thinking a lot lately about how that could have happened?

Is it because they have never actually worked directly with frontline health care professionals?

Is it because they really do not want people to have affordable health insurance? Or Medicare? Or social security?

Is it because they are wealthy enough see the stock market as the primary driver of their personal worth?

Or are they connected financially with healthcare organizations that benefit from Trump’s tax breaks?

Or is it because they really think that recent tax breaks have actually helped working people?

Or is it because their patients are all at their same income level?

These are smart people. Do they simply not see the damage that has been done? In education? In infrastructure? In foreign affairs? In human rights? In climate change? In the loss of jobs?

The sad news about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing came to me as I was writing this. Her career should be a lesson for us now. She was bigger than politics. She was a cultural icon for democracy and individual freedom. This election is not about making a political choice. It’s about solving a very serious national problem. Save the sorting out of political party ideology for next time.

For this election… do you want to reelect an “only I can do it,” authoritarian dictator? Or do you want to save American democracy?

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I have written about the impact of media revolutions at many times and in many different ways. Every day it becomes more and more clear how they go on disrupting so many lives.

Here is still another way of explaining the situation:  

When information implodes all around you every day, and you have a special interest or an angry complaint, it is now easier than ever to find people who agree with you. You can always find them somewhere on social media, and that discovery will very likely reshape your universe. That’s the good news, but…

If you are inclined to favor conspiracies finding so many others with the same inclination may surprise you. Your alternate universe will accommodate your underlying fantasy life.

Your universe also offers an illusion of personal safety. So you can go ahead and exercise that mean streak that has been lurking just below the surface of your personality. But eventually could become an angry person.

That mean streak can quickly become an attack weapon. Using Twitter and other social media platforms, individuals, organizations, and governments are able to attack each other spreading fear.

Many young people are able to create their own digital universe from their bedrooms. Some get so hooked that they lose interest in communicating face-to-face. Bullying originates in these lonely bedrooms.

Easy online relationships sometimes result in dangerous liaisons. Social media produces artificial feelings of safety.

Consumers today usually find and stay with news sources they agree with… avoiding other mind-stretching ideas.

Media revolutions change journalism. Digital technology enables news sources of all types and biases. Commercial TV success produces celebrity reporters, faster stories, shorter interviews, and endless ads.

Extremists in both parties are politicizing and polarizing voting districts. When they go to Washington they remain polarized and controlled by those who fund them.

Also, computers today are able to repeat the same messages over and over automatically (often called bots)… confusing entire societies about important political and social issues.

In short, media revolutions produce daily information implosions which end up dividing the public on important issues. They create a strange social media world that changes people’s beliefs, and behaviors both in our homes and governments.

Therefore, the news media simply must stop reporting wild tweets and false statement as daily news. Media revolutions have changed journalism. And it is already past time for this profession to call out lies and false statements no matter who makes them. Our democracy and world peace depend on it.    

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“I really like his policies, but hate his politics.” I hear this all the time.

After 50 years of studying communication, media and politics, I must conclude, however, that this president has no policies or even ideologies that propel him. It’s all about him, and he even says so openly. He has proven to be an immoral and insidious, “all about me” autocrat, who is creating and living in an alternate reality?   

All this was enabled by a digital media revolution. During the 2016 campaign and election, many (including the news media), were attracted by this former reality show host’s constant flow of outlandish statements, lies, conspiracies, exaggerations, and wildly confusing imagery.

Here is how this has gotten worse…

  1. The urgency of a pandemic has been simply ignored… currently with rhetoric that creates an assumption that it’s all in the past. But it isn’t. Cases and deaths continue to grow.
  2. Schools are currently pressured to open in the middle of this pandemic, but responsibility for any failures have been transferred to each school system. Many are already experiencing cases.
  3. Questionable medical treatments have been urged, even though they were never adequately tested and several produced illness and even death.
  4. Fast-track vaccines have been funded with private companies… with pressure to have something before the election. Now these companies are suggesting that widespread availability is more likely sometime in 2021.
  5. Attention on the pandemic has been diverted by wild tweets about something else … in this case, a focus on beefing up federal law enforcement, with lies about what groups are using violence.
  6. The nation has also been divided by appealing directly and indirectly (called “dog whistles”) to white nationalists… inspiring some angry followers to carry out vigilante type violent responses.
  7. Created fears about mail-in voting, and has already said he will refuse to accept losing the election.

Fooled once in 2016, shame on us. Fooled twice is inexcusable. Conservatives, liberals, independents, and all other lovers of democracy must now come together to save it.    

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Whether you are conservative or liberal no longer matters. Our American democracy is literally at stake!!

Listen carefully to the president’s words. He divides us. He uses cruelty and anger, and it usually inspires more hatred and violence. His ultimate goal is to replace America’s democracy with his unqualified cabinet and family-run monarchy… with him as the sole monarch.

Opponents to this–whether liberal, conservative, or independent–must quickly go on the offensive:

  1. Biden and other leaders of the opposition must articulate a powerful vision for America’s future, and a specific plan for how that will happen.
  2. Biden’s running mate and other supporters must very aggressively counter all cruel attacks, fear-mongering, anti-immigration comments, and white nationalist statements.
  3. Anti-Trump Republicans (some calling themselves the Lincoln Project), concerned independents, and young people wanting to unite the country, must speak out against fear-mongering rhetoric wherever it occurs.
  4. Also, journalists and patriots everywhere must learn how to recognize fake news, whether its origin is foreign or domestic, and take the lead in explaining and countering it.

Multiple bank loans and financing, foreign money laundering, repeated bankruptcies, criminal relationships, and personal greed, are all reasons why monarchs and dictatorships eventually fail. But sometimes entire societies and civilizations fall before that can happen. 







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It wasn’t surprising to hear that the Trump Show this week is being produced by the former producer of Trump’s reality show, the Apprentice!

What ever happened to the Grand Old Party? The party of Lincoln? What a sad situation. This “conference” is simply a four-day immersion in confusing word-salad. And every supporter is reflecting the same Trump cult-inspired narrative.

Now, saving our “democracy” will fall to the Democrats… if only they will get their act together. We need to hear much more about their plans for the future, and what roles their former presidential candidates will play.

Our society has been torn apart by the social media revolution. So we must get our act together too.

  1. For the most part politics has become a series of reality show campaign rallies.
  2. Constant rants have resulted in a deluge of fake news.
  3. The news media can’t resist reporting (and thus legitimizing) daily senseless blasts.
  4. Fear-mongering has divided us, and often even inspired violence.
  5. The Web has become a weapon.
  6. Cruel attacks are now too tolerated.
  7. Lies have become commonplace, and for many they have begun to sound true.
  8. Opposing everything without providing serious solutions has become far too acceptable (Obamacare, climate change, immigration, etc.)
  9. And some got totally hooked into a cult, conspiracies, and dangerous wishful thinking.
  10. And too many have replaced personal disappointments with a blind loyalty to a demagogue.

Whether you are a conservative or liberal no longer matters… this time our American “democracy” is literally at stake!!

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How can a new government organize to communicate a new America? Here is a bold way to consider. 

President Eisenhower established the United States Information Agency (USIA) during his administration. For 46 years, the United States had a rock-solid marketing and public relations organization within the government. But it was eventually eliminated as a part of a budget-cutting move.

The USIA was separate from the Department of State and other intelligence-gathering government agencies in order to communicate the “the idea of America” without partisan policy influence. It established libraries containing American books and other literary materials in major cities around the world. It distributed films, sponsored musicians and artists, provided scholars and expert speakers, and set up student exchanges. It also created the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Fee Europe, both of which quickly became the worldwide trusted voice of unbiased news.

After the USIA was eliminated, many of its activities were moved inside the Department of State. But here it was quickly understaffed and underfunded, and the U.S. lost the most effective communication operation this country ever had. Former Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, in his recent book Exercise of Power, complains that the U.S. still fails to invest enough in strategic communication.

So I suggest that the next White House administration build an updated version of the USIA, adding a domestic component to its former international operation… using, of course, the most up-to-date of marketing and communication technology, strategies, and tactics.

A new and expanded USIA would be a really bold way to announce that America is back… developing brand messaging that is energizing and forward looking; working with citizen groups to solve racism and policing problems; dealing with America’s shortcomings credibly and candidly; reporting good and bad news objectively around the world; showing off our talented artists, scholars and experts; and making the case for an exciting new breed of American global leadership.




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It’s clear that Democrats will have to prove that the current president is incompetent. They got a great start on that last night. Michelle made that case, and Bernie made the best speech of his life.

But the campaign must also beware of too much drab. Looking too drab and sounding so has it’s limitations when developing a complete strategic communication initiative. And establishing the right tone can be a really tricky proposition.

In this election, Americans must also clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel. They must hear about a bold new vision for the future… and plans for how a new White House can be organized to make that a reality.

Admittedly, it’s a big communication challenge to accomplish both... make the gloom story clear, and at the same time show what the wonderful new day ahead will look like.

Maybe much of this will be accomplished by end of the week? 

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Dictatorships happen across the world when small and isolated groups of people feel ignored by their government. This includes people in forgotten cities and neighborhoods, those stuck in hidden poverty, many minority groups, and even some disgruntled highly educated people.

Authoritarians play to these groups first by causing social divisions and chaos… and then by presenting themselves as the “one person” who can fix things.  

It’s true that democracies don’t reward every competent person. There are winners and losers. Even so it is really surprising to see just how many “successful appearing” people reach the point where they are willing to offer their complete loyalty to an authoritarian in exchange for an impressive title and imagined prestige.

It’s important for them (and us) to realize that authoritarians never want to keep experts too close. They are too threatening. Authoritarians only want loyalty… which they demand, but rarely offer in return.   

You can be sure that America’s founders rejected authoritarian rule. But they also feared that democracy might not guarantee a stable government. So they designed our “electoral college” so wiser individuals would be able to prevent unqualified people from winning national elections. Of course, the founders had no way of knowing that many years later a digital media revolution would produce the kind of chaos and confusion that would completely change the game.

Today’s digital media can either unite… or divide and energize hostilities. Thus, they provide perfect tools for autocrats. And once authoritarians experience even a little power, they generally will not peacefully give it up!  

Multi-talented historian and journalist Anne Applebaum describes the worldwide consequences of all this in her new book, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism. Anne was born in America, lived and wrote for a while in England, and now lives in Poland. Her book is must reading for all who worry about the loss of democracy.

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As a professor of strategic communication I have written about marketing politics and the communication issues related to effective governance. As an analyst, I have blamed both parties for polarizing and paralyzing congress, and the president for endlessly tweeting with self-serving lies and exaggerations that confuse the world.  

Personally, I have been conservative when it comes to fiscal matters, but find many social programs necessary for a democracy. And I think that regulations that protect the public health are critically important. A leaner more efficient government also makes sense to me, but this must be achieved with great care. Campaigning can be partisan, but governance cannot. It must be more pragmatic.

This administration has taught us that reducing the size of government cannot be abrupt, mindless and partisan. But I have come to believe that government can be leaner and more efficient. Eliminating positions can be done very carefully, as can eliminating programs or departments. Adding and merging programs can be done just as carefully, with every effort made to find important places for current talented and experienced professionals. Only experienced people should be recruited for important cabinet positions, and all of this can happen so everyone can work from the same policy message page. Achieving all this will be the big challenge for a new administration.

In the final analysis, a new America will require a leaner, efficiently restructured administration. It will also require a well-staffed, talented, and totally professional communication support organization. “Marketing A New America” will be the topic of my next post. Stay tuned.


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Changes resulting from the recent media revolutions, will be permanent. Prepare yourself for a world of confusion… produced by both domestic and foreign conspiracy crazies, disagreeing experts, lies that will begin to sound true, some 24/7 news media enjoying too much commercial success, and digital media platforms that are only as ethical as their users.

From a political perspective, Francis Fukuyama, Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford, writes in a recent Foreign Affairs article that the factors responsible for successful pandemic responses have been “a competent state apparatus, a government that citizens trust, and effective leaders.” The problem is that some democracies have performed well, while others have not. And the same is true for autocracies… some have done well, others have not.

The fact is that the future may not resemble the present. Some economies may not recover. Too many people have lost their livelihoods. Too many governments have not been able to afford needed bailouts. And too many autocrats have taken advantage of the need for central leadership and have put themselves permanently in charge.

As for the United States, the lack of early pandemic action, inconsistent healthcare, simultaneous political and cultural crises, and reelection-obsessed national leadership, has put the country in one hell-of-a mess. And the president’s 4th of July divisive, angry, and totally ignorant of American history rhetoric could be the last straw for many Americans.

I am encouraged that many established scholars and prize-winning journalists think it’s not too late for new leadership to turn the tide. It will require positive, democratic, and visionary ideas, shouted far and wide, using every old and new media platform, to restore both domestic and foreign trust in a united America.

This is not about political ideology. It’s about having experienced and competent government leadership, supported by the nation’s best talent… and all guided by a political party that has it’s ethical head on straight!!!

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