Our Communication Dilemma…

Information clutter and widespread public confusion are the result of ongoing media revolutions and have become the norm for most of us. The recent House hearings featuring expert constitutional lawyers did little to change that.

The only immediate recourse is to compare the words and behaviors of our current chief executive with how our founders explained the American democratic republic and its’ protections in the U.S. Constitution.

Finding truth inside constant information clutter will take time, and will require a major public media literacy education initiative. 

What are the issues when news is a business?

  1. Has media produced “truth fog” caused people to simply side with their tribe?
  2. What is the consequence when people choose biased information sources?
  3. Should journalists report “both sides” of all disputes, or call-out lies and report only facts?
  4. What would be the impact of not reporting “lies infected” election rallies?
  5. What would be the impact of not reporting “lawn pronouncements,” now used in the place of daily press briefings?
  6. What would be the impact of not reporting incessant “tweets,” now used instead of official statements?
  7. What is the consequence when media increasingly focus on celebrity and ads?
  8. What is the impact when journalist celebrities become the story?
  9. Should media organizations be expected to fund literacy education in schools?

At what point does an autocrat start behaving like a dictator… strengthening relationships with other dictators, focusing on personal control and wealth, and cruelly attacking critics?

And how dangerous is this for the future of a democracy and its citizens?

Information Wars,  a new book by former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel, explains how disinformation is threatening our democracy and free society. At the conclusion of an appearance at the Texas Book Festival, he suggested that traditional and new media organizations should come together to support an ambitious nationwide media literacy education project. This would be a project so massive that it will require hundreds of millions of dollars… but not out of reach for today’s media organizations.

First, citizens will need to understand where they can find and trust professional journalism, which also means how to see through the competitive pressures and temptations of media organizations… which are also businesses. Citizens will also need to come to understand their new role of “personal editor,” as they sort through the chaos of constant disinformation flowing daily from inside and outside the U.S.

History teaches that most who followed autocrats in the past were initially attracted to their basic ideas, and accepted that some control from the top was inevitable.

History also teaches that when autocrats become dictators only those willing to carry out their cruel and arbitrary orders survive. All others are cut loose without a political future… and often viciously and personally attacked.

What does the current behavior of the president teach you?

Lesson 518 What Now?

LESSON… using expert advice to make politically complicated decisions requires leaders to have enough background and knowledge to rethink the way ahead. Dictators are not capable of doing that.

LESSON… would-be dictators only know how to make demands and threaten the opposition. There is no other way for them to govern.

LESSON… if senate republicans decided soon to reject a future dictatorship, they could still run a candidate in 2020 who represented more traditional conservative and constitutional values… and possibly win the election.

LESSON… this would really confuse democrats who are planning to have a candidate ready by 2020.

Recent debates introduced talented candidates to the American people. But these entertaining TV shows did not determine who is capable of winning a general election. In the end, impractical program proposals are simply not likely to find the needed support.

Also, cries in the House of Representatives to impeach the president will likely lead to very little. The Mueller report, however, yielded enough evidence of corruption and White House misdeeds to be helpful in a general election.

With all this in mind, here is a game-plan for winning:

  1. This general election will require the winning candidate to be realistic about what can actually get done. Eventually, this will mean compressing the best primary election ideas into one compelling, future-shaping theme.
  2. That said, I believe that preparing for this election will first require conducting focus groups in each major market to develop and refine market-specific messaging. Mueller report material can and should be an important part of this message development.
  3. Each of these groups should include grassroots opinion leaders, not just people with fancy titles. And campaign facilitators should listen for new and imaginative phrases to use in ads and materials.
  4. After each session, the best and most experienced campaign thinkers, writers, and graphic artists should gather together to clarify what was said. Graphic artists should be included because how words and images come together can make all the difference. Authentic and imaginative materials in new and traditional media will be needed to win.
  5. Individual focus group results, together with the best primary election ideas, should now make it possible to shape an authentic and winning overall campaign theme.

I believe that an “integrated marketing” approach that includes grassroots participation in message development will be the best way to win the presidency in 2020.