Saturday, March 18, 2006

cognitive dissonance

I got these two LEDs for bicyclists, one red and one white. I found them today in a bargain bin of bike accessories at my neighborhood drug store. They come with a bungee strap with hooks into a little groove by the bulb, such that you can affix them as lights in front or behind you as you ride. A great way to deal with the fragile vandal-magnets which are dynamo-powered headlights. And only a euro a piece. This is only interesting because the day before i was wondered where I could get something like this. Guess this indicates that if you have a truly original idea, it has to be totally crazy, unless someone would have obviously thought it up.

Here's another passage with which the memetic power of political narratology is subtly alluded to:
MORE PITFALLS IN THE "INCOMPETENCE" ARGUMENT. Dems may think they've hit political paydirt in constantly hammering Bush as incompetent, both on Iraq and on domestic policy, but there's a political pitfall in this approach worth looking out for. If Bush is perceived as incompetent merely in the execution of his policies -- and not in the creation of the policies themselves or in the selection of the people who make them -- it follows that all Bush needs to do is implement them better, perhaps with the help of a new addition to the team, and all will be right in Bushworld again, not to mention for the rest of us.

As Josh has noted, the "bring-in-a-seasoned-veteran" chant is growing ever more audible. He sees this as a sign that the "establishment in DC" is rising up to "geld" Bush. One hopes so. But there's another possibility: That the appearance of said seasoned veteran will set the stage for a "Bush begins his comeback" storyline. Make no mistake: commentators will be aching to tell this tale, and many in the Washington establishment will be aching to hear it. Both the notion that Dems might be starting to succeed politically, and the idea that someone who was supposed to be a "popular war president" has record low poll numbers and is failing spectacularly, are proving too difficult to swallow for too many powerful people. You can almost hear the mental wiring of leading pundits and analysts short-circuiting all across Washington. So brace yourselves for comeback stories.

Another longer essay on the state of media communications and its disconnect from Internet strategy caught my eye:

Traditionally, and there's no great rationale except tradition behind this, a campaign spends 75% of its budget on paid TV in the last few weeks to reach swing voters. There's a waiting game involved here. In New Jersey for instance, we kept waiting for Forrester to go on TV before we did, so that we could save money. We ended going up first, and spent at one point more than $1 million a week on cable and broadcast. Forrester had to respond. There's this weird game of who can buy more points and saturate the airwaves more. Partly it's because no consultant ever wants to lose because he didn't run enough TV, partly it's a compensation issue, and partly it's because if you've ever seen $4 million of negative TV and mail slammed at you in one week you become completely terrified of being crunched. So campaigns are modeled around the idea that you pay your organizers crap, and save everything for the last few weeks when you blast the other guy on broadcast where the swing voters live.

The downsides of this type of campaign are quite clear. One, swing voters aren't where you might think they are, on broadcast TV. Above I wrote that this type of campaigning is based on tradition, but that's not quite fair. It's based on polls that show that voters say they get their local information from local news. But do they? That's unclear. After all, swing voters aren't swing voters because they can't make up their minds. They just don't have enough information. They aren't news junkies. And these people are glued to their local news? Come on. Advertising on local news just isn't hitting the swing vote anymore as much as it used to in a three channel world.

Two, it's really really expensive and you get a lot less for your money. One problem with advertising blitzes in the last week on broadcast TV is that you can't microtarget different audiences with different messages. With cable and the internet, you can. But broadcast is both more expensive and much less targeted. Ergo, you spend more and get less.

Three, this strategy doesn't talk to your base and doesn't help GOTV. It's targeted at swing voters with big themes, and can turn off your base which wants harder messaging. Four, it means that the field narrative and the communications narrative are completely divorced from each other, like they were during the Kerry campaign. Your GOTV suffers dramatically from the disconnect. Five, this strategy doesn't allow a campaign to take advantage of the internet, which is a medium that melds the two narratives. Paul Hackett in OH-2 is a good example of what can happen when a field campaign, an internet campaign, and a paid media campaign all cohere. Excitement, persuasion, and turnout are the result. With a traditional campaign that doesn't advertise to the unconnected, you are in the 20th century and not where the country is.

I read another intersteding but a bit less coherent essay regarding Mencken and the perversion of political language, using the key examples of 'pro-life', 'Death Tax' and 'liberal'. All good points, all though I don't think all liberals are necessarily progressives. In particular, I am struck by the libertarian arguments of Ronald Bailey in his book Liberation Biology, that some social conservatives and some social liberals nevertheless form a bloc against GMO, gene therapy, stem cells and therapeutic cloning, making them, in another candiate for word of the year, bioconservatives. Nothing is as black and white as partisanship.

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