Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Hanging Laundry

I've been thinking a lot about audiences, lately, especially as pertains to politics. It seems like we are moving away from a time when a politician can safely get way with crafting a message just for a particular audience because the internet never forgets. It used to be a candidate could safely chat away in a closed-door fundraiser or hold forth in front of a special interest group and not really be that concerned whether a cellphone video would come back to bite them--within hours.

After all, that's what happened to Mitt Romney with the 47% comment, and that's how we came to know of Barack Obama's infamous "cling to their guns or religion" comment, too.  The message only would have sounded acceptable to a given audience who spoke and understood the particular encoded message.  The speaker isn't necessarily even being fake or trying to hide what they are saying--they just would say something a bit differently in front of a different audience. Maybe more diplomatically. It happens in other professions, too. Doctors and nurses might speak to one another in more of a jargon that would be misconstrued by a patient or concerned family member, a salesperson will say something to their manager that they wouldn't say to a customer, and so on.

Politics is a different animal, though. More of what a politician says is subject to dissection for meaning and intent, and it should probably now be obvious that everyone is, for better or worse, in the room when speaking more or less publicly. The result of forgetting who "everyone" is now means opening oneself up to something a bit like what happened to Joe Biden at the last debate--maybe there is an audience (or was an audience) that could hear about working with actual segregationists without some offense, but there are also people in the room for whom that sounds very differently. The skill of speaking to the equities and investment of all the people in the room is a learned skill and probably no one can always do it without error, but thinking about all those people: the voters, the taxpayers, the constituents, the people affected by policies and either included or excluded by language, is necessary and matters a lot.

Social media is a room with everyone in it. It's not really a great place for nuanced messages. People read titles and don't click on links. People share things without considering the source. And people can read a message without actually considering "Is this for me--and if not, who is it for?"  Social media is good for crusades. It is good for reaching a lot of people. It is not especially surgical. It's a sledgehammer, not a Swiss army knife.

Without being very explicit, it looks to me like House Democrats of different factions are using social media (Twitter) in a way that I am not sure I agree with. I'm not screen-capping any damn thing, because I have no interest in getting bogged down in the minutiae and there are literally thousands of people who are not me who will line up to do just that. Having made politics their business, I don't know if they have momentarily lost sight of what audience they are intending to reach, but I have noticed we are all able to see them. So I openly wonder--are they being messy by design? Or should they just get their laundry off the timeline and take this nonsense to the DM's?

Or better yet, find themselves a quiet room? I don't know. I just hate to see it. I'll just add that message discipline should be the responsibility of not just members of congress but their staff and it isn't really too much to ask people not to do call-outs of co-workers for the sake of professionalism--no matter what that person's role might be.

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