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Thursday, 31 October 2013 08:02

Obama Should Use Simple Charts and Anecdotes to Persuade TV Addle-Brained Americans

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

oct10 31This actual photo (from the National Archives) has nothing to do with the commentary, but BuzzFlash at Truthout couldn't resist posting it. Then again, maybe it has everything to do with the commentary.

Obama is the great man of reason, one of the smartest presidents we have had. Therefore, he is constantly astonished that Americans don't listen to reason when it comes to public policy.

Well, President Obama welcome to the real world: this is the visual age. Most Americans receive their "news" from television, and that news is largely derived from visual images.

This realization first came into its zenith in politics when the television advisers packaged the actor known as Ronald Reagan for the "television moment." Every appearance during the 1980 campaign was designed for how it looked on television.  That also became the hallmark of his presidency.

In fact, the marketing of his presidency policies were in large part dependent upon the visual frame of Reagan's television appearances.  In those messages to the nation, he also often relied on two techniques: charts and anecdotes. 

His use of simple bar graphs on poster boards or letters or anecdotes concerning "patriotic" Americans down on their heels or little children with Leukemia may have had nothing to do with the issue at hand, but his scriptwriters would insert a segue that could sell ice to Eskimos.

The Reagan handlers also knew that repetition of words and phrases works with a public addled brained by the boob tube and just native ignorance.  So they kept repeating slogans, such as: "“Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”  Although, generally, that was longer than most memes, because a sentence with two phrases does not as easily sear itself in the mind of a television-addicted nation as just one word or two.  Let's take a contemporary case in point, "ObamaCare," which has taken on such hyperbolic connotations of evil.

The triumph of the demonizing of "ObamaCare" (let's put aside for the moment its real temporary enrollment problems) is a masterstroke of loading up a word with such horrendous connotations that it eclipses the reality of what the word actually represents.

By now, anyone who actually still reads the news knows that most Americans support the key features of the Affordable Health Act: elimination of pre-existing conditions, elimination of a life-time cap on health insurance, preventative care, enrollment of young people up to age 26 on their parents' policies, mandatory prescription coverage, etc.

But Obama never used charts or repeated phrases to keep reminding the electorate of the many positive specifics of the Affordable Care Act, and that it was (much to the dismay of the promoters of universal Medicare for all ages -- promoters that include BuzzFlash at Truthout) actually a Republican plan that began with the Heritage Foundation in the early '90s and eventually became RomneyCare in Massachusetts.

Karl Rove said of the carefully choreographed Bush campaign appearances of 2000, (paraphrased) "You have to watch television with the sound off to understand how a news event is affecting people."

President Obama is a high-IQ promoter of rationality, but he would better persuade the public if he cut the "this is just rational" appeal and showed a few charts (many times) about the specifics of the Affordable Care Act.

And he needs to read a few letters from Americans who can't afford or were denied insurance because of pre-existing illness.

The United States is in its sixth decade of communication by television, the same "information" beamed into every household, bar and doctor's office waiting room.

It's time President Obama took out the Crayolas and did big bullet points and bar charts on posterboard.

And then he has to keep his words to one or two syllables, followed by reading lachyrmose letters from Americans who want to believe in health care that works and that doesn't bankrupt them.

This is not an intellectual nation, Barack: use the KISS (keep it simple stupid) method or you're two-administration major legacy is going to get rolled.

(Photo: Common Use)