Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your weekend.

- Jonathan Bernstein comments on how the U.S.' right-wing echo chamber may be preventing Mitt Romney and other Republicans from recognizing when their spin has no hope of convincing voters:
As Romney rolled out yet another of these insipid, implausible campaign talking points, however, it occurs to me that there's yet another reason that the GOP-aligned media makes it more likely that Romney will do these sorts of things, even if they don't actually move voters. I was thinking earlier that it was a case of the Republican press influencing the campaign: they keep talking about something, and Romney feels pressure to start talking about it too. But there's a laziness to all of this too, which is also a function of how easily influenced Fox News and the rest of them are. In the old days, a campaign would come up with a theme or a line-of-the-day, and then would have to work really hard to insert it into the (neutral) media. Oh, you could do it, but it took message discipline and some real effort.

But that's not true with campaigns right now and the partisan press -- and no question but that it's far more developed on the Republican side, although it certainly exists on both sides. All Romney's campaign has to do is pull out a sentence and call it a gaffe, and it instantly becomes one. It blows up on twitter, it goes straight to Fox News and most of the conservative radio's all over the place. Indeed, if it's in those places, it's also going to be in Politico and Buzzfeed, too. So on the one hand, it must encourage laziness to know that all you have to do is come up with something vaguely appropriate to movement conservatives in order to get that effect; on the other hand, it must just feel as if you're making something happen when you do it. And the more it hits the sort of things that the GOP-aligned media loves, the more you get the immediate effect. Really, for campaign operatives, it must be incredibly temping to do it.

There are even internal bureaucratic incentives. After all, it's never easy to measure whether some campaign line moved voters, but it's easy to measure how much it resonated in the press. And the more it appeals to movement conservatives in the media, the more you'll get that "hit."  So if you're in the Romney press office, it's just incredibly easy to monitor the president's speeches, pull out a "gaffe," turn it into a firestorm, and show your bosses that you've been productive. Sure, it might blow over in 24 hours without actually having any effect at all on voters, but who is going to point that the midst of a campaign, who will even know?
Needless to say, I hope the Cons and their media wing don't take a lesson from the above.

- And there's plenty of reason to suspect that they don't recognize the dangers of feedback loops - such as the connection of a single PR firm to every step of W5's blocked attempts to get information about the Cons' F-35 debacle.

- Meanwhile, Nathan Vanderklippe writes that the Cons' predominant line of spin is running into reality beyond political control, as tar-sands operators are having to question whether constant expansion makes economic sense despite the Cons' efforts to make it their sole economic priority.

- Finally, Alice has unveiled her aggregator/almanac for federal Liberal leadership news. And Scott takes a look at the slogans and logos of Saskatchewan's NDP leadership candidates.

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