Every year I create my predictions for the year ahead. Before I post this, I try to do my most thorough analysis of the previous year’s predictions. Here is my analysis. Continue reading
In a recent series of car commercials, a husband and wife enter a dealership and the sales person asks what kind of car they’re after. “Exciting,” “Sensible,” the husband and wife respectively say at the same time, seeming to contradict one another. The husband looks like a kid in a candy store, but the wife looks annoyed. The saleswoman says that they can have both of these things if they buy the advertised model.
A subsequent commercial in the same line, shows the husband being asked a question by the saleswoman. The husband’s eyes roll up and he sounds out a long, frozen “uhhhh…,” seeming to go into spinning pinwheel mode. The wife says, “That’s ok. I call this my me time!”
This type of characterization isn’t a rare phenomenon on Television. In almost every ad you see, men fall into one of only a couple categories. There is the eternal teenager you typically see in beer commercials, only interested in sex, cars, and alcohol. You’ll see the idiot dad, totally incapable of making any intelligent choices for his family or his own wellbeing. You’ll also meet the manly-man who basically just thinks about sports constantly. There are countless other media versions of these characters, often referred to by the term “mook.”
If we were to be fair, not every male character on TV is like this. Urban men are typically shown as more well-rounded, and there even are a few good dads mostly in car commercials, but the message when a female partner is present is very consistently clear: men are stupid, sex-obsessed, goofy creatures who are good for comedy relief, but need a woman around so they don’t accidentally kill themselves.
It has not always been this way. Women used to be the target of the jokes, the weaker partner in need of guidance. Certainly, no one would suggest that the Ward Cleaver version of reality is something that should be foisted on the public in this day and age. Clearing the air of many years of sexism against women may seem to mean that men should now be the ones in the social doghouse.
But the question one might ask would be, “does this constant characterization of manhood affect society?” It does. It affects the way men see themselves, the point and purpose of manhood, and the women and children in our society as a result.
When I was 4 years old, my mother and I went out to wash the car one Saturday afternoon, a small moppy-head child, a woman in 70’s clothes, and a yellow ’76 Corolla with fake wood paneling on the sides. I had just seen an episode of Sesame Street in which a fireman stood on ladder spraying water. He had the walkie-talkie up to his mouth and was repeating “the fire’s out! The fire’s Out!” I can still hear it in my head.
Guess what I did from the back bumper of my mom’s car while holding the garden hose that day? Yep, you guessed it.
When I was a little older, I tried to re-enact a scene from Superman, and broke a glass vase.
I once made a grappling hook, and tried to climb a tree after watching the A-team. That one hurt, and I landed on dog poop.
A few months ago, I saw the latest James Bond and ran around my house shooting my Nerf gun. I’m not ADHD, and I’m not a child-like goofball. Although, I would never claim to be average, in this sense, I am pretty normal.
Knowing that guys are geared this way, who is surprised when adolescents want to buy Axe Body Spray after seeing a commercial with 4 attractive girls walking in on a guy showering after he uses their product? I don’t wonder what those teenaged boys are thinking.
I hear women complain sometimes that the men in their life act more like teen boys. They want to play video games instead of getting jobs, drink too much and don’t care about the problems they create when they are drunk, and don’t think through their actions. Some of this is more than the complaints of women who are surprised that men aren’t acting like women. Some of it is true.
This is also not something that is new in society (with the exception of the video game part). It is a weakness of manhood to fall prey to these problems, but it is growing worse.
Everyone, men and women, need mentors, and heroes: people to model themselves after. Humans often learn much more by watching people they admire than by simply reading how to books. Youtube is a great example of this. It is easier to watch someone do something while teaching you how to do it, than simply reading a tutorial. Likewise, while Youtube is a great tool for teaching how to change the water pump on an ’08 Sentra, it is far less adequate at teaching a guy how to be an auto mechanic than actually hanging out with an a seasoned professional mechanic while they work together.
Men are particularly, naturally geared that way. We learn better by kinesthetic practice even more significantly than women do. Society has known this for thousands of years. To make a boy into a blacksmith, he spent every day with a master blacksmith. A young knight spent went about daily carrying the knight’s equipment. This process was not by accident.
Now, we have decided to largely abandon that process at least until the young man has reached his 20’s. But that doesn’t mean that the natural process has stopped. The boys still learn by watching and copying the behavior of the men they admire.
I am convinced that this is one of the main reasons for the explosion in the numbers of young men getting tattoos, especially in urban settings. Watch basketball or football for more than ten minutes, and you will see men inked from head to toe. Young men who see sports stars as some of their greatest heroes, especially when fatherless homes have become normative, will copy what they see. Most of them won’t become sports stars themselves, but unfortunately their tattoos will make them largely unemployable. The cycle will continue.
If we are to fix our society, we must break this cycle. Men who are available and successful must make time to mentor young boys who don’t have this at home. Families, particularly urban and poorer one’s without fathers in the home, must highly manage the messages being seen by their boys.
The commercials and programs will change accordingly. The consistent whining about the content of programming and music lyrics won’t help. These things are pure capitalism. I am not defending it, but it is a market, like it or not. If you don’t like the shows on TV, stop watching them. If you don’t like the characterization of a commercial, don’t buy the product. No matter what we do, we can no longer afford to be media abusers, like crack addicts continually returning to the poison that is killing us.
The only reason they show that type of programming is because it works and makes the companies money. When that changes, the media will adjust. The remote control is in your hands. The future of our society is not as easy as a channel to change, but they are undeniably linked. We are not passive observers of media, it is affecting us. The time has come to do something about it.
If Christians together with Republicans are to stand as this “last best hope of freedom in the world,” then we must do some reformulating. Some might suggest that we moderate our message and make compromises in order to have party be more palatable to more people. Politics is indeed an art of compromise. But there are very fundamental things that we can never compromise without forsaking the yoke of our character, those values that we pledge our lives to.
But, if we cannot change that which is essential to our identity, and necessary for the survival of the republic, then are we to do nothing but huddle and pray? Are we to build large bunkers, or think as I was about which country to run to? The answer is no. But, there are a few realities that we must face, those that the Democrats know and believe to be forever in their favor.
1. America is not a Christian nation. Sure, there is a plurality that still attends church, but all the numbers indicate that both church attendance and Christian identification are massively atrophying. But more importantly than that, is the fact that the influence of the Bible and faith in Christ in even those regularly attending church has become largely an afterthought. Unfortunately, most Christians’ are functionally biblically illiterate.
It has baffled many Republicans that large segments of our society who claim Christian affiliation vote completely contrary to their religious principles, at least on social issues. This is partly because voting is often seen as independent of the exercise of religion, the idea that the Democrats have the edge in issues of economic “justice,” and also because of ignorance of politics beyond a cultural dogma of voter affiliation.
2. Racial division in our society has rapidly become the biggest elephant in the room. Though it may not be true, Republicans hate women and minorities. Perception is reality. One of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing is that truth doesn’t matter at all; perceived truth matters a great deal. For the moment we have lost that battle. Correcting and owning this narrative will determine any future for our party.
3. Socialists, Progressively, Liberals, (pick your poison) own all areas of cultural input in our society. The media is completely covered by Liberalism, except for Fox, which though it has massive viewership, is maligned by everyone else. Hollywood…I don’t need to say more. Academia, Philosophy, the music industry are monopolized, and on and on it goes. The only area that is not covered by them is religion. That is why it is a battleground, and why Conservative religious leaders are repeatedly pressured to keep their mouths shut. Liberal religious leaders are freely allowed to spout their political directives to their congregations.
Liberals know an important rule of sales, the person who asks the questions owns the conversation. The entertainment industry questions the society, just as the media asks questions of the people they are interviewing. Also, it goes almost without saying that the people with the cameras and microphones will have the loudest voices.
Conservatives have really sought to own the blogosphere, and they pretty well do. But the only people who are reading Conservatives blogs are the people who already agree. Other areas of the internet are even more hostile to Republicanism. But the internet is a niceh media. Anyone can put up a blog, and likewise is accessed primarily by like-minded people. Further, George Soros and his machine have invested many millions in taking over these areas of communication. It is a very public and fully funded goal of Liberals to completely take over all media.
This is possibly the greatest loss for Republicans, and the greatest opportunity for growth. The good news is that we have virtually no ground to lose. This is our Inchon landing moment. We must be just as strategic and bold as the Liberals. We must place Republicans in these areas of the media piece by piece. We must take over the conversation, not by fighting or by creating alternative media forms, but by moving into important roles in the media. This will not happen overnight, just as the battle wasn’t lost overnight.
4. American education in almost all areas, but specifically in areas of civics, has crumbled. This is not a problem for Republicans, or Democrats. It is a problem for the future of this country, Red and Blue. Liberals wouldn’t like to admit this, but poor education does benefit their cause. While the loudest voices for increased funding of our public education system emanates from the Liberal side, this does not equate to making fixing our education problem a priority.
If this were true, they would be proponents of programs like school vouchers, single sex education, and homeschooling, all of which have consistently been proven to out perform our current models. But, they do not support these programs. Instead, they support more tax money for the current programs, which makes the teachers’ unions happy.
Of course, no one really wants people to stay ignorant, at least I would hope not. However, the least educated and the highest levels of education are both the biggest Liberal voting blocks, for entirely different reasons. Those who are well educated without Liberal indoctrination, especially in areas of history and civics have a much more Republican voting record.
In Part 3 of this series, I’d like to address some of my ideas for how to address these issues. -Ryan
I’ve been licking my wounds from Tuesday night’s election. I worked professionally on two campaigns this season, and volunteered walking and working the polls on another. All of these went the wrong way. One was expected. One was an incredibly close and shocking loss, and one was a surprise blowout.
The sense of loss I felt on election night I can’t describe. The most painful for me was of course, the presidential election. Like many others, I fasted and prayed leading up to Tuesday. At the polls I prayed between approaching voters, as my Democrat rivals laughed and joked about how the Republicans were in their final days of idiocy.
As we refreshed web pages and watched the TV in the command center, our hearts sank. I’ve talked to many who feel the same as I do. Our country has been going in a direction that is an offense to God. We have a lot to repent of. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “I know God is always on the side of the right. It is my constant prayer and anxiety that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.” That is the farthest place from where this nation has been, and this election was not a step in the right direction.
Further, it feels like quite a hopeless place. First, this election (even more than the last) highlights a massive racial divide. Only 39% of white people voted for Obama, yet over 95% of black people did. The Red State/Blue State divide is bigger than ever. Christians voted even more for Romney than they did for McCain. The fact is that young and minority groups are voting in larger numbers than they ever have, and overwhelmingly for Democrats, and if something doesn’t change, Republicans will be the permanent underclass.
Like many I’ve talked to, I’ve felt like I am in a daze. I’ve even thought about what country I could move to that wouldn’t murder as many babies and hold up choices that God says are sins to be virtuous. But tonight during my bath, something in my brain clicked. We are supposed to be “salt and light.” Many…no most, of the people in the Bible were called to stand for God in places and cultures that were hostile to Him in ways that we can’t fathom. Sure, being against homosexual marriage might get your business boycotted. But when was the last time that I was thrown in a pit full of lions for praying to God? When was the last time that people stoned us for talking about Jesus? Were you chained to prison guards because you preached the name of Christ.
The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed the word of God to his generation his entire ministry, and no one ever listened. The people were just as hostile to the things of the Lord when he died, as they were when he started. We aren’t called to change the world. We are called to proclaim the truth of God in love. Sometimes we will reap a harvest in revival, and sometimes the people will throw rocks. Jesus even said that many will hate us for being His followers, and in John chapter 3, He said that people would reject Him because they love darkness more than light.
The second thing that my mind went to, as I sat in the tub pondering the election, is that Jesus took a group of about 120 followers that were dedicated to Him (with 12 main leaders) and changed the face of the world. So on Friday, the leader of this strange heresy was put to death on a cross and his followers scattered in fear. The plotters of the status quo were victorious. But by Monday, these same scattered losers were rallying around their risen Christ, willing to give their lives to spread His good news throughout the entire world…and they did both.
I know that Republicanism doesn’t equal Christianity (or vice versa). But no one who truly understands both politics and orthodox Christianity can believe that the Democratic Party is any friend to God. Remember, they removed Him from their platform this year…although it was merely a formality after removing any reference to His teachings from the same.
So, it is time for our Resurrection Sunday type of moment (once again—not equating the two). Yes, all that our country stands for may indeed be lost. But it doesn’t matter. We are called to stand for Christ and His principles regardless. But it is time to rise from the ashes of defeat, and face this with the steely resolve of people who are not afraid, because they cannot lose. -Ryan
It’s that time of year again: time for my predictions for 2012!
Just to clarify (as always) this no attempt at fortune-telling, tea reading, astrology, or anything involving animal entrails. Instead, I am estimating what I think might happen according to everything from Game Theory and analysis to gut feeling. Some things I get pretty accurately. Other times I am flat wrong. It seems to me that I have a pretty decent track record, but the only reason that I do this is for fun.
The challenge is for anyone to do this along with me, and see who gets things the most right. So, here goes…
- The one thing I always hate doing is presidential politics. It seems to me that in any election cycle anything over one month off is a political eternity, but there are a few points that I think will be big influences.
- Anyone but Romney will have a hard time winning at all, because they are too flash-in-the-pan-y. Every other candidate has such big negatives that it will be pretty easy for Obama to paint them as either evil or crazy. Ron Paul seems to be the one exception to that, but he does his own job of making himself seem crazy by opening his mouth.
- Romney’s challenge will be to motivate the Republican base. In the ridiculously long primary season, the fact that almost everyone has taken their turn at leading is a really bad sign for Romney. It is almost an anyone but Romney attitude that might be hard for him to overcome.
- Because of the above points, the chance of a last-minute third party run by someone seems good, but that would lose the election for the Republican, no matter who it is.
- Really poor economy pre-election loses the race for Obama.
- A war probably loses the election for Obama also.
- Even an illusion of a good economy seals the election for Obama
- All of this is completely negated by major unforseen circumstances, which will probably happen.
- Come Summer no one will be occupying anything
- Summer will see revitalized Tea Party activity
- Immigration will be an even bigger issue than last year
- I hope that I am wrong–A terror attack on US soil which will involve attackers getting here via Mexico. This will spark a major tense discussion of border issues.
- As I see it Game Theory-ed out, this is in the terrorists best interests. Although my experience has taught me that the formidable-ness of this particular opponent is definitely not in their thoughtfulness, this seems in their best interest. We have taken the fight to them. Al Qaida is mostly wiped out. I have read several articles regarding this, and they have recently raised the idea of negotiating with us (through the Taliban). In radical islamic strategy, this is the step to take when one is on his heels. Attacking the US homeland would make sense. Further, in bringing it from Mexico (also easier to sneak in that way) it would create an internal fight in the US. With a huge percentage of the population being illegally from Mexico, and without allegiance to the US, it would create turmoil. If I were a strategiest for them, I would be looking at that idea. This is the type of process that I go through in determining all of my guesses.
- I am praying that there is a constitutional backlash against the dangerous laws that have been passed to curtail citizens’ rights for the sake of security. This combined with the above could cause massive chaos politically in the US. This might be beneficial in the long run, but won’t be fun.
- Military action involving Iran. It won’t be pretty. If it doesn’t happen, look for massive war in the future. If it does happen, there might be war now. Further, this would seriously hurt the US economy. This will be an important moment for Obama. If he allows conflict with Iran it hurts the economy and is another war. These are the 2 things that would prevent his re-election. If he doesn’t push Iran, then it will probably cause big problems for the US and our allies into the future.
- North Korea will stay totalitarian communist. It is in China’s best interest. Though it could be a tense year for the two Koreas.
- Lady Gaga gets involved in even weirder stuff. I know that this seems like a non-prediction (like saying there will be weather), I am serious.
- Facebook will lose users for the first time in its history.
- The world will not end in December. No planet will pass near the earth. There will be no magnetic pole shift. But pop culture will get really obnoxious about the end of the world as you know it by year’s end. There will be a movie or two.
- The summer movie season will be populated by even more over-hyped action junk than usual. There will also be a much higher rate of raunchy comedies. -Ryan
I just read this article online. Please take a minute to read this excerpt from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online.
Madison — Law enforcement officers are searching for Democratic senators boycotting a Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair plan Thursday in an attempt to bring the lawmakers to the floor to allow Republicans to act on the bill.
As Republicans denounced the move, one Democratic senator said that he believed most of the members of his caucus are in another state. However, an aide said that at least one, Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), was still in his Capitol office listening to constituents.
In a telephone interview, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) declined to give his location but acknowledged that at least one other Democrat was with him. He said that law enforcement would be able to compel him and his members to the Senate floor if they are located in Wisconsin.
“I can tell you this – we’re not all in one place,” Miller said. “This is a watershed moment unlike any that we have experienced in our political lifetimes. The people have shown that the government has gone too far . . . We are prepared to do what is necessary to make sure that this bill gets the consideration it needs.”
Basically, the Wisconsin legislature (under the governor’s direction) is trying to pass legislation that significantly reduces the ability of unions in the state to hold the upper-hand in negotiating contracts with the government. This would enable them to set salaries and benefits for state workers that are more reasonable in light of the seriousness of the government’s economic situation.
The reaction in Wisconsin has been teacher strikes, marches on the state capitol, and loud complaining by Democrats. Though of course state workers would want to have the best bargaining positions possible, the state is facing a $3 billion shortfall in its budget over the next 2 years. That means they are going to have to make serious cuts, or face bankruptcy.
Democrats feel they have no choice but to resist this. The unions are both a major source of funding and voters, although there is no chance that the union voters will abandon them even if this passes. However, the Republicans have a majority in the Wisconsin congress, so the Democrats can’t do much to stop them. The Dems were in a situation where they could not possibly win.
So the Democrats left. They walked out and hid. This would seem silly, except that it creates a problem in parliamentary procedure, the rules that govern how the legislature is run. In order to take a valid vote, the legislature needs something called quorum. Quorum is the number of members that must be present in order for any action to be valid, and is greater than the number it takes to pass a law.
The quorum rule was created to prevent a minority from holding a secret session, or meeting during some sort of emergency that prevented most members from attending, and passing some strange law. But the rule of quorum was never intended to be used as a blunt instrument to prevent democracy from working when a minority didn’t like what was happening. This kind of action is unfortunately not atypical of the kind of tactics that Democrats have played throughout the years, but it is a very bad sign for the gridlock that could be coming in many states and nationally.
What neither the state Democrats, nor anyone in the media seem to be asking is, “What is the best thing to do for the state’s $3 billion defecit?”
The Real World
America needs to wake up! Nationally for the first time since World War 2, our country owes more money than we have in our entire budget. The national debt is currently $14 trillion, with total obligations above $55 trillion. But these numbers seem to be too big to really wrap one’s mind around. So maybe an easier scale would help to make this all make more sense.
Let’s say a small family (father, mother, and small child) have a yearly income of $50,000. But by the end of this year, the family will owe over $50,000 to the credit card companies, more than their entire income for the year. All of that would be a difficult situation, but not impossible. The problem is that every month, even though the family gets a salary of over $4,166, they are keep spending $4,582. So, each month they are more than $400 in debt more than the month before. This is obviously an impossible situation. It won’t be long before the credit card companies cut the family’s credit line and sue them. They will go bankrupt.
Any family would have to sit down and start cutting their budget. That might mean moving to a smaller house or apartment, selling a car, not eating out. They would have to make these changes, no matter how much they didn’t want to. Anything that was not necessary to keep them alive would have to be cut so that they would be able to pay off the debt.
But many in America are loath to see this happen nationally. There have been protests over the proposed de-funding of PBS. Recently, some lawmakers even held a press conference with characters dressed as cartoons from popular PBS series, trying to drum up support to “save these shows.” On the radio, callers have talked about the Republicans “killing Big Bird.”
Killing Big Bird
No one wants to “kill big bird.” These TV shows are important in American culture and life. Many children have learned important things from these programs. But they are just that, TV shows. PBS can go away if need be, and America will go on, children will learn about the alphabet, and people will be forced to go to the opera instead of just watching it on television. People will miss PBS. Maybe the arts will be less supported and there won’t be as many educational TV shows. Everyone would miss PBS. No one likes to reduce spending.
The point is that things must be cut. Some of these things will be government programs that people love, and often count on. There will probably be few if any budget items that no one will miss, in the same way that the fictional family in the previous illustration will probably miss going to the movies and living in their 4 bedroom house. But the truth is that there are very few, if any, government programs that don’t affect anyone in some way. And if any do exist, they aren’t taking up that much of the budget anyway.
When the Democrats walk out of legislatures and hold press conferences with cartoon characters they send a clear message that they are unwilling to do the difficult things that must be done to save the country. They also send a clear message that their political power and fund raising efforts are more important than the good of America. If the country is going to pull itself out of this horrible mess, this kind of budgetary brinkmanship must be avoided at all costs. -Ryan
I recently bought the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD. Together, the people in my household have been watching them one by one. Unbelievably, everyone under my roof have not seen these movies up until now, except for me. I have had to explain how one could not truly understand American culture until a person has seen—no experienced–those movies.
Most Americans have not only seen the Star Wars movies, they have memorized them. But I’ll even take it a step further. Most people have in some way become a part of the Star Wars narrative. They have bought the merchandise, dressed up as a character a time or two, had some sort of light saber battle, and/or had some sort of theater experience.
My Mom was pregnant with me when she saw the first movie. I saw the re-releases at a giant theater in southern California at midnight, where most people were dressed up and reciting the lines with the characters onscreen. Star Wars is a part of my story. It’s in my blood.
The reason why this is compelling is not because 1970’s special effects are still cutting-edge, or because no movies since have come close to that level of dialogue and character development. It is because Star Wars is great narrative, or maybe even the best narrative. That is what compels people to see it. But I’m not just talking about the story on screen. The greatness of the narrative has surprisingly little to do with the plot of the movies themselves.
Yes, the actual story in the movies is great, which is part of what fueled the original success, but there is far more than that. There are the special features-type stories of where the characters came from, how the ships were built, and even how Lucas came up with novel ideas for filming. People knew these stories long before home movies were even around. But beyond that there are stories of “where I first saw…” and memories of all the times that each person somehow interacted with the idea behind Star Wars. Star Wars is not a movies series, or even a brand. Star Wars is a story…and it is all part of our stories. And that is what sets Star Wars apart.
Star Wars is not peculiar in this regard, it is just a great example. There are other movies, TV shows, books, and even events. Nor is this a new phenomenon. What is new is how communications technologies have transformed the popular consciousness and ways of processing information to make this concept of narrative far more important than ever before.
The Revolution in Culture
But the same point about movies is true about companies, products, and political candidates. Truly, the world is nearing the end of a revolution in communication, a revolution that has changed very fundamental parts of the way people think and act, and ultimately is very good. But, like any revolution, those who can’t evolve and those who refuse to understand will be left far behind.
You can see the revolution all around you. You see it when you realize that movie blockbusters get people to wait in line for hours to sit through a brief film that won’t affect their lives all that much, while no one waits in line to hear a sermon on Sunday morning. People flock to Lady Gaga concerts, when no one would suggest that she is the best musician on the scene. But beyond these examples, the viral videos and memes of the Internet all become part of the lingua franca of our culture. The evening news reports of riots in Egypt have been largely replaced by youtube videos and tweets of the average people there. Story has become not only the message, but the way that messages are communicated, and the way they are absorbed.
Why is this the case? It is because people crave the narrative. People think in story. A good story will draw people much better than a sermon about “3 ways to be a better dad.” People love the narrative of Lady Gaga much more than her music. Story motivates, enthralls, and ultimately inspires action. And it is this concept that will either be a key to success for future leaders and motivators, or guarantee failure in the new social setting of the 21st century.
The 2008 Election
This is why people like Barak Obama and even Sarah Palin have seen success in the last few years. The election of 2008 was a lock for Obama long before any votes were actually cast. It had nothing to do with race, or even hatred of Bush. It was really all due to one simple fact: Barak had a compelling narrative that people felt a part of, and McCain had none.
Remember the election? Barak Obama stood for hope and change. He stood for people chanting “Yes we can!” He was the mixed-race son of an immigrant. He talked a lot about what he believed and what we could achieve, and seldom talked about how we could do it. What was his economic plan? What was his health care plan? How was he going to extricate us from Iraq and win in Afghanistan?
This isn’t to put him down. It wasn’t that he didn’t have a plan, or even that his plan wasn’t any good. Those issues don’t matter to his success, and didn’t matter to those voting for him in the election. He wasn’t elected on his ideas. He was elected on his narrative. That is also the reason why people react to criticism of Obama with such rabid ferocity. To attack his idea is to attack the narrative, and the narrative is not just his story, it is theirs. That is why they wear his face on T-shirts, buy magazines and books with him on the cover, and give him Nobel Peace prizes before he’d accomplished anything.
What was McCain’s narrative? He actually has a great one. He’s a warrior from Vietnam who spent years being abused in a POW camp. He is also a long time warrior with results in the Senate. But during the election, he suppressed all of that in order to focus on the whats and hows of the issues. When the recession hit hard, he suspended his campaign to come up with ideas to fix it. That was very admirable, but it further removed him from the story. Further, although the memory of Vietnam is still rather fresh for many Baby Boomers, it is not the narrative of the last 20+ years, and it certainly could not have been the central narrative of the 2008 election.
When election day came, people did one of three things. Some voted for Sarah Palin’s narrative. They marked McCain’s name, but it was the narrative of Sarah Palin that motivated them (look at the polling for McCain before and after her entry to the scene). Some voted against Barak Obama, for one reason of another. But many more than either of those two groups joined in the Obama narrative. Barak won decisively.
Narrative in 2010
In the 2010 election, the story was reversed. The narrative now was all about a “Tea Party.” New leaders had arisen, talking about fiscal responsibility, and tying their stories to the story of the founding of the country. They adopted the American story as their own, and called people back to the ideas that America was originally built on.
Speakers for the Conservative movement started talking about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Constitution. The message was pretty simple, American exceptionalism as a kind of gospel, the Founding Fathers as apostles and martyrs, and the Tea Party leaders as evangelists of this new gospel.
Average Americans were showing up at rallies and speeches, joining the new narrative with their own. No longer was the message about what one was being told by Rush Limbaugh. Now people were calling Rush Limbaugh to tell what happened in their city, and they were posting photos on Facebook and hash-tagging it on Twitter. The Mainstream media and liberal commentators were trying to stop it by using terms like “Tea-baggers,” but they were playing into the very hands of the movement. They were simply adopting the narrative.
The Democrats had no counter. They had no narrative. Health care reform had passed. They were in charge. There was no compelling story to sell, and no story was told. The base was barely engaged in the election. Even Liberal veterans in states like California were afraid, and digging their claws in to hold on.
The election was a landslide. The story was believed and it motivated people to go to the polls and vote for their favorite story that now included them. The incredible momentum of 2 years ago now seemed like a political eternity.
He Who Tells the Story…
Narrative is now the main force in American politics. In a way it always has been, but now the image-makers and strategists cannot ignore it. The winners of elections and the leaders with true influence will be the ones who control the narrative, and even more importantly include the average voter in that storyline. The money and power of elections will be not the ones who spend the most on TV ads and bumper stickers, but the ones who leverage social media, viral video, and who tell the most compelling story.
This is because these media are where the narrative is being communicated, and further where the whole tale goes viral, where it joins with the people’s own story. Facebook for instance, will not be nearly as important as just another type of billboard or position statement, but as a way to interact, and hand the baton of the story off to the community. Successful leaders must think conversation more than TV ad. For when Sarah Palin puts up a message on Facebook, people hear it. But when someone comments on the message she just put up, in a real way now they feel as though they have entered into the conversation with Sarah Palin, and their friends are all now included.
This is not to say that money on print and TV ads will not be important. On the contrary, those who don’t get their story told to the biggest possible audiences will have no ability to control the narrative or include others in it. Nor does the focus on social media mean that money can simply be thrown into these technologies in the same way that they are thrown into TV and print.
The real center of power, and money-making potential will be in crafting the narrative and handling the exchange between one way communication and conversation. The challenge will be in making the message become a story, and making the candidate’s story become the people’s story. And the ability to control and manage that narrative will be the difference between the future John McCains and the Barak Obamas. -Ryan
For further research on this, watch this incredible lecture by Simon Senek on Ted.com
The following is a reprint of an article published by Ryan Shinn in his channel on Examiner.com
This year the keep Christ in Christmas debate has heated up anew with First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor, Robert Jeffress, new website listing businesses that are refusing to acknowledge Christmas. He has appeared on Fox News as well as local news outlets discussing this apparently controversial site.
The current debate seems to have three sides, those who support Jeffress for taking a stand on this issue, secularists who are attacking Jeffress for various reasons, and Christians who think the whole debate is distracting from the purpose of Christmas.
Eric Wallace’s blog, The Unwasted Life, summarizes this last perspective quite well with a list of reasons why Jeffress is off-base. Yet while Eric makes very good points about why Christians should not take part in this debate at all, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.
Most of the anti-Jeffress discussion falls into three basic categories. The first is that while Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, it has always been primarily a secular holiday with most of its elements derived from pagan sources that have little to do with the actual birth of Christ. People have pointed out that elements such as Christmas trees do not have Christian beginnings, but most of these things were adopted by early Christian missionaries as cultural touch points used to relate the gospel to the people’s pagan traditions. This sort of evolution is happening currently with Halloween. Many churches celebrate the holiday as a Harvest Festival and exchange the day’s original purpose with a Christ-centered message.
The second attack is that Christians have no business getting involved with political debates that play into the hands of the secularists. The problem with this argument is that it misses the point entirely. Many Christians are simply tired of the expectation that they will spend a lot of money for gifts at stores that refuse to even mention Christmas. The message is, “give us money while we disrespect you.” Many Christians are responding with their dollars. This is not as much a sign of protest, but capitalist democracy.
Finally, they attack Jeffress directly for more controversial statements he has made, particularly regarding homosexuals and Muslims. This is not surprising. When people have little of value to say in defense of their positions, they often resort to ad hominem attacks. Whether Jeffress is against homosexuality or Islam, or kills puppies, it has no bearing on this issue. -Ryan
A Busy Week in the Newsroom
For connoisseurs of news and politics, the flurry of activity this week has been thrilling. There have been assassinations in Iran, countries in the EU going bankrupt, and another little scandal brought on by a website called Wikileaks.org. Over the last day and a half, the US has also willingly revealed some rather embarrassing information about the actions of the Federal Reserve Bank over the last few years.
On Wednesday the Federal Reserve revealed new information about the recipients of the money given in 2008 and 2009 in order to bail out businesses and banks under TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program). The information also indicated dollar amounts the bank has given. According to The Washington Post, the Fed essentially loaned GE $16 billion, Harley Davidson $2.3 billion, and Verizon $1.5 billion. None of this was publicly known prior to Wednesday’s announcement. This new information is serious and troubling, as partly indicated by its placement on the front page of many newspapers and top-red status on the Drudgereport.
This federal candor brings to the surface some serious questions. Why would the government choose to release such scandalous information at this time, when they are already embarrassed by the current leak of information? Further, what do they stand to gain through this level of disclosure? Finally, how could government funds allocated to some of the largest companies in the US, totaling $3.3 trillion go unnoticed by any of the nation’s news outlets until now, and what does that mean about the state of American journalism?
Candor in the Fed
Time almost always clarifies questions such as these, but at this moment Wikileaks appears to be more the impetus behind this Fed announcement than merely tangential to it. Wikileaks has been a constant thorn in the side of the US government over the past several years, as it has revealed increasingly damaging and embarrassing classified information about the government’s secret activities. This week, they began publishing 251,287 classified US diplomatic cables on their website. While this document dump is possibly less damaging than some previous leaks, it is very embarrassing for the US.
But what appears to be even more significant is the website’s claim to be on the verge of releasing information on “a major bank that is still in existence,” according to a Reuters report. Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange has declined to announce the name of this bank. So people are guessing. Prognosticators are placing their money on Bank of America. They might be wrong.
Of course there could be other reasons for The Fed’s recent disclosure, but it appears likely that they are assuming that the next Wikileaks disclosure (set for January) will target the Federal Reserve Bank itself. This would make sense. In order to stay relevant, Wikileaks is under pressure to have increasingly major leaks to share. It is not clear what vendetta the site has against the United States (if it is not simply about freedom of information—which seems doubtful), but it is clear that the site is focused more on government actions than it is on business corruption. Sharing secret bank documents would be somewhat out of the site’s typical MO.
If the Fed assumes that the next leak is to be about them (whether it actually is or not), it would make sense for them to dump this information while there is already so much political embarrassment on the table. The chances that the banking information will get lost in the glut of news are much greater, and it takes away power from Wikileaks disclosures, lessening the impact. If the Fed is wrong on this guess, they will be playing into Assange’s strategy quite nicely, however. The Fed must assume that this information cannot be hidden forever, and now could be as good a time as any to release it while it must compete for front page status.
A Blind Press
One question that doesn’t appear to be answerable at the moment is, how in the world did the entire US free press miss $3.3 trillion in unreported aid sent to major American businesses? That much money does not get hidden very easily, even in an economy the size of the United States. One might understand how money sent to GE, which owns NBC and affiliated news outlets, might have suppressed this inside their newsrooms, but how the news could have escaped every competing outlet and the blogosphere is simply astounding. Perhaps the American free press should be more embarrassed about this disclosure than the Federal Reserve Bank and the US government.
Many answers to these riddles will have to wait until after January. But the American public should expect more self-disclosures by the US, and possibly American banks, and further world tension involving Wikileaks. December and January should be quite exciting. -Ryan