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The Rise of the Thought Leader

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David Sessions writes in the New Republic:

Writing in one of Mussolini’s prisons in the 1930s, the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci jotted down the fragments that would become his theory of intellectuals. New classes, like the European bourgeoisie after the Industrial Revolution, he proposed, brought with them their own set of thinkers, which he called “organic intellectuals”—theorists, technicians, and administrators, who became their “functionaries” in a new society. Unlike “traditional intellectuals” who held positions in the old class structure, organic intellectuals helped the bourgeoisie establish its ideas as the invisible, unquestioned conventional wisdom circulating in social institutions.

Today, Gramsci’s theory has been largely overlooked in the ongoing debate over the supposed decline of the “public intellectual” in America. Great minds, we are told, no longer captivate the public as they once did, because the university is too insular and academic thinking is too narrow. Such laments frequently cite Russell Jacoby’s The Last Intellectuals (1987), which complained about the post-1960s professionalization of academia and waxed nostalgic for the bohemian, “independent” intellectuals of the earlier twentieth century. Writers like the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof attribute this sorry state of affairs to the culture of Ph.D. programs, which, Kristof claims, have glorified “arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” If academics cannot bring their ideas to a wider readership, these familiar critiques imply, it is because of the academic mindset itself.

In his book The Ideas Industry, the political scientist and foreign policy blogger Daniel W. Drezner broadens the focus to include the conditions in which ideas are formed, funded, and expressed. Describing the public sphere in the language of markets, he argues that three major factors have altered the fortunes of today’s intellectuals: the evaporation of public trust in institutions, the polarization of American society, and growing economic inequality. He correctly identifies the last of these as the most important: the extraordinary rise of the American superrich, a class interested in supporting a particular genre of “ideas.”

The rich have, Drezner writes, empowered a new kind of thinker—the “thought leader”—at the expense of the much-fretted-over “public intellectual.” Whereas public intellectuals like Noam Chomsky or Martha Nussbaum are skeptical and analytical, thought leaders like Thomas Friedman and Sheryl Sandberg “develop their own singular lens to explain the world, and then proselytize that worldview to anyone within earshot.” While public intellectuals traffic in complexity and criticism, thought leaders burst with the evangelist’s desire to “change the world.” Many readers, Drezner observes, prefer the “big ideas” of the latter to the complexity of the former. In a marketplace of ideas awash in plutocrat cash, it has become “increasingly profitable for thought leaders to hawk their wares to both billionaires and a broader public,” to become “superstars with their own brands, sharing a space previously reserved for moguls, celebrities, and athletes.”

Drezner does his best to take an objective view of the thought leader as a new kind of intellectual who fulfills a function different from that of the public intellectual, though an equally legitimate one. “It is surely noteworthy,” he writes, optimistically, “that a strong demand has emerged for new ideas and vibrant ways of thinking about the world.” But he seems to portray this thirst for new ideas as a positive development even while conceding that the ideas currently thirsted for are at best shallow and banal, at worst deeply anti-democratic, and at times outright fraudulent.

The case against thought leaders, The Ideas Industry shows, is damning. As Drezner notes, some of the marquee names in thought leadership are distinguished by their facile thinking and transparent servility to the wealthy. The biggest idea in Thomas Friedman’s best-known book, The World Is Flat, is, Drezner summarizes, that “to thrive in the global economy, one needs to be ‘special,’ a unique brand like Michael Jordan.” It is more of a marketing principle than a philosophical insight. But “businessmen adore Friedman’s writings on how technology and globalization transform the global economy,” Drezner explains, because his message reinforces their worldview.

Like Friedman, thought leaders Parag and Ayesha Khanna proclaim the world-historical power of technological innovation, preaching that technology with a capital “T” is replacing economics and geopolitics as the engine of global change. As Evgeny Morozov has observed, Parag Khanna believes that “democracy might be incompatible with globalization and capitalism,” arguing that we should thus embrace authoritarian, Chinese-style capitalism. In his own review of Khanna’s Connectography, Drezner characterized his thinking as “globaloney” and likened his prose style to “a TED talk on a recursive loop.”

Drezner traces how the pursuit of money in the new corporate ideas industry—through television shows, high-dollar speeches, and lavish book advances—pushes thought leaders to bloat their expertise and hustle in so many markets that they end up selling fakes. The most notorious example is Fareed Zakaria, the CNN host and columnist who has been caught lifting passages from other writers to feed his multiplatform output. Similarly, the historian Niall Ferguson leapt headlong into brand-building: crafting books intended as scripts for TV series, giving lucrative speeches, and writing for a dizzying array of publications. Like other overstretched thought leaders, Ferguson landed in trouble when his Newsweek cover story on President Obama in 2012 turned out to be riddled with errors and misleading claims. Interviewed for The Ideas Industry, Ferguson is frank about his transformation from Oxford don to thought leader: “I did it all for the money.”

Despite Drezner’s impatience with the delusions of thought leaders, he shrinks from the darker implications of his evidence. When it comes time to render a verdict on whether the Ideas Industry is “working,” he conjures an economic metaphor: “For good and ill, the modern marketplace of ideas strongly resembles modern financial markets. Usually, the system works. On occasion, however, there can be asset bubbles.”

Nowhere is the inadequacy of this metaphor more evident than in his case study of the rise and fall of Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s theory of “disruptive innovation.” Christensen proposed that “disrupters”—companies that upend their industries with new technologies and business models—gain a competitive advantage over companies that grow by gradually improving their product. Airbnb might be considered a disrupter in the hotel industry, for instance, since it has grown rapidly by attracting a large base of users who rent their homes to guests, instead of acquiring and operating hotels. The idea of “disruptive innovation” caught fire in Silicon Valley, Drezner argues, because it “conformed to a plutocratic worldview in which success favors the bold, risk-taking entrepreneur.” Atop this enthusiasm, Christensen built a lucrative brand, producing eight books and founding the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard, his own consulting company, and a boutique investment firm.

In 2014, however, nearly two decades after Christensen debuted disruptive innovation in the Harvard Business Review, historian Jill Lepore eviscerated the theory in a widely read essay in The New Yorker. Lepore found that Christensen’s case studies were ambiguous and overblown: Seagate Technology, a company that was supposed to have been “felled by disruption,” had in fact thrived, doubling its sales the year after Christensen ended his study. Disruptive companies whose successes he heralded had meanwhile gone out of business. Lepore’s essay prompted an even more damning critique of Christensen in MIT Sloan Management Review, and sparked a backlash in Silicon Valley. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 July 2017 at 11:15 am

Tucker Carlson Is Doing Something Extraordinary

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A very interesting article in the Atlantic by Peter Beinart:

Over the last two nights, something fascinating has broken out on the Tucker Carlson show: A genuine, and exceedingly bitter, debate between conservatives on foreign policy. On Tuesday, Carlson told retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters he thought the U.S. should team up with Russia to defeat ISIS. Peters responded that, “You sound like Charles Lindbergh in 1938.” Carlson called that comment “grotesque” and “insane.”

Then, on Wednesday night, Carlson told the Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow, and former Mitt Romney adviser, Max Boot, that he opposed overthrowing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and didn’t see Russia as a serious threat. Boot responded by accusing him of being a “cheerleader” for Moscow and Tehran. Carlson called that comment “grotesque” too. And declared, “This is why nobody takes you seriously.”

In his vicious and ad hominem way, Carlson is doing something extraordinary: He’s challenging the Republican Party’s hawkish orthodoxy in ways anti-war progressives have been begging cable hosts to do for years. For more than a decade, liberals have rightly grumbled that hawks can go on television espousing new wars without being held to account for the last ones. Not on Carlson’s show. When Peters called him an apologist for Vladimir Putin, Carlson replied, “I would hate to go back and read your columns assuring America that taking out Saddam Hussein will make the region calmer, more peaceful, and America safer.” When Boot did the same, Carlson responded that Boot had been so “consistently wrong in the most flagrant and flamboyant way for over a decade” in his support for wars in the Middle East that “maybe you should choose another profession, selling insurance, house painting, something you’re good at.”

On Iran, Carlson made an argument that was considered too dovish for even mainstream Democrats to raise during the debate over the nuclear deal: He questioned whether Tehran actually endangers the United States. He told Peters that “[w]e actually don’t face any domestic threat from Iran.” And he asked Boot to “tell me how many Americans in the United States have been murdered by terrorists backed by Iran since 9/11?”

Most importantly, Carlson is saying something pundits, especially conservative ones, rarely say on television: that America must prioritize. Since the George W. Bush years, conservative politicians and pundits have demanded that the United States become more aggressive everywhere. They’ve insisted that America confront China, Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, the Taliban, ISIS, and al-Qaeda, all at the same time. Strategically, that’s absurd. Because America’s power is limited, its goals must be too. Foreign policy involves tradeoffs. Carlson acknowledges that. “How many wars can we fight at once?” he asked Peters. “How many people can we be in opposition to at once?” He told Boot that, “In a world full of threats, you create a hierarchy of them. You decide which is the worst and you go down the list.”

His nastiness notwithstanding, Carlson is offering a glimpse into what Fox News would look like as an intellectually interesting network. He’s moderating a debate between the two strands of thinking that have dominated conservative foreign policy for roughly a century. On foreign policy, what has long united conservatives is their emphasis on sovereignty—their contempt for Woodrow Wilson’s vision of international law and global community. But some conservatives oppose restraints on American sovereignty primarily because they want the U.S. to impose its will on other countries. (Think Dick Cheney.) Other conservatives oppose those restraints primarily because they want to prevent other countries from imposing their will on the United States. (Think Ron Paul.)

For over a century, conservative interventionists and conservative anti-interventionists have taken turns at the helm of the American right. In the 1920s, after Wilson failed to bring America into the League of Nations, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge—perhaps the two most conservative presidents of the 20th century—steadfastly avoided military entanglements in Europe. But after World War II, William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, and others argued that anti-communism now required confronting the USSR around the world. While conservatives in the 1930s had generally attacked Franklin Roosevelt as too interventionist, conservatives from the 1950s through the 1980s generally attacked Democrats as not interventionist enough.

When the Cold War ended, the pendulum swung again. Pat Buchanan led a revival of conservative anti-interventionism. The biggest foreign policy complaint of Republican politicians during the 1990s was that Bill Clinton’s humanitarian interventions were threatening American sovereignty by too deeply entangling the United States with the UN.

Then came September 11, which like Pearl Harbor and the onset of the Cold War, led the right to embrace foreign wars.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2017 at 8:30 pm

Trump speaks to White House reporters off the record, then wonders why it wasn’t published

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President Trump seems to have a thinking problem. Eric Wemple writes in the Washington Post:

Word came down from White House reporters that President Trump hung out with reporters for more than an hour as Air Force One flew to Paris for a Bastille Day celebration.

Off-the-record conversation with Trump, huh? Somehow the president greenlighted an on-the-record chat this week with Pat Robertson, he of “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network. “We are the most powerful country in the world and we are getting more and more powerful because I’m a big military person,” Trump told Robertson as part of an explanation as to why Russian President Vladimir Putin would have preferred to have Hillary Clinton in the White House. And Trump also made some on-the-record time for Reuters.

Switching to an off-the-record footing on an Air Force One flight doesn’t distance Trump from predecessors. President Barack Obama did the same thing. And an aide to President Bill Clinton stipulated that one of his Air Force One bull sessions with journalists proceed on “psych-background.” Trump will take some questions from the media during an appearance with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Yet there can be no equivalence here. Trump has gone four months without a formal solo news conference, while dispersing thoughts about the “fake news” media being the “enemy” of the people; his aides have crippled the White House press briefing by banning cameras and prohibiting real-time audio; he and his people continue attempting to discredit the news media, yet love to cite it when the news is good; and Republican operatives are reportedly contemplating another level of anti-media operations.

So why would Trump while away 70 minutes with this hateful crowd? Because, in the words of a former tabloid reporter who covered Trump, chatting with media types “offer[s] so many opportunities for him to gaze at the person he loves most.”

And it appears that Trump enjoyed his own remarks enough to wonder why they weren’t being published. A pool report from Maggie Haberman of the New York Times — who is writing pool reports on Trump’s France visit — raises the question as to whether this is the first time in U.S. history that a president has sought to move off-the-record remarks to an on-the-record basis: “POTUS asked your pooler why she didn’t use what he has said last night. Your pooler reminded him last night was off the record. POTUS asked if I had heard him say it could be on-record; your pooler replied truthfully no (co-poolers also were not under impression it was on-record, since Sarah Sanders had declared it off record).”

Update: Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells the Erik Wemple Blog via email: “The conversation was off the record but we are going to put out excerpts of the conversation.” That’s a strange pledge. Did the White House record the off-the-record session? Isn’t it the job of journalists to publish the interview? And how will the journalists agree to publish only excerpts? That would appear to resemble the much-dreaded practice of quote approval.

We have a president whose relationship to reality is strained.


Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2017 at 11:59 am

One reason Trump sends tweets in the early hours of morning

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Bradley Eversley offers an answer on Quora on 4 May 2017:

The number 1 reason why Donald Trump tweets extremely controversial things, especially mostly early in the morning is to get the media to jump on it right away. Doing so pushes bad press out of the front page and into limbo, quickly to be diluted by the massive amounts of coverage on his often unfounded claims. And he does so super early in the morning so the news can spread from the East Coast to the West as people start to wake up. This is not some master plan here, it’s basic media manipulation. Being in high value business for decades, and having been the topic of countless New York Times articles since before I was ever even born, Trump knows how to work the media, and they will fall for it every time, no exceptions. When a journalist comes in the office in the morning ready to write his piece on Trump’s possible Russia ties, an article that is likely to bring in tens of thousands of reads, his supervisor tells him to hold off on that story and cover Trump’s dumb tweet, we have to jump on that NOW, people need to know this claim has no evidence and that he can’t be trusted.

Think about it logically here, you are given two options, have a progressively increasing number of Americans following your possible conflicts of interest, that could lead to a huge investigation if enough people are backing it, or be called a liar? Trump is simply choosing the lesser of two evils. Everything is so wishy washy, he knows he won’t ever be objectively be labeled as a liar because he will always have his supporters to defend him.

So what’s a good rule of thumb? Anytime Trump tweets a huge, obviously false claim, take a look at what the news has been saying about him and his circle for the past few days before that. This happens every single time and it suprises me how people gobble it up. 3 million voters, Chinese hoaxes, and now Obama wiretapping, etc. The media can defeat this if they either ignore his false claims, or explicitly call out his claims as distractions to his recent coverage. I mean if ABC, CNN, NYT, Washington Post, etc all had headlines that stated, “Trump attempts to distract media from Russian investigation by making false claims about….” Only if it’s proven to be false. Otherwise let’s just leave it as a little side story we cover for 20 seconds then on to other news. Trumps controversial tweets should only be heavily covered if irrefutable evidence is provided alongside them. The good news is, Trump is quickly realizing that, as President, his words have 20x more power and are taken very, very seriously by those in Government. One tweet can send thousands of federal workers into overtime-filled, sleepless nights calling sources, sending countless emails, checking databases and files, endless meetings, you get the idea. I reckon he did not anticipate a simple lie would have the right people fact checking him. It’s kind of like when you told your mom you did your homework even though you know you didn’t, so she takes your lie at face value, calling your friends over so you can help them with the same homework, then calling your teacher to advise them that you’re helping half the students in her class with that homework. Then she puts together a study group so all of you can go through each problem step by step, using your finished homework as an example. Then she takes you to get a McDonald’s ice cream cone for completing your homework with integrity…All the while, you haven’t so much as stroked a scratch of lead on that paper. You keep asking yourself, when will it finally die down, that way you don’t have to continually build lie upon lie to support the original, but you know one thing is for certain, you will NEVER admit to your mom you lied, not even when she finally sees that blank paper.

I think the biggest mistake people make is thinking that Donald Trump is stupid. So naturally, they attribute any and all of his actions and words to just being an idiot and relegate it down to lack of critical thought. You can be intelligent, yet still be dumb. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He has roughly average intelligence, but he has extreme beliefs which cloud his moral standing and analytical skills deeply.

I encourage everyone reading this to watch this video by Nerdwriter (one of the most analytical minds on Youtube in my opinion) explaining the above about how well Trump knows how to use sleight of hand with your attention. “Magician-in-Chief”.

And also:

Written by LeisureGuy

1 July 2017 at 7:36 pm

Trump won, and Amy Siskind started a list of changes. Now it’s a sensation.

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Margaret Sullivan writes in the Washington Post:

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, Amy Siskind took one of her occasional trips to Val-Kill, the Upstate New York home of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

“I needed a Zen moment,” Siskind, who had campaigned for Hillary Clinton, told me. “And that is a place that inspires me.”

Soon afterward, Siskind began keeping what she calls the Weekly List, tracking all the ways in which she saw America’s taken-for-granted governmental norms changing in the Trump era.

The project started small, read by friends and with only a few items a week.

By Week 9, though, the list had gone viral.

“It blew up — I had 2 million views that week,” she said. “People were responding like crazy, saying things like, ‘I’m praying for you.’ ”

As time went on, the list grew much longer and more sophisticated. Here are three of her 85 items from mid-June:

●“Monday, in a bizarre display in front of cameras, Trump’s cabinet members took turns praising him.”

●“AP reported that a company that partners with both Trump and (son-in-law) Jared Kushner is a finalist for a $1.7bn contract to build the new FBI building.

●Vice President Pence hired a big-name “lawyer with Watergate experience to represent him in the Russian probe.”

Now, in Week 32, every item has a source link, and rather than just a few items, there are dozens. (Her weekly audience usually hits hundreds of thousands, she said, on platforms including Medium,Facebook and Twitter.)

The idea, she said, came from her post-election reading about how authoritarian governments take hold — often with incremental changes that seem shocking at first but quickly become normalized. Each post begins with: “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.”

She’s not the only one to have this idea; on Twitter, for example, designer Laura Olin created @_rememberbot, where frequent tweets begin with the words “It is not normal” and catalogue the oddities of TrumpWorld. (“It is not normal for U.S. presidents to criticize federal judges.”)

But Siskind may be the most dogged and systematic. One follower even made a searchable database of her lists.

“It’s scary to look back on the early weeks and see what we’ve already gotten used to,” she said. Examples: a secretary of state who rarely speaks publicly, the failure to fill important positions in many agencies, a president who often eschews intelligence briefings in favor of “Fox & Friends.”

“We forget all the things we should be outraged about,” Siskind said.

Jay Rosen, a New York University journalism professor and author of the PressThink blog, called Siskind’s efforts “a service that is thoroughly journalistic and much needed.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 June 2017 at 3:54 pm

The problem with living in an information bubble: On Fox News, the first rule of the Senate health care bill is not to talk about it

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You can see the reason that Trump supporters are fed a constant stream of instructions—to avoid mainstream media, don’t read mainstream media, mainstream media lies, you can’t trust what you read in mainstream media, you can only trust Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Alex Jones, Fox News, your eyes are growing heavy, and you feel sleepy, ….

So with the GOP Senate healthcare bills that cuts Medicaid, which exists to help the poor with their medical expenses, a cut made purely so that the very wealthy can have even more money, the people most affected are kept in the dark, locked in the basement by the instructions never to look at or trust any other source of information.

It’s amazingly blatant, and it works, and it’s changing the country—for the worse, IMO.

Jeff Guo writes at Vox:

How do you defend an effort like the Senate’s new health care bill, which neither repeals nor replaces Obamacare, but merely loots it to deliver tax breaks to the rich? By the president’s own standards, the bill fails to deliver: There would be higher, not lower premiums, and cuts to Medicaid. Instead of “insurance for everybody” there would be insurance for millions of fewer Americans — many of them the same people who elected the president.

So how do you spin a bill that seems un-spinnable? The answer, if you’re Fox News, is that you don’t. You deflect, you distract, and if necessary, you bend the truth. Above all, you hope that people care more about the politics than the policy.

According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Trump voters named Fox News as their primary source of information about current events. But if you were watching Fox News last night, you wouldn’t have learned much at all about an impending piece of legislation that could upend your life. You wouldn’t understand anything about it expect that liberals hate it and the president sees it as a victory.

Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity could scarcely find time to discuss this major piece of legislation in between segments on Nancy Pelosi, Chinese dog meat, and “leftist rage.” When they did get around to talking about health care, they spent more time reviewing their complaints about Obamacare than discussing the new bill.

Hannity chatted briefly with Health Secretary Tom Price, who described the bill as offering “greater choices” for patients before pivoting to the demerits of Obamacare — a visibly more comfortable subject. Carlson did not discuss the bill at all. Instead he played a 90-second clipof Trump describing Obamacare as “virtually out of business.”

On The Five, a roundtable talk show, the pundits did devote a substantial amount of time — 10 minutes — to what they described as the “SENATE HEALTH CARE SHOWDOWN.” But the framing was entirely political. Instead of talking about what the bill would do, they talked about the bill’s chances of making it through Congress.

“Democrats won’t even come to the table,” said Jesse Watters.

Greg Gutfeld complained about the group of disabled protesters who were arrested outside Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s office yesterday. “They’re staging these die-ins” he exclaimed. “Because ‘Republicans kill people’ — that’s what we do. Isn’t that the inflammatory language we were talking about,” he said, referencing the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise last Thursday. (Nobody remembered that the GOP used the specter of “death panels” to rally resistance to Obamacare.)

The crew then began to fantasize about what it would mean for the president if this bill were to pass.

“Health care passes, tax reform gets teed up, the economy starts jamming again,” Watters mused. “This could be a turning point.”

“Yes, in theory, you could actually get there” said Dana Perino, a former press secretary for President George W. Bush. “But the next two weeks, they are not going to be smooth.”

Juan Williams, the token liberal, was the only person who brought up substantive details about the new Republican bill. “This is going to drive the premiums and costs for working people who come to the hospital,” he said. “What about the elderly, Jesse? The people we all have sympathy for?”

“They are all going to die, according to the liberals,” Gutfeld mocked.

“You forgot the children dying of cancer,” deadpanned Kimberly Guilfoyle, who was at one point rumored to be a possible replacement for Sean Spicer as the president’s press secretary.

A simple way to distinguish the press from public relations is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2017 at 2:32 pm

The new levers of power are in the hands of the public

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Very interesting power shift. Farhad Manjoo writes in the NY Times:

Until last week, Travis Kalanick, a founder of Uber and its chief executive, ruled his company absolutely. That was the Silicon Valley way; ever since Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple in the 1980s, tech founders have demanded, and been awarded, enormous deference by investors and corporate boards. So even as successive waves of scandal have hit Uber, Mr. Kalanick’s position looked safe.

Then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t. Amid many reforms, Mr. Kalanick announced a leave of absence last week and late Tuesday said he was resigning as Uber C.E.O.

It is the swiftness of the fall that’s interesting here. In another time, Mr. Kalanick might have been able to hang on. But we live in an era dominated by the unyielding influence of social feeds. Every new Uber revelation ignited a massive campaign against the company on Twitter and Facebook. A swirl of negative branding took on a life of its own — and ultimately could not be ignored.

The story is bigger than Uber. Online campaigns against brands have become one of the most powerful forces in business, giving customers a huge megaphone with which to shape corporate ethics and practices, and imperiling some of the most towering figures of media and industry. Look at how quickly Bill O’Reilly, the former Fox News host, was dispatched from the network after The New York Times dug into his history of sexual harassment settlements. The investigation inspired an online boycott against his advertisers, who, despite Mr. O’Reilly’s soaring ratings, began to drop him faster than day-old beef tartare.

But the effects of these campaigns go beyond business. In a nation where politics have grown pitched and sclerotic, fighting brands online suddenly feels like the most effective political action many of us can take. Posting a hashtag — #deleteUber, for instance, or #grabyourwallet — and threatening to back it up by withholding dollars can bring about a much quicker, more visible change in the world than, say, calling your representative.

Brand-focused online activism can work for every political side, too: Don’t like a New York theater company’s Trump-tinged production of Shakespeare in the Park? There’s a boycott for you, and Delta and Bank of America will give in.

Yet the mechanics of social media suggest it will be the cultural and political left, more than the right, that might win the upper hand with this tactic — especially when harnessing the power of brands to fight larger battles for racial and gender equality, as in the Uber and Fox News cases.

“Women and people of color have gravitated to social media and were early adopters of it,” said Shannon Coulter, a marketing consultant who co-founded Grab Your Wallet, a campaign aimed at urging retailers to stop selling Trump-branded products. “Social media is actually a lever for social justice. It’s a way of leveling the playing field.”

To see why, we must first understand why brands are suddenly more vulnerable to consumer sentiment than they once were. It all comes down to one thing: Social media is the new TV.

In the era when television shaped mainstream consumer sentiment, companies enjoyed enormous power to alter their image through advertising. Then came the internet, which didn’t kill advertising, but did dilute its power. Brands now have little say over how their messages get chewed up through our social feeds.

Yes, they can run ads on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and everyplace else. But social media elevates consumers over corporate marketing; suddenly what matters isn’t what an ad says about a company, but what your friends think about that company.

It’s no coincidence that the only ads that get talked about these days are those that ignite some kind of social-media outrage — Pepsi’s strange Kendall Jenner commercial, for example, or the Budweiser Super Bowl ad that some viewers took to be a pro-immigration political statement. Just about every cultural sentiment — even what to think about a piece of corporate messaging — comes to you filtered through a social feed.

It’s this loss of power that explains why brands have become so jumpy and reactive. Take the . . .

Continue reading.

One consideration: look at the kind of information bubbles encouraged by people’s natural desire to find agreeable hangouts and created or at least abetted by the algorithms of Facebook and the link. The new social media power is hard to channel, and even very small groups can tap that power and aim it at chosen targets, augmenting their influence and impact, and that’s not always good—cf. gamergate.

Yet, oddly, Congress is able to proceed in directions that almost 2/3 of the American public does not want. Somehow, this social media pressure that works so well on brands does not work so well on Congress. Why is that?


Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2017 at 1:51 pm

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