Instead of getting distracted, drive the narrative


Puerto Rico devastation from Hurricane Maria

Back in February 2011, we published Messaging Maxim #1: Go On Offense. Perhaps some folks need a refresher course. In that post, we wrote, “If you’re fighting a political battle on the other side’s rhetorical turf, you’ve already lost.” At the time, such advice was referring to phony cultural issues like “Ground Zero Mosque” and “is President Obama a Muslim?” that Republicans had ginned up and repeated everywhere they could (see Messaging Maxim #2: Rinse and Repeat). With their herd mentality, the mainstream media then picked up these issues and focused their broadcasts, cablecasts and column space on them.

Fast forward to today. Donald Trump and the Republicans are doing the same thing again, and it’s working. Currently, the phony cultural issues are: “Kneeling NFL Players” and “Harvey Weinstein.” To those, you can add, “NBC and CNN Licenses.” By next week, expect different cultural issues.

Why do Republicans, especially Donald Trump in this case, constantly bring up such cultural issues? The answer is simple: First, they are tossing out red meat to get the GOP base riled up, which leads to more Republican funds raised and more Republican voting at election time. Second, focusing on such cultural issues is a great distraction from things that Trump and the Republicans are not doing too well, including:

  • Trump’s record low approval rating.
  • Job losses under Trump, for the first time after an record 80 consecutive months of job gains started by President Obama and continuing through his presidency.
  • The ongoing disaster in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Indeed, Trump now says FEMA and the U.S. military should wind down its assistance to Puerto Rico after just three weeks, even though the situation is dire and people are dying from disease due to the lack of water, food, shelter, electricity and sanitation.
  • The National Rifle Association‘s enabling of terrorists in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
  • The investigation into Russia‘s interference in the U.S. 2016 elections on behalf of Trump and against Hillary Clinton.
  • Republican climate change denial in the face of more and more natural disasters such as the California fires.
  • Trump’s and the GOP’s attempts to take away our healthcare.

So what can Democrats do to avoid such Culture War distractions? They can help drive the narrative. This means focusing on the issues they want to talk about, whether at the dinner table, on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as writing posts or comments on blogs and websites. It also means contacting or commenting to mainstream media outlets like NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, Fox News, CNN, major newspapers and others to let them know what serious issues you believe need more in-depth coverage.

It is clear that the mainstream media are unable to exercise proper editorial judgment when it comes to what stories to cover, and how much time to spend covering them. With all the personal and social media choices now available, it’s up to everyday Americans to become their own news editors and broadcasters, and pick up the slack.

Photo by Jean Bosco SIBOMANA, used under Creative Commons license.

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