Center for Citizen Media Rotating Header Image

Obama Goes Around Sound-Bit Media with Complexity

Gene Koo: Obama’s non-reductive rhetoric. The technology to bypass top-down media is one cornerstone of Obama’s success as a communicator. His nonreductive rhetoric is another.

0 Comments on “Obama Goes Around Sound-Bit Media with Complexity”

  1. #1 Brian Robinson
    on Jan 21st, 2009 at 11:21 am

    I’m not sure what the message here is with this Koo post. He is obviously taken with the way the Obama campaign has, and perhaps also the Obama administration will, take its message “to the people”. His obviously positive view of the phrase “end run around the top-down media” tells his preference for this, and also displays a contempt with Mainstream Media (which is how I suppose we must display it, seeing that this is a citizen media site).

    Interesting where we have come to with Obama. He is now the rock-god of the moment, so any oversight as such of his message is not needed, since he is trusted so much that anything he says — or at least that comes out of his media machine — is taken as gospel.

    I don’t dispute the fact that he is more forthcoming and — initially, at least — is seen as more honest than the Bush administration. But give it time. A year or two down the road and we’ll be crying out for more media oversight, be it by the MSM or anyone else. That’s just the nature of the Washington beast. His rhetoric (also interesting that Koo uses that word) will be plenty reductive by then.

  2. #2 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jan 21st, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Gene’s a friend of mine. I think he’s more pro-Obama than anti-Mainstream Media.

    But I’m afraid it’s a common trope that a given political speaker has stellar quality X that allows them to transcend the media filters. Clinton had the ability, as did Reagan, and one could even argue that soundbites helped them. (Without soundbites, people follow more of the media coverage, to figure out what they missed…)

    Or other rhetorical lessons have been drawn. Newt Gingrich claimed that in an article in the revived American Heritage earlier in the the year that it was Reagan’s “fact-and-number laden” speeches that stood him apart.

    “…Reagan intuitively knew that neither the news media nor the academic community was giving the American people the facts. In the few months after he gave one of these speeches, the American people would read and think about them. There were debates and the country gradually would become educated and think differently.

    I have to admit, I was young at the time, so most of what I know about Reagan’s speeches was from Mark Green’s There He Goes Again: Ronald Reagan’s Reign of Error compendium. I certainly welcome anyone a half-generation older to tell me about their experience reading and thinking about the Great Communicator’s speeches for months after he gave them.

    But I digress. If you listen to Obama’s speech directly (as most did on Tuesday), you will get it from him “unfiltered.” But for the next 4 years, people will still mostly hear him through radio/print/blog filters.

  3. #3 Gene Koo
    on Jan 21st, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    I think my larger point has less to do with mainstream media than with what it takes to convey a complex idea to the general population (that it is, to get the general population to want to take the time to absorb a nuanced set of ideas.) (and by “general population” I probably mean “more people than the chattering classes”).

  4. #4 Seth Finkelstein
    on Jan 22nd, 2009 at 4:12 am

    Uh, “Yes, we can”?

  5. #5 Brian Robinson
    on Jan 22nd, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    If the point is to debate what it takes to get nuanced argument over to the general population, I don’t see how you can do without some intervening interpreter (and I prefer that term to filter). And by that I mean the general population as in the broadest possible population, with all that means for level of education on issues, literacy etc.

    Obama is a very good communicator, as was Reagan and Clinton (sad to say I am of an age where I remember them all very clearly). Reagan was a very smooth, folksy communicator, but I don’t remember him being very specific in his arguments (despite what Gingrich says). It often took his underlings to expand on his speeches, and for the press (pro and con) to parse his statements and try to put them into context.

    Perhaps Obama and his team will be different and will find ways to get their message across directly AND clearly AND in context. We’ll see. But I suspect some kind of intepretation/filter will still be needed.

  6. #6 galander
    on Jan 23rd, 2009 at 1:01 am

    keep it up Mr. President