A Current Events Commentary Blog from a Public Relations/Marketing Perspective.
Donald Tremblay, a PR/Marketing specialist who has been “making it rain” for over a decade reviews today’s news, sports, entertainment, etc . . .

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our Soundbite Culture

President Obama is under fire again, only this time the salvos are coming from his supporters. Last night liberal democrats and anti-war activists howled betrayal as the president announced his plans to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan before bringing American forces home in the summer of 2011. “This isn’t what we voted for,” yelled many former Obama flag waivers. Filmmaker Michael Moore blasted the president for turning the youth who voted for him into "disillusioned cynics" once they realize that "all politicians are alike." Moore also criticized Obama for destroying “the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you." But Moore was hardly alone in his anger. Paul Kawika Martin, political director for the grassroots organization Peace Action, warned, “We’re going to spank him [Pres. Obama] for sending more troops”.

But were liberal democrats and anti-war activists truly hoodwinked by our president? Or did they only hear what they wanted to hear?

The soundbite. The short, catchy phrase that stays implanted in the public’s memory. “Yes, we can” is an example. So is, “Read my lips. No new taxes.” Detractors complain that soundbites are style without substance. And they are right. But what these critics fail to understand is that most people in our society only listen to information packaged in soundbite amounts. Some people lack the patience to listen longer. Others lack time or have little interest in the subject matter. Whatever the reason for its prevalence, I think it is our reliance on soundbites that is responsible for the president’s current PR mess.

  • “My 16-month timeline, if you examine everything that I’ve said, was always premised on making sure that our troops were safe. I said that based on the information that we had received from our commanders that one to two brigades a month could be pulled out safely, from a logistical perspective. My guiding approach continues to be that we’ve got to make sure that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable. I’m going to continue to gather information to find out whether those conditions still hold.”

President Obama said those words on July 3, 2008, four months prior to the presidential election. He promises in the above statement to bring the troops home if elected; HOWEVER, he hedges on that promise by adding the disclaimer that his proposed timeline is “premised on making sure that our troops are safe” and that “Iraq is stable”. Anti-war activists eagerly embraced the 16-month timeline but ignored the caveat that followed it, which changed everything. Obama knew exactly what he was saying. By promising troop withdrawals he pacified those who want an end to the war. By adding the disclaimer he covered his tracks in anticipation that troop withdrawals would be delayed.

Unfortunately for our attorney-trained president, neither he nor his inner circle understands that semantics may work in a court of law, but they don’t necessarily work in the court of public opinion. The moment candidate Obama uttered the soundbite “troop withdrawal,” the American public heard nothing else he said, especially those Americans who voted for him in large measure because of their opposition to the war.

Our president is learning the hard way that polit-speak is acceptable when it comes to certain political issues.

War is not one of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment