After reading one of my blog posts Dr. Eric Burger recommended that I read a book called True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society by Farhad Manjoo, who writes for Salon. He is reading it too (a lot faster than I) and is thinking of using it in one of his classes. I am not finished yet, but the book made me think of a picture and since I have been wanting to try to include a photo in a post, I figured I would use this as an opportunity.
The first chapter is almost impossible to get through. Manjoo insists that John Kerry was defeated in 2004 almost single-handedly by the Swift Boat veterans and their false claims that Kerry should not have won the medals in Vietnam. What I remember at the time is that these guys were very angry and while all of their claims were proven false, that is not the reason why Kerry lost. To summarize, we hated his ‘I know everything’ brahman tone and attitude. The quote “I actually voted for it before I voted against it” was a HUGE blunder. The fact that he married a friend and colleague’s widow who just happened to be worth $300M (and she was not exactly a sympathetic figure), was a little ‘creepy’ as Taylor might say. And most importantly, was the iconic photo from Vietnam. Which of course I can’t find now. But it’s the one with him in the field and a camera around his neck, rifle shouldered. He’s got a camera in the field and then testifies to Congress about the atrocities of his fellow soldiers. It all just didn’t seem right. That’s why he lost.
Once you get past that chapter, the book is a really great study on how people surround themselves with only the opinions they agree with and completely close out conflicting thought. Look at your friends and family with whom you disagree, what kinds of stuff are they always reading and emailing? It is very powerful, and somewhat scary that we have evolved this way. Brad Feld wrote a great piece about “Grinfucking” and how CEOs should avoid that thinking with their companies. But having this be so commonplace in the rest of our lives is staggering. Furthermore, there are studies showing that people actually agree with an opinion more, when they like the person giving the opinion, regardless of whether they actually understand the position or not. The data in the studies is amazing.
One thing that the author denies is the liberal bias in the media, and he cites the existence of Lou Dobbs, Fox News and the “Right Wing” blogosphere as examples of how those outlets create balance to what could be viewed as a leftist slant in other media outlets. This is a major hole in the argument; you can’t compare a bunch of blogs and talk radio to the big 3 news stations, even if you add in Fox News.
Look at this picture from CBS News during the 2008 debates. I always say that media bias is subtle, has there ever been a news story on this blatantly biased coverage to date?
This was a picture I took of my TV while watching the debates. Notice that my TV had a nice indicator of the exact middle of the set by the power button just below the Sony logo dividing the speakers. I added the black lines for effect. McCain was talking at this point, notice his mouth is open and Obama’s is closed. But notice the split screen percentage? CBS decided to shift just slightly the emphasis to Obama, he probably has 52% of the screen. Why would they do this? Notice the relative size of the candidates’ heads? I drew a horizontal line at the bottom of McCain’s chin. His head fits on the screen but Obama’s extends beyond the top and his chin extends lower when compared on that horizontal line. He clearly appears as the larger man. Does it make him seem to have greater stature? More powerful? You can be the judge as to the psychological effects of this kind of media coverage, but you can’t possibly deny that this behavior takes place.
Get the media to love you, the coverage will follow, and people will start to like you and trust where you want to lead the country, no matter what you say. A new strategy indeed.