Trump’s communication techniques, frames of analysis, and democracy

Several months ago I said that I would do some analysis of Trump and the American election. Up until now I have refrained from doing any kind of analysis or reflection, primarily because I feel the conversation is so saturated that nothing I had to say would be particularly interesting or novel. But now I have an idea, so here it goes.

Recently I stumbled upon a YouTube channel called Charisma on Command. Basically the channel breaks down ways in which you can be charismatic and persuasive (including analysis of why certain Game of Throne characters do well and others do not, if your into that sort of thing). In May 2016 the channel posted a video predicting that Donald Trump would win the American election, and proceeded to break down the communication techniques and strategies that Trump was using and why they were beating those techniques being used by Hillary. The analysis is quite interesting, but what struck me was that technique is not something I have seen much discussed in public dialogue as to why Trump beat Hillary. Most analysis that I have seen has been primarily ideological/economic, proposing that Trump won because of disenfranchised rust-belt voters, democrat hubris, and various other accounts. There just has not been much talk about the idea that Trump won and Hillary lost because Trump was a better communicator who successfully controlled the election agenda. I think that there are two interesting things to take away from this. First, I think it shows how theory/frame sets the ways in which events are interpreted and explained. Second, it is possibly the case that the ‘technique’ frame is avoided because it undermines the democratic frame.

I am using the term ‘frame’ here pretty loosely to refer to the broad assumptions that are being made about how the world works. In the American election, I suggest that the assumptions that have been made are something like this: beliefs and economic circumstances are the important factors that determine an election. Candidate’s win or lose based on their moral characteristics and the degree to which they represent the public.

Contrast this with the frame that captures Charisma on Command’s interest. The primary ethos of the channel is that charisma can be captured through teachable techniques (this being how the channel makes its money). The primary focus of the video on Trump is breaking down the methods through which he succeeds. This kind of explanation is almost a-historical – Trump won because he was a good public speaker and tactician, shifting tactics and ideology to suit the different audiences he needed to win. This is potentially anti-democratic because it seems to undermine the democratic assumption that voting places authority in the hands of the people – if elections are won on the back of rhetoric and technique, than democracy entails rule by the rhetorician, not the public. I said before that this frame is possibly avoided because it undermines the democratic frame. By this I do not mean that it is inconceivable that both technique and ideology play a role in democratic life. However, trust is a keystone in democracy – the system functions in part because people believe in it. I therefore think it is unsurprising that the technique frame is rarely explored in public channels.

Let me know what you think!

CreativePhilo

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Trump’s communication techniques, frames of analysis, and democracy

Several months ago I said that I would do some analysis of Trump and the American election. Up until now I have refrained from doing any kind of analysis or reflection, primarily because I feel the conversation is so saturated that nothing I had to say would be particularly interesting or novel. But now I have an idea, so here it goes.

Recently I stumbled upon a YouTube channel called Charisma on Command. Basically the channel breaks down ways in which you can be charismatic and persuasive (including analysis of why certain Game of Throne characters do well and others do not, if your into that sort of thing). In May 2016 the channel posted a video predicting that Donald Trump would win the American election, and proceeded to break down the communication techniques and strategies that Trump was using and why they were beating those techniques being used by Hillary. The analysis is quite interesting, but what struck me was that technique is not something I have seen much discussed in public dialogue as to why Trump beat Hillary. Most analysis that I have seen has been primarily ideological/economic, proposing that Trump won because of disenfranchised rust-belt voters, democrat hubris, and various other accounts. There just has not been much talk about the idea that Trump won and Hillary lost because Trump was a better communicator who successfully controlled the election agenda. I think that there are two interesting things to take away from this. First, I think it shows how theory/frame sets the ways in which events are interpreted and explained. Second, it is possibly the case that the ‘technique’ frame is avoided because it undermines the democratic frame.

I am using the term ‘frame’ here pretty loosely to refer to the broad assumptions that are being made about how the world works. In the American election, I suggest that the assumptions that have been made are something like this: beliefs and economic circumstances are the important factors that determine an election. Candidate’s win or lose based on their moral characteristics and the degree to which they represent the public.

Contrast this with the frame that captures Charisma on Command’s interest. The primary ethos of the channel is that charisma can be captured through teachable techniques (this being how the channel makes its money). The primary focus of the video on Trump is breaking down the methods through which he succeeds. This kind of explanation is almost a-historical – Trump won because he was a good public speaker and tactician, shifting tactics and ideology to suit the different audiences he needed to win. This is potentially anti-democratic because it seems to undermine the democratic assumption that voting places authority in the hands of the people – if elections are won on the back of rhetoric and technique, than democracy entails rule by the rhetorician, not the public. I said before that this frame is possibly avoided because it undermines the democratic frame. By this I do not mean that it is inconceivable that both technique and ideology play a role in democratic life. However, trust is a keystone in democracy – the system functions in part because people believe in it. I therefore think it is unsurprising that the technique frame is rarely explored in public channels.

Let me know what you think!

CreativePhilo

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Trump’s communication techniques, frames of analysis, and democracy

Several months ago I said that I would do some analysis of Trump and the American election. Up until now I have refrained from doing any kind of analysis or reflection, primarily because I feel the conversation is so saturated that nothing I had to say would be particularly interesting or novel. But now I have an idea, so here it goes.

Recently I stumbled upon a YouTube channel called Charisma on Command. Basically the channel breaks down ways in which you can be charismatic and persuasive (including analysis of why certain Game of Throne characters do well and others do not, if your into that sort of thing). In May 2016 the channel posted a video predicting that Donald Trump would win the American election, and proceeded to break down the communication techniques and strategies that Trump was using and why they were beating those techniques being used by Hillary. The analysis is quite interesting, but what struck me was that technique is not something I have seen much discussed in public dialogue as to why Trump beat Hillary. Most analysis that I have seen has been primarily ideological/economic, proposing that Trump won because of disenfranchised rust-belt voters, democrat hubris, and various other accounts. There just has not been much talk about the idea that Trump won and Hillary lost because Trump was a better communicator who successfully controlled the election agenda. I think that there are two interesting things to take away from this. First, I think it shows how theory/frame sets the ways in which events are interpreted and explained. Second, it is possibly the case that the ‘technique’ frame is avoided because it undermines the democratic frame.

I am using the term ‘frame’ here pretty loosely to refer to the broad assumptions that are being made about how the world works. In the American election, I suggest that the assumptions that have been made are something like this: beliefs and economic circumstances are the important factors that determine an election. Candidate’s win or lose based on their moral characteristics and the degree to which they represent the public.

Contrast this with the frame that captures Charisma on Command’s interest. The primary ethos of the channel is that charisma can be captured through teachable techniques (this being how the channel makes its money). The primary focus of the video on Trump is breaking down the methods through which he succeeds. This kind of explanation is almost a-historical – Trump won because he was a good public speaker and tactician, shifting tactics and ideology to suit the different audiences he needed to win. This is potentially anti-democratic because it seems to undermine the democratic assumption that voting places authority in the hands of the people – if elections are won on the back of rhetoric and technique, than democracy entails rule by the rhetorician, not the public. I said before that this frame is possibly avoided because it undermines the democratic frame. By this I do not mean that it is inconceivable that both technique and ideology play a role in democratic life. However, trust is a keystone in democracy – the system functions in part because people believe in it. I therefore think it is unsurprising that the technique frame is rarely explored in public channels.

Let me know what you think!

CreativePhilo

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Trump’s communication techniques, frames of analysis, and democracy

Several months ago I said that I would do some analysis of Trump and the American election. Up until now I have refrained from doing any kind of analysis or reflection, primarily because I feel the conversation is so saturated that nothing I had to say would be particularly interesting or novel. But now I have an idea, so here it goes.

Recently I stumbled upon a YouTube channel called Charisma on Command. Basically the channel breaks down ways in which you can be charismatic and persuasive (including analysis of why certain Game of Throne characters do well and others do not, if your into that sort of thing). In May 2016 the channel posted a video predicting that Donald Trump would win the American election, and proceeded to break down the communication techniques and strategies that Trump was using and why they were beating those techniques being used by Hillary. The analysis is quite interesting, but what struck me was that technique is not something I have seen much discussed in public dialogue as to why Trump beat Hillary. Most analysis that I have seen has been primarily ideological/economic, proposing that Trump won because of disenfranchised rust-belt voters, democrat hubris, and various other accounts. There just has not been much talk about the idea that Trump won and Hillary lost because Trump was a better communicator who successfully controlled the election agenda. I think that there are two interesting things to take away from this. First, I think it shows how theory/frame sets the ways in which events are interpreted and explained. Second, it is possibly the case that the ‘technique’ frame is avoided because it undermines the democratic frame.

I am using the term ‘frame’ here pretty loosely to refer to the broad assumptions that are being made about how the world works. In the American election, I suggest that the assumptions that have been made are something like this: beliefs and economic circumstances are the important factors that determine an election. Candidate’s win or lose based on their moral characteristics and the degree to which they represent the public.

Contrast this with the frame that captures Charisma on Command’s interest. The primary ethos of the channel is that charisma can be captured through teachable techniques (this being how the channel makes its money). The primary focus of the video on Trump is breaking down the methods through which he succeeds. This kind of explanation is almost a-historical – Trump won because he was a good public speaker and tactician, shifting tactics and ideology to suit the different audiences he needed to win. This is potentially anti-democratic because it seems to undermine the democratic assumption that voting places authority in the hands of the people – if elections are won on the back of rhetoric and technique, than democracy entails rule by the rhetorician, not the public. I said before that this frame is possibly avoided because it undermines the democratic frame. By this I do not mean that it is inconceivable that both technique and ideology play a role in democratic life. However, trust is a keystone in democracy – the system functions in part because people believe in it. I therefore think it is unsurprising that the technique frame is rarely explored in public channels.

Let me know what you think!

CreativePhilo

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Trump’s communication techniques, frames of analysis, and democracy

Several months ago I said that I would do some analysis of Trump and the American election. Up until now I have refrained from doing any kind of analysis or reflection, primarily because I feel the conversation is so saturated that nothing I had to say would be particularly interesting or novel. But now I have an idea, so here it goes.

Recently I stumbled upon a YouTube channel called Charisma on Command. Basically the channel breaks down ways in which you can be charismatic and persuasive (including analysis of why certain Game of Throne characters do well and others do not, if your into that sort of thing). In May 2016 the channel posted a video predicting that Donald Trump would win the American election, and proceeded to break down the communication techniques and strategies that Trump was using and why they were beating those techniques being used by Hillary. The analysis is quite interesting, but what struck me was that technique is not something I have seen much discussed in public dialogue as to why Trump beat Hillary. Most analysis that I have seen has been primarily ideological/economic, proposing that Trump won because of disenfranchised rust-belt voters, democrat hubris, and various other accounts. There just has not been much talk about the idea that Trump won and Hillary lost because Trump was a better communicator who successfully controlled the election agenda. I think that there are two interesting things to take away from this. First, I think it shows how theory/frame sets the ways in which events are interpreted and explained. Second, it is possibly the case that the ‘technique’ frame is avoided because it undermines the democratic frame.

I am using the term ‘frame’ here pretty loosely to refer to the broad assumptions that are being made about how the world works. In the American election, I suggest that the assumptions that have been made are something like this: beliefs and economic circumstances are the important factors that determine an election. Candidate’s win or lose based on their moral characteristics and the degree to which they represent the public.

Contrast this with the frame that captures Charisma on Command’s interest. The primary ethos of the channel is that charisma can be captured through teachable techniques (this being how the channel makes its money). The primary focus of the video on Trump is breaking down the methods through which he succeeds. This kind of explanation is almost a-historical – Trump won because he was a good public speaker and tactician, shifting tactics and ideology to suit the different audiences he needed to win. This is potentially anti-democratic because it seems to undermine the democratic assumption that voting places authority in the hands of the people – if elections are won on the back of rhetoric and technique, than democracy entails rule by the rhetorician, not the public. I said before that this frame is possibly avoided because it undermines the democratic frame. By this I do not mean that it is inconceivable that both technique and ideology play a role in democratic life. However, trust is a keystone in democracy – the system functions in part because people believe in it. I therefore think it is unsurprising that the technique frame is rarely explored in public channels.

Let me know what you think!

CreativePhilo

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The fetishization of numbers in policy

Note: this article is not about how politicians find numbers sexy. The word ‘fetish’ in this context  designates something that is used or done ritualistically rather than pragmatically.

In the world of UK public policy, everyone loves quantitative skills. Making policy ‘evidence-based’ is considered a matter of significant importance, and the National Health Service is held up as the shining example – primarily because of the prominence of randomized control trials and value-for-money. In the past decade this has led to the development of ‘What works’ centres, such as the College of Policing’s ‘What Works Centre for Crime Reduction”, and LSE’s “What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth”. Based on my research on these centres (from articles such as this), they tend to subscribe to the ‘evidence-based’ movements hierarchy of evidence, with Randomized Control trials at the top and anecdotal experience at the bottom (for those unfamiliar with this hierarchy, my main point is that data is on the top).

This increased emphasis on evidence is not inherently a bad thing. Indeed, in many ways it is a positive development. However, I have a number of concerns on the ways that these work centres interact with policy.

Concern #1: Begging the question – What works… for what?
The title ‘what works’ begs the question of what the interventions are
working for.  On the College of Policing’s What Works Crime Reduction page (link), we are presented with a list of interventions, with data on cost, effectiveness, where it works, and the like. But this cannot answer the question of what the Police should do in the first place.

Concern #2: The ‘what works’ frame
‘What works’ neglects the reality that problems can be described in multiple ways. For example, are we concerned with young hoodlums who have not been taught proper values, or are we concerned with oppressed minorities who are lashing out due to opportunity deprivation. There is often not a natural way to interpret data – our personal values play a significant role. The ‘what works’ language seems to cover up these ambiguities by assuming a common frame.

Concern #3: Politics and evidence
‘What works’ does not seem to engage with the reality that policy overlaps with politics. Evidence is regularly used as ammunition to support pre-existing positions, rather than forming a basis for re-evaluating positions. Not that I mean to be entirely down on politics, I just mean that evidence will not transform politics.

Concern #4: Stifling innovation
When practitioners focus on ‘what works’, their attention is necessarily backwards looking, because we necessarily cannot have evidence on new ideas and approaches. ‘What works’ therefore cannot help us prepare for future problems, and may potentially hinder policy that looks to deal with future problems because ‘its not evidence based’.

Concern #5: The gap between theory and practice
Models and quantification represent reality, but there is always a gap. Further, small errors compound quickly. This is why our ability to forecast the weather drops off very quickly. This does not mean that we should not use models (we must!), but we should do so while being mindful that they are not infallible.

I intend to write a more in-depth article on this topic, but here are my immediate thoughts. Let me know what you think.

Sincerely,

CreativePhilo

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Law, Convention, and the Choice Landscape of Patients Requesting Assisted Sucide

Euthanasia is a touchy subject for many people, and understandably so.  There are strong intuitive reasons behind both the for and against position.  Those who want legal euthanasia can appeal to the idea that we should have a right over our own lives, that we should not be deprived of our autonomy.  Those against can appeal to the externalities that legalizing Euthanasia may generate, and also to the notion that Doctor’s should not have the responsibility (or possibly the right) to kill people.  Previously I came down on the pro-euthanasia/autonomy side.  Though I understand the concerns of the opposition that varies harms could follow from legalizing euthanasia, I felt that all this meant was that we needed to make sure to construct tight legislation.

A paper that I recently read in my program has persuaded me that the problem is more complicated then I originally thought.  This paper, Against the Right to Die by David Velleman, makes the argument that allowing Euthanasia changes the rational choice landscape within which agents operate.  He analogizes allowing Euthanasia to allowing dueling.  If dueling is allowed then people will duel to defend their honour.  However, they would really prefer not to be allowed to duel because then they have not failed to uphold their honour if they do not engage in duels.  In the same way, it may be the case that if euthanasia is legal then some people will rationally choose euthanasia because they feel that their life is a burden on society or their family or something along that lines, but they would really prefer euthanasia just be illegal so that they didn’t have option in the first place.

I find this argument to be quite interesting, and Velleman’s solution even more so.  At the end of the paper, Velleman says that he’s somewhat inclined to believe the best solution to Euthanasia is to have very weak regulations.  Essentially he suggests that it should be illegal, but if someone really wants it then we should just let it happen under the table, in a manner of speaking.  Velleman persuaded me that this is a very good solution – it lets the people who really want Euthanasia have access, but it prevents many of the harmful externalities that might otherwise come about.  The solution is not perfect, of course.  Weak regulation and unwritten rules are prone to unfairness and unequal enforcement.  Sometimes a doctor might be punished for actions many other doctors have done before, or a patient might end up being killed under ambiguous circumstances.  However, I am quite intrigued by the notion that sometimes unwritten rules can make better choice landscapes for rational agents.  The notion vastly complicates what it means to work in policy.

Let me know what you think,

CreativePhilo

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