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November 21, 2013

Obama's Sesame Street Communications Strategy

I've previously mentioned my annoyance with Obama's baby-talk style of condescension to the American public.

On one hand, he demands that we be as high-minded and intellectual as he mistakenly conceives himself to be. But on the other hand, he doesn't trust us enough to speak to us like adults, and so he does what adults do to children when they wish to manipulate them: They lie. They make up magical elves like Santa Claus who keep naughty and nice lists.

They also say "Just because" a lot. "Just because" is something a child hears a lot, when he asks Why he's not allowed to play with something, or why he has to go to bed by 10pm.

Now there's a reason adults do this with children, of course: Because children actually are not mentally or emotionally advanced enough to understand abstract thinking, indirect cause and effect, risk vs. reward (like playing with the stove -- sure, if you do it right it'll be fine, but what are the odds a kid will avoid the burners?), tradeoffs, prioritization of moral goods, and so forth.

Children actually hate being condescended to like this, at least when they realize they're being treated like children, which is relatively early in their lives -- when they're still actually children, and fully deserving of a condescending attitude from their parents.

But adults? Adults hate it even more. Or at least they ought to hate it. But for some reason, Barack Obama has gotten away with lecturing and hectoring the adult American voting public for five years, lying to them, spinning childish fictions that he thinks will help them "understand."

Not understand the truth, mind you, but "understand" in the way a frustrated parent means it: A frustrated parent doesn't care if the kid really understands why he can't eat too much sugar -- at the end of the day, he really just wants the kid to comply with his directive.

And that's the sort of "understanding" Barack Obama offers the public-- not actual understanding of what Obamacare will do, and who it will harm, and what the actual goals of the policy are. But simply shutting the American Voting Children up, and getting them to comply, and just do what they're told.

Over at AdAge, Ken Wheaton discusses what he calls Obama's "Sesame Street" communications strategy.

Imagine you've tuned in to one of those classic "Sesame Street" episodes. Not one of those YouTube videos in which they spoof such child-friendly material as "Homeland" and "Breaking Bad," but one in which the younger monsters have been disturbed by something intense. So one of the human adults, Gordon perhaps, arrives at the scene to explain things in very simple language -- as one would to children who might have a hard time grasping complex, abstract concepts.

Now, imagine that after Gordon finishes explaining that sometimes bad things happen to good people, Abby and Zoe, after looking at each other for a moment, turned to Gordon and said, "Are you kidding me with this bullshit?"

This is, in essence, what's happened with the Obama administration's laughable attempts to explain away the many problems it's experienced with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. It's crisis communications via "Sesame Street."

That's not to say that Obama himself is a "Sesame Street" president. While there is something childish in his hopeful overtures to Iran, it's hard to conceive of Grover ordering drone strikes on Oscar the Grouch or Big Bird tapping Cookie Monster's phone.

But I do get the distinct impression, based on his communication strategy, that he thinks he's presiding over a country full of "Sesame Street" characters. And he's Gordon. He shows up, says, "Let me be clear," then walks off the stage -- the show's over before anyone starts asking really pesky questions.

So when Healthcare.gov imploded and the commotion didn't die down after a few days, Obama showed up in the Rose Garden to tell us that bad things sometimes happen and that he was just as mad as the rest of us. Actually, he was even madder than the rest of us. "Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the website isn't working as well as it should," he said. Then he promised to fix it with something called a "tech surge." So don't worry your silly little heads, kids, go off now and tickle Elmo or something, Luis is on the job.

But here's Obama's problem -- aside from the fact that the "adult" in this situation seemingly learned about these problems at the same time we did. Suddenly, Americans were no longer Elmo and Grover. They weren't even Oscar the Grouch. They'd jumped to "The Muppet Show" and gone all Waldorf and Statler on Obama.

Which might explain why there was something almost petulant about follow-up communications. Listen, Obama seemed to be saying, we tried our best. Isn't that good enough for you? No? Well, then we're sorry. Now, are you happy? No? And then they rolled out The Count to further explain the massive successes of the plan, but poor guy couldn't seem to count past 100.

That's the first half, before the "Just Words" halfway break; click on the link for the rest.

Compare with Arne Duncan's "Hush, stupid children" rebuttal to White Suburban Moms.

I didn't even realize, that's a triple insult, not just a double one. Stupid housewives! What do housewives and mere mothers know about education?!

Why, that's something for Men With Careers to handle.



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posted by Ace at 01:28 PM

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