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May 05, 2016

Obama's Foreign Policy (Disaster) Czar Ben Rhodes: Reporters In DC Know Absolutely Nothing. It's Embarrassingly Easy to Spin Them, Since They Have Zero Knowledge Base.

Let's begin with this:

Ben Rhodes knows nearly nothing about foreign policy.

He's an aspiring novelist (that is, a non-novelist; a virgin is an aspiring sex-haver). He taught himself... something.

The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama's Foreign-Policy Guru

How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age.


By DAVID SAMUELSMAY 5, 2016

Everything changed [September 11th]. But the way it changed Ben Rhodes's life is still unique, and perhaps not strictly believable, even as fiction. He was in the second year of the M.F.A. program at N.Y.U., writing short stories about losers in garden apartments and imagining that soon he would be published in literary magazines, acquire an agent and produce a novel by the time he turned 26...

Spoiler alert: He didn't.

"I immediately developed this idea that, you know, maybe I want to try to write about international affairs," he explained. "In retrospect, I had no idea what that meant."

The perfect marriage of ignorance for Obama.

His mother's closest friend growing up ran the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace...

You don't say.

...which then published Foreign Policy. He sent her a letter and included what would wind up being his only piece of published fiction, a short story that appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal. It was titled "The Goldfish Smiles, You Smile Back." The story still haunts him, he says, because "it foreshadowed my entire life."

I don't know what that means. I don't care to know.

...

The Boy Wonder of the Obama White House is now 38...

Like Obama, Rhodes is a storyteller who uses a writer's tools to advance an agenda that is packaged as politics but is often quite personal. He is adept at constructing overarching plotlines with heroes and villains, their conflicts and motivations supported by flurries of carefully chosen adjectives, quotations and leaks from named and unnamed senior officials. He is the master shaper and retailer of Obama's foreign-policy narratives, at a time when the killer wave of social media has washed away the sand castles of the traditional press.

You don't say -- so he's a fictionalist who serves a fictitious president called "Barack Obama."

...

His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations -- like military or diplomatic service, or even a master's degree in international relations, rather than creative writing -- is still startling.

Is it? Is it startling, or inevitable?

...

When I asked Jon Favreau, Obama’s lead speechwriter in the 2008 campaign, and a close friend of Rhodes's, whether he or Rhodes or the president had ever thought of their individual speeches and bits of policy making as part of some larger restructuring of the American narrative, he replied, "We saw that as our entire job."

...

Jon Favreau, then the campaign’s lead speechwriter, felt as if he could use a foreign-affairs expert who could write. "Foreign-policy advisers kept changing all the language that made Obama sound like he wasn't part of the Democratic foreign-policy establishment," he remembers. "The idea of someone with a masters in fiction who had also co-authored the Iraq Study Group and 9/11 Commission reports seemed perfect for a candidate who put so much emphasis on storytelling."

...

The literary character that Rhodes most closely resembles, Power volunteers, is Holden Caulfield. "He hates the idea of being phony, and he's impetuous, and he has very strong views."

Of course it is, darling.

We're in a deeply fictitious age, eh?

Now the part about how stupid the current press corps is, and how easily led into fiction by this Master of Fiction:

The job he was hired to do, namely to help the president of the United States communicate with the public, was changing in equally significant ways, thanks to the impact of digital technologies that people in Washington were just beginning to wrap their minds around....

He means the Internet and the Nation of Dummies who drink from its stupid streams.

Rhodes singled out a key example to me one day, laced with the brutal contempt that is a hallmark of his private utterances. "All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus," he said. "Now they don't. They call us to explain to them what's happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That's a sea change. They literally know nothing.

In this environment, Rhodes has become adept at ventriloquizing many people at once. Ned Price, Rhodes's assistant, gave me a primer on how it’s done. The easiest way for the White House to shape the news, he explained, is from the briefing podiums.... "But then there are sort of these force multipliers," he said, adding, “We have our compadres, I will reach out to a couple people, and you know I wouldn't want to name them -- ”

"I can name them," I said, ticking off a few names of prominent Washington reporters and columnists who often tweet in sync with White House messaging.

Price laughed. "I'll say, 'Hey, look, some people are spinning this narrative that this is a sign of American weakness,'" he continued, "but--"

"In fact it's a sign of strength!" I said, chuckling.

The left's favorite headline opening? Actually, America Retreating from the World Isn't a Sign of Weakness...



"And I'll give them some color," Price continued, "and the next thing I know, lots of these guys are in the dot-com publishing space, and have huge Twitter followings, and they'll be putting this message out on their own."

This is something different from old-fashioned spin... Now the most effectively weaponized 140-character idea or quote will almost always carry the day, and it is very difficult for even good reporters to necessarily know where the spin is coming from or why.

Stunned.

The decayed Imperial swells of the capital probably began bragging about how easily they manipulated the dummies of Rome, too -- right before the barbarians tore the place apart.

Via Evan C. and @davereaboi.


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posted by Ace at 04:42 PM

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