NetWar: Birth of a Communicator

Contents Letter From Paris

Contents Letter From Paris

Sunday, October 03, 2004


Birth of a Communicator

For John Kerry, his first debate with President Bush on 9/30 was to be, had to be, the launching pad towards victory. It wasn’t. Most people seem to agree that he “won” the debate, but Bush emerged from his “defeat” considered by the majority of the people who saw the debate to be more believable, more likable and tough enough for the job.

The democratic challenger can now say, like Pyrrhus after the battle of Asculum, "One more such victory and I am lost". Look at this summary table of the Gallup survey of registered voters who watched the debate:

  Kerry Bush  
  % %  
Expressed himself more clearly 60 32 +28
Had a good understanding of the issues 41 41 0
Agreed with you more on the issues
you care about
46 49 -3
Was more believable 45 50 -5
Was more likable 41 48 -7
Demonstrated he is tough enough for the job 37 54 -17
(+)  indicates Kerry lead  (-) indicates Bush lead

Then you may well say that Americans saw Kerry as more articulate and well-spoken than Bush but they didn’t believe his message, nor did they think that fluency in English and the capacity of delivering sentences with more than two verbs are to be a president’s most important competences.

All in all, 53% of the sample said that Kerry did the better job in the debate and 17% of the republicans agree with that. Only 37% thought Bush did. Of them, only 8% of the democrats. I think that 8% of democrats are the most enlightened portion of the American people. Please, do count me in that groovy lot. I think that George W. Bush won the debate, if by winning we mean that he got closer to re-election; symmetrically, I believe Kerry lost because he didn’t get any closer to victory on November 2, far from it.

Ben Fritz, Bryan Keefer and Brendan Nyhan have published “All The President's Spin”, a book that defends a notion which can be far-out to the Bush-bashing crowd in Europe and the adulators of dear Michael Moore. They mean that Bush is anything but the stupid, brutish red-neckish simpleton they love to depict; instead, they claim, [Let me quote one of my favorite European bloggers, Bjørn Stærk] (Bush) is the first president to apply principles from public relations to the White House on this scale. It's not just about having good hair and a warm smile any more.

And yet Bush is not just playing the same game as the other side - he's better and more deliberate at it than any previous president. He's a skilled, full-time manipulator. And the media lets get him away with it.

Wait a minute. That can't be true. The American media is left-of-center, it's biased against conservatives, not for them. Right? Well, yes. This can be discussed, but I largely agree that it is. From what I can see from across the Atlantic, there is a consistent left-of-center bias in the American media.

Bjørn seems pretty convinced that the authors of “All The President's Spin” got many things right about George W. Bush and so am I after this fateful debate.

But then the US media, and specially the Dan Rathers of this world, are too influenced by the hierarchy of values of pre-Internet society, they are communicating to readers, viewers and listeners who don’t exist any longer. The ones who would have voted into the White House a candidate just because he expresses himself more clearly than his opponent or has a more stylish haircut. And that’s the American media, because George W. is even more difficult to decrypt for their European colleagues; they are still at the stage of believing that a Texan moron can become the president of a country with 300 M people in it, which happens to have 18 out of the best universities in the world, is the only superpower left and invented the Internet. Poor little things. Some Texans are very sophisticated and some Europeans just think they are.

George Bush behaved in that debate as a master perception manager. He let Kerry develop his arguments to the last available tenth of a second in his beautiful New England English. Bush didn’t even seem to have memorized what he had to say. In just about right thick Texas vernacular, he kept saying that Kerry was a flip-flop and that George W. Bush was the best man to do the job of presiding the United States of America. He let Kerry do the talking and he did the communicating.

If you want some historic data to put what I say into context, here you have a beautiful one:

On Sep. 28 1984, there was a debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. 54% of the viewers said that Mondale carried the day. 35% thought that Reagan had won.

I had just put this post online when someone flashed me an angry email telling me several ugly things about my sanity. Since the sender is a friend (who didn’t want to embarrass me by posting a comment) , I feel obliged to address one of the things he says, at least to prove that I’m not more unhinged than the average. He says that Kerry made many grave accusations about Bush’s careless decisions regarding Iraq and the War on terror. Well, without entering into the matter of whether the accusations are warranted or not (that’s irrelevant in this context), I believe that they were largely ineffectual in terms of changing people’s perception of George W. Bush. The data from Gallup confirms that. Why?

First of all. After Michael Moore took Bush bashing deep into the red zone of overkill, nothing you (or Kerry) could say against him was really new nor really impressing. Every single attack against Bush during the debate was an old recuperated arrow, some sorts of de-cafeinated version of some prior assault, that people had already heard in a much more aggressive if not insulting form. All and everyone of the attacks that Kerry delivered rang bells, they were familiar, old, stale, worn-out. People who believed them before the debate continued to do so after and the other way around.

I mean, when one has seen Fahrenheit 9/11 or read any of the 81 books calling Bush anything from Hitler to the Anti-Christ, Kerry just sounded lame, flimsy. That wasn’t made better by the fact that the challenger tried to make them more palatable his attacks with a little ironic smile that exuded superiority, if you see what I mean.

Cheer up M !

This is the LINK to the Newsweek poll that says exactely the opposite (Via Urban Empire)

Rasmussen's Presidential Tracking seems to confirm my thesis and the Gallup survey. It is based on a daily charter survey of likey voters (phone interviews).
Sunday October 03, 2004--The latest Rasmussen Reports Presidential Tracking Poll shows President George W. Bush with 49% of the vote and Senator John Kerry with 45%.

These results are based upon a survey of 3,000 Likely Voters conducted Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday afternoon. As a result, just over two-thirds of the interviews were conducted following Thursday night's Presidential Debate.

Interviews conducted on Friday and Saturday show Kerry with a one-point bounce so far since the debate. However, in post-debate interviews, Bush still leads 49% to 46%.

A very good post by Stygius refutes my analysis with some very interesting arguments.

Read it here

Now, I think it belongs among the very best traditional analysis I have read. But I have a couple of arguments that I think will put the whole question back into perspective... Working on it.

Gallup has published a new post-debate survey -this one of likey voters- that seems to confirm much of Stygius' criticism of my post. Will I have to swallow my analysis (sigh)? Thinking like a percolator and working on it.

Winds of Change

An example: this analysis of the March 11th attacks in Madrid, written 5 days later! Imposing.

Inspiring, passionate and decent

Iraq, the Model
A very goodview of what is going on in Iraq by Mohammad and Omar, two brothers... Check it out if you're fed up with the EuroPress

The Patriot Debates
Many provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire at the end of 2005. This forum is devoted to civil and informed debate about these provisions and whether they should be renewed.

A serious visit to jihadist ideology

Michelle Malkin
Her column appears in nearly 200 US papers nationwide. Pretty conservative AND very articulate. I like her.

From Barcelona. I like it! And, by the way, it's getting better every day.

Across the Bay
Very good blog by Tony, an expert in in Ancient Near Eastern Studies with focus on Semitic Linguistics, Ancient Levantine history, religion....

Allah Pundit
It's quite consevative, but really funny!

Bjørn Stærk's blog
In the NetWar since 2001, this norwegian wonderkid is just worth reading.

Norman Geras's blog
I mean, READ HIM. He's bright, insightful and knows a lot about Marxism and la condition humaine... Yeeees! (thanks Stygius).

Dan Darling
Excellent Open Source analysis of al Qaeda!

Bilingual (FR&EN) and passionate!

The Politburo Diktat
Forthrightly, frankly, fully funny, comrades. Neo-Komintern Urgh.

Insults for use by the ideologically informed
Nice page of Real Socialist Nostalgia. Check it out, comrade!

Letters From New York City
Michele tells it from the place where the world changed three years ago.

Alphabet City by Robert Stevens
Very well informed "from the perimeter of Manhattan ;-)" Impresive collection of links.

Colt's Eurabia
If you want to know and follow politically incorrect debate, red it!
His motto is:"...the only secure basis for oligarchy is collectivism." George Orwell

Monitoring Media Coverage of the War On Terror

Political Correctness Watch
John Ray, a former university teacher gone blogger monitors political correctness around the globe. When you needthat cheering information that somewhere else it's even worse than in your home town...


Free Lance Corner
Emilio Alonso, madrileño sin pelos en la pluma, liberal y extremadamente sensato.

Guerra Eterna en Oriente Medio
Reportero español polí­ticamente correcto, buena gente y suavemente partisano

Español residente en Parí­s, liberal, vasco, polí­ticamente incorrecto, reflexiona sobre la situación en Euskadi (Paí­s Vasco)

Carmelo Jordá
Otro español, buen analista y políticamente incorrecto. Pertenece a la nueva ola de jovenes liberales (en el sentido europeo) que empiezan a poner en cuestión todo en Europa

Una Temporada en el Infierno
Interesante blog de Juan Pedro Quiñonero, escritor y periodista español que merece dos lecturas.

Location: Paris, France

I have been a journalist since I was 22. For a (long) while I worked as a reporter for the Swedish, Spanish (I was born in Spain) and American media, covering international affairs... After 1991 I recycled myself to the business press.

 A Must Read!
Note that on the above page you have BOTH a link to buy the book (US$ 20) AND
the links to all the 6 chapters in PDF for FREE.

Contents (PDF)
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Conceptual Outlines
Chapter Three: A World in Flux - Ripe for Netwar Chapter Four: Varieties of Netwar
Chapter Five: Challenges for U.S Policy and Organization
Chapter Six: Implications for U.S. Doctrine and Strategy

And, by the way...
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