Monday, January 30, 2017

A painful goodbye to a friend ...

This blog most often deals with issues related to social media, emergency management and crisis communications. Every so often, I also look at geo-strategic/geo-political issues to give perspective. But most often, I stay the course and relate everything to what i focus on.

But recent events have made even that difficult. 
The news are just astounding. Viewed from Canada, the situation in the US is a bit like seeing your best friend's personality change ... and not for the better. A close buddy who's become withdrawn, moody and lashes out at any perceived slight or injustice. 

I hope I'm wrong but I think our American friends are in for a bitter four years ... a period of chaos from which they may not emerge from ... in the end, that may be EXACTLY what Trump and his neo-nazi gang may be hoping for. This post was scary in its relevance. 

By sowing chaos, spurring protests and causing a general upheaval in the civil process that has marked the US as a beacon of hope for the world, Trump is following a game plan laid out decades ago by fascists of all stripes.

His actions are creating a void ... he's benefiting from recent developments and exploiting trends ... all that in his favour. Let's examine 10 of them : 

  1. the strongman identity ...Only I can fix the mess ... heard throughout the campaign ...and now the environment is being altered to help make any other potential leading figure appear weak. He's the outside fixer whose base would follow just to shake things up ...He's doing it.
  2. Lack of trust ... in government, in the media ... in institutions in general ... This marks a decay in civil responsibility such as voting ... when nothing is trustworthy ... lies become common and all the more believable by many.
  3. Fake news ... or rather interpreted "alternate facts" ... when you minimize the legitimacy of the media ... when you repeat and validate lies ... everything is open to interpretation ... the moral ground becomes a bit muddy ... drain the swamp ? How about making it even more of a morass. 
  4. Propaganda press briefings ... attacking the media is generally a stupid idea ... unless part of a broader de-legitimizing plot to tear down any institution that might rally future opposition or try to see through obfuscation and blatant lies.
  5. Weakening the nation's judiciary ... ignoring court orders suspending an unlawful ban ... for Trump supporters that's just more noise coming out of "activist jurists/courts" that have "undermined" societal values ... read: given people the proper protection they deserve under the Constitution and Bill of Rights ... 
  6. Playing the legislative branch against one another ...GOPs members of Congress have the most part embraced the Trump agenda whole ... most of them save a few decent, statesmen (McCain and others) ... little do they know that they must now tow the Trump line or become irrelevant for Democrats, they now are in a position to be no more than observers bemoaning the lack of civility in the political process ... 
  7. The all-powerful inner circle ... the White House (if not the entire country) is now run by a bunch of sycophantic neo-nazis, profiteers and unscrupulous operatives working at the behest of a literal mad man ... a dangerously paranoid narcissist ...who may very well be a Russian puppet and who can only hear the reality created by those around him ... the civil service is ignored ... so are his own senior cabinet members who might be a bit more sane.
  8. Bannon is really in charge ...think about it ... a washed out former military officer ... an avowed supporter of dictators ... with a history of condoning/promoting hateful points of views ... the √©minence grise has in fact a VERY black heart. Enough said about him ... journalists beware ! 
  9. Of the first actions of the new administration was to institute a cull in the senior public service ... way beyond the normal changeover of political appointees ...those with moral spines have been evicted be replaced with more malleable officials. The independence of an effective public service is a building block for trust in government ... now you know why it had to be torn down ... part of the whole plan.
  10. A final observation ... and that's very scary ... the last few years have seen a militarization of police forces across the US the local, state and federal levels, law enforcement agencies now boast full arsenals ... equipment that's often comparable to that of military units ... Trump is now counting on that to help him put down protests ... and perhaps even legitimate rebellions if he pursues an unlawful agenda.

I'm probably overly worried ... and things won't deteriorate ... All I can say is that I hope I'm wrong.
If I'm not, the world will have lost a historical symbol of hope, freedom and opportunity ...and I think that Canada will have to take up even more of that mantle ...

Monday, January 23, 2017

When the spokesperson becomes the story: you have failed!

I have a new favorite hashtag on Twitter : #SpicerFacts ... it's full of witty comments and memes on the astoundingly stupid media relations strategy adopted by the new White House and its Press Secretary, Sean Spicer. 

No matter where you stand on the Trump presidency ... their approach to communications is worrisome and troubling. It's also just plain stupid : 

Here's a few reasons why it's stupid. The new spokesperson: 
  • adopted a combative tone right off the bat 
  • focused on relatively trivial issues (crowd size ? ) instead of laying out a bold vision for a new administration 
  • blatantly lied on facts that are easily verifiable.

 So, Spicer became THE story ... a spokesperson is supposed to be just that ... a mouthpiece relaying key messaging ... the focus should be on the message and not the messenger.

For Spicer, that notion seems lost as he was intent on attacking journalists and news organizations. That approach is still not effective even if they're just using the media as a foil to placate their base. In fact, it was a huge misjudgment.

In an era of low trust (actually almost non-existent for government) ... it's self-defeating because government and media are equally distrusted in the US according to the recent findings published in Edelman's Trust Barometer.

It's also troubling ... worrisome ... perhaps even dangerous ... to adopt such a posture towards the media and a vast segment of the public.

If you have no trust capital will you be able to influence the public and the media when it matters most ... when a crisis or nation-wide disaster hits? 

By degrading any aura of authority the public might perceive, you minimize your ability to influence behaviours, convince the public to take appropriate actions to protect themselves during events/incidents such as a flu pandemic, a dirty bomb explosion or some other terror attack.

It also reflects poorly as President Trump tries to establish his image/public persona as Commander-in-Chief ... (attacking the intel community is not a good way to do that ...) One has to hope that the current or former Marines in his national security team can set him straight ... at least we know THEY are not traitors ... 

No trust in the CinC, no trust in his spokesperson, no trust in his legion of proxies ... no trust anywhere ... but hey, let's keep attacking the media when they question the lies we feed them daily.

Ultimately, this kind of public posture, based on "alternative facts" is doomed to failure or even worse, might cost lives.

One thing though ... you have to be somewhat impressed by the bravado displayed by the Trump gang ...comes from the Fibber-in-Chief himself ... and trickles down ( sorry for the bad mental image that evokes ... ) to his key aides. 

I'm not in the US ...but I wish all my American friends good luck over the next four years ...In fact, we might ALL need it.