Posts Tagged ‘obama’

The Ego Has Landed

Britain’s Got Talent has rolled around again and again the nation is gripped. Out with the old and in with the new. It’s been this way for a while. Remember, it’s not five minutes since the X Factor was all anyone could talk about, but that’s seeped away into the mists of time as BGT conquers the attention spans of the nation.

Like a Chinese meal, it is all you can taste and think about, but when it’s finished it’s forgotten and all you want is the next fix of foodstuff. There’s news, there’s excitement, there’s hyperbole scattered all over the place like MSG – and then it’s gone.

Of course, we are at the point that everyone is most interested in – the freak parade. Never mind the machinations behind the scenes or the commercial value of the brand; this is what the people most care about; the narrative, the crazies.

Given that it’s all about BGT right now, will we ever know the truth of what caused Cheryl Cole’s American X Factor exit and non-admittance to the UK judging panel? I doubt it, as the people have spoken and what they want is the tears, the heartache, the visceral stories, whether good or bad. What use is a nation’s sweetheart without some pain? We’ve used up the divorce tears – here’s the next weepie Cole adventure. Read the rest of this entry »

Wined, Dined and Politically Inclined

I went to supper at the small but deliciously formed Texture restaurant in Portman Street last night with our clients, the government of South Australia, hosted by the Agent General, Bill Muirhead, to celebrate the First Family of Australian wine production.

I sat next to Robert Hill Smith, who runs the Yalumba winery. Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family owned winery – it was set up in 1849 by Robert’s great great-grandfather, a Dorset brewer called Samuel Smith who emigrated to Australia, made some money from gold and set up the winery which he named after the indigenous Australian word for “all the land around”.

Also there was someone who knows a fair bit about all the land around – or around politics at the least; Lynton Crosby. He masterminded several Australian election victories for John Howard, the failed 2005 election campaign for the Conservatives and Boris Johnson’s successful mayoral campaign. So when he started to talk about the recent election, I could not help but listen intently. Read the rest of this entry »

Election Stuntwatch: The Rise of Old Media

When I was 19, the publicist Theo Cowan – this country’s first pro celebrity PR wrangler, who created the Rank Charm School, an acting school run the Rank Film company that brought the world Roger Moore, Joan Collins, Christopher Lee, Diana Dors and more – granted me an audience in Poland Street. “Keep your clients’ feet on the ground,” he told me. “NEVER let someone believe a good review!”

This is advice that needs to be handed on to Nick Clegg, after last night’s second Leaders’ Debate. He appeared to have spent the week following his remarkable showing in the first debate positively wallowing in the good reviews. Certainly his people believed the good press enough to let Clegg give Brown and Cameron enough room to make up lost ground. That said, he survived pretty well mostly thanks to the MPs’ expenses scandal allowing too many people to see the puppet strings in this campaign. Read the rest of this entry »

Election Stuntwatch: The Leadership Debate

We’re living in what Seth Godden calls “the century of ideas diffusion”. Last night’s historic TV debate was launched with a weight of expectation as to how it might change this perception. If it did, it was mostly for the political classes.

The debate was carefully, rigorously planned as an attempt to revivify politics, seen as a necessity now that all trust has been leeched away from politics and politicians. But if the people behind its gaffe-free polish thought that this would help re-engage the electorate, who have been drifting away slowly but surely for years, they were wrong.

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Election! The End of the Phony War

There have been weeks and weeks of phony electioneering and, finally, this morning Gordon Brown has told the world what we already knew – the election will be on 6th May.

From the negative electioneering of mashed up, satirical posters, to the dusting down of the old Saatchi creative team – to deliver up what Cameron’s mob hope to be a coup de gras to Labour (as was done under Thatcher) – its been a long and spectacularly phoney war; one that has, alarmingly, only focused on the media process. Read the rest of this entry »

All the President’s (Short) Men

What is Nicolas Sarkozy’s problem with his height? He can’t seem to go a week without turning up in the press reportedly wearing a pair of stacked heels and standing on tiptoe in an effort to make himself feel taller – be it next to Barack Obama or factory workers in Normandy.

His latest stunt, being widely reported on in the press at the moment, is the photo opportunity he took at a Normandy factory last Thursday, in which the workers he was photographed with were all shorter than he was.

Sarkozy stands at either 5’5” or 5’6”, depending on which journal you read – it’s abundantly clear that he is constantly kept on his toes trying to obfuscate on the issue of his height – but this latest venture, where volunteers shorter than the French president were called for to stand behind him as he made a speech, takes his problems with the state of his limited verticality to new heights. He seems to be developing a Napoleon complex. This is not an attractive trait in the French president, as history has shown.

The fact that the Élysée Palace spinmeisters haven’t taken the issue in hand, and instead seem to be actively falling in step with Sarkozy’s wishes, only adds to the Napoleonic complexity of the matter. They need to do something if they want to stop him becoming a laughing stock. One simply cannot be a global leader and not be able to deal with one’s height – or lack of it – in the 21st century.

It’s a PR disaster to be seen as so self-obsessed when there are much bigger issues in the world that need much more urgent attention. Sarkozy needs to get over his personal issues, throw out his Cuban heels, realise that he has an attractive trophy wife and that some people envy him for that (this seems to be the sort of recognition he’s craving) and, most of all, recognise that the whole world is watching – and laughing at – his methods of projecting himself.

This footage is from the original Belgian report that broke the news that Sarkozy was actively seeking people his height or shorter to stand behind him on the podium…

McBride and Prejudice

A week has passed and it amazes me that there has been as much surprise at – and media condemnation of – Damien McBride’s attempts to slur the opposition as there has been. Surely this sort of thing, in one form or another has been going on for years? I’m not suggesting I approve of McBride’s attempts to dismantle the reputations of the Tories, but this is far from the first time that it’s happened.

Gordon Brown may have expressed his apologies, may have “ensured that there are new rules so that this cannot happen again” but Westminster is a notorious whispering gallery and the press have been pecking up the strands of scandal dropped there for years to feather their nests. That is surely going to continue, outside official channels, as it has in the past.

It occurs to me that this frenzy of outrage is more an expression of fear on the part of the traditional media; fear that their sources may be decamping to the ultimate whispering gallery that is the internet, where rumour, conjecture and slander can live with considerably less fear of court action.

Bloggers like Guido Fawkes and Ian Dale are getting to the meat of a story more quickly, more effectively and with a wider reach than the analogue media; they must be chilled to the bone at their inability to lead the story. The papers are losing control and trust, hence their vicious reaction. If they can help halt the tittle-tattle’s flow towards the net, they will.

And this sort of diatribe has been part of the political mix forever. The metropolitan dinner party and lobby circles in Notting Hill, Hampstead and Westminster lap it up but, hypocritically, publicly disown it when outed.

The sad thing is that this latest round of technological, net-based spin and whisper is borne out of Barack Obama’s positive and hugely successful campaign to become President of the USA. But Britain’s political thinkers are so ingrained in negativity that they have inverted Obama’s campaign tactics and made something poisonous with them.

Consider the net a wire service, a huge, powerful story feed where everyone who wants it can get the message at high speed – delivered to their mobiles the moment it goes up if needs be. Psy Ops campaigns on the net are simple and easy to run, but it’s ludicrous and hypocritical of the media to suggest that this evil propaganda device is a new phenomenon. It’s just running at the speed of thought now.

The key soldiers in the Psy Ops political war on the web are ex-newspaper men and women and there are plenty of PR people sticking their members into the swill pit. But politics has always been a dirty, ruthless and cynical game and the only way out of this mess is for people is to stop glorying in the ruthless gossip and disinformation and take a more positive outlook on life, political or otherwise.

I’ve seen friends destroyed by the sort of tactics that McBride proposed to use – they haven’t been in public life for years and won’t be coming back unless a new attitude comes to the fore. They just don’t have the recourse to justice that the seriously wealthy have. There are a lot of casualties out there who’ll never get a fair crack of the whip despite the PCC.

What we need is a realignment of thought, not a few rules that are little more than sticking plaster placed over a crumbling dam.

Too Many Fingers in the Pie

I was sent a beautiful and astonishing graphical representation of the cost of the bailout of the American economy yesterday – one that made my jaw tap my laptop’s keys and type out an expressive gasp of consternation when I saw it.

The pie chart in question, below, was posted on the blog and is an aesthetically-pleasing version of statistics drawn up by the economist Barry Ritholtz.

Click on the image for a larger version

Click on the image for a larger version

Whilst one can question the way the dollar prices were adjusted for inflation, there is no denying that this statistic shows explicitly just how much the American economy has been propped up on hope in the last 30 years, and the enormity of the task facing Barack Obama.

Arresting Change

Reading George Monbiot’s comment, in today’s Guardian, discussing the flurry of misinformation about climate change, I cannot help but think that the biggest global budgets, for corporations whose profit-making capabilities are threatened by the need for change, are thrown at secret briefs to the global PR giants, whose only remit is to sow confusion and thus stultify change.

“We all create our own reality,” writes Monbiot, “and shut out the voices we do not want to hear. But there is no issue we are less willing to entertain than man-made climate change. Here, three worlds seem to exist in virtual isolation. In the physical world, global warming appears to be spilling over into runaway feedback: the most dangerous situation humankind has ever encountered. In the political world – at the climate talks in Poznan, for instance – our governments seem to be responding to something quite different, a minor nuisance that can be addressed in due course. Only the Plane Stupid protesters who occupied part of Stansted airport yesterday appear to have understood the scale and speed of this crisis. In cyberspace, by contrast, the response spreading fastest and furthest is flat-out denial.

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The Obama Project

When I first visited New York 32 years ago, I was strongly advised against walking through Harlem. 40 years ago, Martin Luther King was assassinated for daring to dream about racial integration. 13 years previous to that, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a bus and tipped the balance, beginning what has become, of late, an avalanche of change. Now, after decades of struggle, what was previously unthinkable – despite Jesse Jackson’s valiant attempts to stand for the presidency in the 1980s – has actually happened; a black man has been elected President of the USA and it feels good. 

Or at least it felt good for a little while, in the wake of John McCain’s gracious concession speech and Obama’s stirring acceptance speech. Now, only 12 hours later, the internet has started to breed colonies of bile and cynicism, hatred and demagoguery, which is spreading fast and picking away at the euphoria and hope, at that sense of history being made that anyone, of whatever political persuasion, must surely have felt when they woke to the news of Obama’s victory this morning.

It seems that the honeymoon is over almost before it started. Are people so cynical, in the wake of the Blair effect that came, eventually, to be seen as nothing more than spin and puffery, that they cannot even bask in the hope Obama offers for a little while? The internet opens us up to an endless array of opinion, and can be a great agent of change, but have the spinmeisters hardened us so much that we cannot see a good thing for what it is without having to rationalize it to death?

The most interesting detail in the Obama speech by far was when, in passing, he characterised the global economy – only in passing, mind you – as being in its worst state for more than a century. This strikes me as a genuine breakthrough and although it was only one sentence, it was clearly the product of much sweat in the back rooms of the Obama campaign. It is the sort of idea, surely, of a man prepared to try to do what he has pledged to do – change the world for the better. He has seen the problems the American people and the world face

The world should be focusing on these details, on the gracious pledge of help offered by John McCain, on the positivity that Obama’s election has engendered. If we listen to the haters, the people who booed the mention of Obama during McCain’s concession speech, the cynics who wonder, bitterly, if Obama can do anything he has promised so soon after the election, the Twitterers who compare his victory to the walk Blair took to 10 Downing Street which lead inexorably to the Iraq war, surely all is lost before it has a chance to be won.

Surely now is not the time for a PR backlash. Should we not all be hoping that Obama will live up to his promises, deliver change and fail to give any traction to the poisonous prophecies of the web’s anonymous nay sayers and doom-mongers?