The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Bypassing The National Media

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 29, 2009 @ 06:50

Instapolling at its finest!

Instapolling at its finest!

Following on from yesterday’s thoughts about why we Lib Dems have to be brave in the face of a media that, let’s face it, just doesn’t like us, my mind turned to what we ought to be doing about it instead.

To aid me in my quest, I turned my memories back to several hazy middle-of-the-night alarm clocks, ringing defiantly in my ear, telling me it was time to get up. At 2am. The reason?

Why, none other than the US Election 2008 Presidential Debates! Events that I wouldn’t miss for the world.

Though my body was saying no, my brain was saying “Dear God, oh yes!”. Politics at its most elevated. Two candidates slugging it out for the presidency of the biggest nation on Earth. Unmissable.

Why is this relevant? Well… there are some lessons to be learned from the Obama campaign in terms of using the internet, text messages, YouTube, Twitter, a rapid response network on the blogosphere, and all other forms of new media. But they aren’t going to do the trick. Look at the miserable number of viewings our videos get on YouTube. Fact is, the audience isn’t there.

No. I’m fairly confident that the internet is not the answer. We just don’t go in for all that here. The internet may now be ubiquitous in the UK, but it’s far from being on equal terms with the mainstream media for being the place to absorb political debate. Besides, the big key to the internet’s use in the American elections was the greater mobilisation of the youth vote, rallied by the call to change. There is no such equivalent here.

Anyway, I digress!

The real reason for bringing up the American campaign, and specifically the Presidential debates was the remarkable thing that kept occurring after each one.

Each time, the media commentators and “blowhards” (to coin a marvellous American expression) would declare the debate either a finely balanced score-draw or, more often than not, a win for McCain. Even Failin’ Palin managed to rack up a great deal of praise.

There was one problem, though, that upset the media urge to crown McCain. It came in the form of an opinion poll, much like the way opinion polls have made us all reassess the success of the Lib Dem Conference.

CNN and others conducted live-reaction polls. Even Faux News had famed Republican pollster Frank Luntz carry out one of his usually entertaining focus group sessions.

The bad news. All of the polls, even Luntz, came up with the same conclusion. Obama had won. And not just edged it either: the public were convinced of his confidence, calmness, professionalism… his presidentialism. They were sold.

All of a sudden the media had to adjust their narrative. The debates were almost all given to Obama either convincingly or narrowly by virtue of these instant reaction polls. It completely recast the context of the post-debate reaction.

If only we’d had instant polls during the Conference. We could have shut the likes of the smarmy, arrogant Quentin Letts up.

Of course, the commentators didn’t like it. Suddenly they were being held to account. The normal time-lapse which allowed for their failed predictions to disappear into the memory-hole had gone. Now those very same judgements they were being paid so handsomely for were, at last, being found to be way off kilter with what the public actually thought.

Now: I’m not saying that instant-polls are the answer to the Lib Dems problems. But what I am saying is that if we are confident in our message, confident that it will appeal to the public… then we must plough on, regardless of the shitstorm the media kick up, regardless of their attempts to make us look like we’re “out of touch” with the millionaires in their mansions.

We must ignore their attempts to throw us off beam.

Obama has always succeeded when he was at his boldest: with a crystal clear message, repeatedly rammed home at every opportunity, ignoring what the pundits and the media editors think.

That is a lesson that we need to learn quickly.

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2 Responses to “Bypassing The National Media”

  1. … hmmm… and yet, when you hear the same thing from Labour officials who want their supporters, voters and members to continue to trust in Gordon Brown, to plough on regardless of opinion polls and punditry, we (quite rightly) think they’re a bit barking.

    Being blind to criticism isn’t always helpful if more people believe the critics than believe us … and that’s exactly the situation we’re in.

  2. It’s a fair point, Charlotte, but I think we’re in a subtly different position.

    My point is that we’re in the unique position of being the “third party” – unloved, unwanted by and unwelcome to the national media. That means we’re never going to get fair coverage, regardless of what we do or say. Labour has its media luvvies. So, now, do the Tories.

    We don’t. It means we need to be a lot braver when we go out on a limb about a particular issue, because we’re bound to come under heavy fire from all sides just because we’re Lib Dems.

    Thanks for dropping by 🙂

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