Showing posts from March, 2012

Fuelling Cynicism

I don't know which genius apparatchik came up with the co-ordinated campaign of the government this morning to create an atmosphere of panic-buying fuel, but they deserve all the opprobrium the non-political world has to give.
Until this morning's cabinet comments - led by Francis Maude and the Prime Minister - there was no panic buying at the pumps. That's because there is no strike and the process of setting up negotiations to avoid a fuel drivers' strike are still being pursued. But this slow development was clearly frustrating the government. Hence a decision to give the whole dispute a bit of significant media air by having cabinet ministers comment on possible fuel shortages. Clearly the aim of the comments was to push the dispute to the top of the news agenda, and then ratchet up the pressure on those eternal baddies, the unions. It has worked - up to a point. The dispute is certainly top of the agenda, and the union finds it is having to defend its posit…

Presidents Don't Persuade

There is no “power to persuade” for a US president.That is the conclusion in Ezra Klein’s fascinating recent New Yorker article, drawing heavily upon data-heavy research by George Edwards of Texas A and M University.

It can come as a bit of a shock.You read it in all the textbooks; a key element in the arsenal of an American president is his power to persuade.He has a bully pulpit second to none, can command television audiences most candidates barely dream about and has probably come to the presidency in the first place because of his powers of oratorical persuasiveness.Every successful president from Theodore Roosevelt, through his distant cousin Franklin, via JFK, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, to Barack Obama, have been hailed as great speakers, articulators of their vision and persuaders of the American people.
Well, not quite.Klein describes how George Edwards, no specialist in presidential rhetoric, was nonetheless suspicious at the lack of specific evidence to back up the oft r…

Breitbart's Passing

Most Englishmen and women won't have heard of Andrew Breitbart and the news of his death today aged 43 will mean nothing other than exemplifying the unfortunate circumstance of a relatively young man leaving his wife and four kids suddenly without their father and husband. But Breitbart's death has received substantial coverage in America, with the Republican presidential candidates lining up to praise his 'patriotism' and 'integrity', while amongst the tweeted comments are some that are undoubtedly celebratory.

A fairly recent arrival on the media scene, but a man who pushed forward the boundaries of new media, Breitbart was a controversial figure, always determined to stir things up from his place on the right. He called Ted Kennedy a 'special pile of human excrement' when news of Kennedy's death broke, fitted up a decent, black public servant in Georgia as a racist (she wasn't - he had selectively edited the video recording of a question and…