November 13, 2012
As if enough hadn’t been said or written already (and I don’t profess to be an expert, by any stretch). An interesting thought nonetheless: why are we Europeans still so enamoured of Obama?
A mix of some of the following perhaps.
To many, he’s still a rockstar
The US and Obama are always big news, but not that big compared to what’s happening here, and the fact is, he’s miles away and can’t by nature have as much impact on our day to day as our own politicians. The freshness and star appeal of 2008 thus hasn’t waned as much as it might have done if we’d seen him dominate the headlines night after night or if we could realistically blame him for our own ills. So as trite and sensationalist as it may seem, as far as we can tell, he still nearly looks and sounds the part – just as he did when he captivated the world back in 2007-08.
If not a rockstar, he’s the sort of American we feel most comfortable with
Right or wrong, we see him as professorial, smart, honest, engaging without being overbearing, seemingly willing to listen rather than act on instinct. This contrasts with the type of American some of us feel slightly uncomfortable with i.e. unashamedly loud, brash, impulsive and unselfconscious.
Despite his relative disinterest in our continent, we still think his values are European in nature: his penchant for soft power, universal healthcare, wanting at least in principle to shut down Guantanamo, gay rights, women’s rights et al. Sure, Guantanamo remains open, the healthcare bill has no public option, the use of drone attacks under his watch has been boosted, his support of gay marriage is a fairly recent development BUT we assume that these are compromise measures, not his personal predilection.
We don’t care about his supposed biggest failure (and in any case it’s not entirely his fault and it seems piffling compared to our mess)
The recovery has been slow and unemployment remains too high? Big deal, that’s their issue, and in any case, the US is doing better than we are; frankly their woes seem piffling compared to the Eurozone travails.
The Republicans partly got us into this mess in the first place
Most of all, the reason many Europeans remain keen on Obama is the other guys. True or not, the 2008 collapse which then led to all sorts of other troubles, none more so than the Eurozone crisis, is blamed on Obama’s predecessor and his party.
The Republicans are creepy
A lot of us still view the Republicans as a sinister lot: virtual pantomime villains; certainly not the responsible party of smaller government and sensible regulation. Rumsfeld’s eerie glare into the camera as he said Old Europe didn’t matter and the subsequent cataclysm that was Iraq still grates. As does – to many – their view on universal healthcare, climate change, abortion, progressive taxation, guns, the death penalty and gay rights, as well as their hawkishness on foreign relations. More than belief, it’s perhaps the tone: the visceral hatred and virtual foaming at the mouth at the mere mention of another opinion on the aforementioned issues makes us feel as tad uncomfortable as this sort of belligerence is usually reserved for extreme fringe parties on this side of the Atlantic. Couple that with many Republicans’ endorsement and continual espousal of a particular notion of American exceptionalism which we would dispute, to put it mildly, and it’s perhaps no wonder that most Europeans – left and right – were pleased with the outcome on November 6th.
Am I forgetting anything?
June 2, 2012
Some readers may remember a number of angry, annoyingly righteous and humourless posts I wrote about Italy a few years back. After a couple of people I know and trust told me that the posts were annoyingly righteous and humourless – and made me appear a bit angry and odd – I got rid of them.
They’re now back in a more appropriate setting: a new blog entitled Occasional Italian, where I’ll write about Italian stuff once in a while. I’m not trying to be an authority on Italy and the Italians but I love the subject matter and enjoy writing, and sometimes getting things off my chest is rather therapeutic.
So to any Italophiles out there, feel free to visit Occasional Italian and if it takes your fancy, comment.
October 27, 2011
I’ve dug up a few posts from before I even started at Fleishman-Hillard which may be interesting to anyone into digital, comms, issues and agency life in Brussels.
It’s personally been interesting to revisit stuff I’d even forgotten I’d written: plenty of naive remarks, lots of things which I’d now think were to bleedin’ obvious to even mention, lots of stuff that really hasn’t changed, and other stuff that has (e.g. I mention at one point that access to content remains search-centric but I’d now say that access to content is driven more by referrals.)
Anyway, here goes:
April 2, 2011
September 20, 2010
Nick told us a joke yesterday:
A scraggly old Greek man in a dusty village speaks to a group of strangers.
“See that school? I built that school – with my own hands. Ten years it took, and thousands of children have been schooled there, but nobody talks about Stavros the school-builder. Nobody!
See that hospital? I built it with these very hands. Fifteen years it took. Countless lives have been saved there, children born, the sick cured, but nobody ever talks about Stavros the man who built the hospital. Nobody!
But f*** just one goat…”
Now for the reflective bit. Great men and women are often remembered for one soundbite, one event, or like Stavros, one faux-pas. In the Internet age, how is the latter affected, if at all? Are people or organisations more or less likely to be tarnished by a one-off occurrence which reflects poorly on them?
Half-glass empty Steff would say the risk is even greater, considering the ease with which events, soundbites etc. can hit the public domain. There are countless examples of individuals or companies that have suffered at the hands of simple publication and viral, as only available in the Internet age. Domino’s Pizza anyone?
Half-glass full Steff would say the risk is diminished. Given that it is so easy to publish online and build a profile across multiple online channels, it’s also surely easier to create a positive impression or persona. Public profile-building does not need to rely on unpredictable, one-off 3rd party output anymore (primarily by media) but can be conducted by the person or organisation itself, and their networks, over time. Perhaps not just yet, but certainly down the line, will web-natives (which we’ll all be by then) not have developed into creatures who shun soundbites and spin and are more likely to believe an ongoing narrative by the person/organisation in question, assuming their online network backs them up? I’d like to think so.
Which is it really? Probably a bit of both; currently more half-glass empty, but in time, more of the half-glass full version perhaps?
September 11, 2010
How many times have you heard the old maxim: quality NOT quantity. Thing is, in communications at least, you can’t get away with just quality.
- People need to hear something 3-5 times to believe it.
- The multitude of channels means you can’t reach critical mass (even if your target audience is relatively small) unless you’re communicating in multiple spaces.
By all means, quality of content needs to be exceptional to get through the clutter; but it will need to do so again and again and again. There’s no escaping it: perseverance is a key quality of the successful communicator (along with creativity, a strategic mindset and a knack for understanding audiences.)
September 8, 2010
Idiots with placards are given too much visibility. Every time some contentious issue makes the headlines there’ll be 20 of them holding up home-made signs bemoaning a loss of morals, demanding that someone be banished from somewhere, or proclaiming the apocalypse. And rather than be ignored, they’ll feature prominently in reporting of whatever event they crashed, and somehow be declared the face of public opinion.
Same thing online. Anything written in a prominent blog will undoubtedly attract scores of nut-jobs declaring that the author is an evil, brainless heathen whose opinions would spell the end of humanity as we know it; and yet normal people respond to these morons and even often refer to them in follow-up content as the face of public opinion. In my line of work it equates to clients saying: they all hate us, just look at the 20 critical tweets and blog comments.
It’s too easy to make a lot of noise and somehow become the face of an issue. A plea: ignore the nut-jobs, or we end up giving them credibility and lure more nut-jobs into the public space (think the fringes of the Tea-Party in the US.) Let them have their say, but let’s please not forget most people are moderate and sensible. What’s real public opinion? A million people on the streets of London to protest against an impending war. Even better, results of surveys where a proper cross-section of people are polled.
June 20, 2010
My longest blogging hiatus yet. Any particular reason? Yes, even fairly sporadic blogging like mine takes some “framing” i.e. something happens or you read something that gives you an idea for a post; you then think to yourself, how do I condense the broad idea with multiple potential components into a single post i.e. how do I frame it so that it is concise and relevant.
And? I’ve started a new job (at Fleishman-Hillard as a “Digital Strategist”) so there are lots of things going on, and lots of new things to learn. I’m in an “absorption” phase which will hopefully precede some more framing (my admiration for people who blog every day – through job changes, holidays, weddings etc. – has increased no end.)
Anyway. Watch this space. Or the Fleishman blog which I’ll be contributing to as well.
April 7, 2010
March 21, 2010
Population growth and 10% economic growth in fast-developing countries will result in billions more people consuming at the rate of rich-world baby-boomers within a few decades. We’ll have to change our eating habits in the long-run, but until then, how on earth are we going to produce enough food to feed a billion middle class Indians and Chinese who have suddenly developed a taste for hamburger? Meanwhile, a complex concoction of trade regimes, population growth, urbanisation and increasing temperatures mean that food security is an ever growing threat in Africa; but in this case not because the new middle classes are demanding hamburger, but because hunger is still real (more on all of this at Citizen Renaissance here.) So what can we do about it? We can further develop smart methods of farming to increase yields perhaps. And yet if you’re a left-winger, you’ll think GMOs or other farming technologies are Satan’s spawn. That doesn’t make sense. Surely if you’re a left-winger, you want to feed people in developing countries.
If the worst predictions come true, we’ll experience a 5-6ºC temperature increase by the end of the century, putting vast swaths of the world under water and destroying ecosystems and possibly the nature pyramid to god knows what effect. But climate-change scepticism has become a standard bearing right-wing issue: if you’re right-wing, you’ll claim it’s all a load of tosh. That doesn’t make sense. Surely if you’re right-wing you should be just as worried as a left-winger if there’s even a slight possibility that even the most rosy scenario regarding climate change may come true.
Immigration rates in Europe aren’t really out of control as the populist press tend to claim. Three other trends are however. Declining birth rates, people reaching retirement age and Europe’s pathetic economic competitiveness. Right-wingers claim to be pro-business, pro-growth and pro-wealth. And yet right-wingers tend to be, if not always hostile, at least very wary of immigration. Again, that doesn’t make sense. Who is going to buy and build things? Where is the next generation of innovators going to come from if half our population is retired?
I’m fully aware that all three issues – and many others like them – are spuriously ideological in some way i.e. a right-winger will make a political argument for why they are anti-immigrant or a climate-change sceptic; while a left-winger can just as easily frame their hostility towards GMOs in genuinely left-wing terms.
The point I’m trying to make is that most issues are far too important and complex to fit neat political demarcations. And yet politicians and the media who support them are all too ready to politicise them to score an easy win. They’re taking advantage of the age-old human instinct whereby people are comforted by thinking that everything can be defined by us or them / right or wrong; so if the opposition has taken a stand on an issue, the response is to take the opposite view, rather than debating or perhaps even – shock, horror – agreeing with it.
It’s not all bad though. At European level, the strongly consensus-based political model makes complete polarisation difficult. Meanwhile, year after year, voters throughout Europe are increasingly struggling to tell the difference between parties (which I happen to think is a good thing) while age-old political affiliations based purely on family or geography are dying out. But given that the left-right divide can still characterise epoch-defining issues like food security, immigration and climate change, we still have some way to go.