The City of Port Phillip has a remarkable track record in providing case studies for communicators – particularly examples of tactics and strategies to avoid.
Regular blog readers may recall that the Council managed the remarkable feat of failing to convince the community of the need for a remediation plan for a polluted site – reversing the situation in 999 out of 1000 similar cases. Then it ran a community consultation plan strong on pretty pictures and online dazzle but ineffective.
While it seems at times there is little good news emanating from the land of Donald Trump there is some of significance – first on US attitudes to climate change and second on the countervailing forces in the country.
The George Mason University Centre for Climate Change Communication has been doing some analysis of its latest Climate Change in the American Mind survey which was undertaken after the election. In particular it found that: “About half of Trump voters (49%) think global warming is happening, while fewer than one in three (30%) think global warming is not happening. About half of Trump voters (47%) also say the U.S. should participate in the international agreement to limit global warming. By contrast, only 28% say the U.S. should not participate. More than six in ten Trump voters (62%) support taxing and/or regulating the pollution that causes global warming, with nearly one in three (31%) supporting both approaches. In contrast, only about one in five (21%) support doing neither.”
There is a legendary story about the great Austrian mathematician and logician, Kurt Gödel, recounted in a recent issue of TheConversation (11 February 2017) by Sydney University’s Professor Mark Colyvan. When Gödel was preparing for a US citizenship examination he discovered what he said was a ‘loophole’ in the Constitution which would enable a President to become a dictator
It is very sobering (although others might say so terrifying as to drive you to drink) to realise what your ordinary United States citizen believes. On the other hand some of it has prompted research into how this can guide communicators on framing messages.
Both Yuval Noah Harari in his new book, Homo Deus, and Carter T. Butts in an article in Science (21 October 2016) on why people don’t believe scientific findings, give insights into one aspect of this – US attitudes to evolution.
In the 1950s and 1960s the RSL was a formidable political force – stridently anti-communist, omnipresent in the media, sole custodian of the Anzac legend and sometimes a force for the welfare of veterans.
Today it is reeling from financial scandals, declining membership and in “rapid if not terminal decline” according to Kel Ryan an RSL Life Member, senior Army officer and currently a scholar completing a PhD on the RSL and its advocacy.
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is supposedly a bit of a digital whiz kid au fait with all the wonders of modern technology and its promise to make us more agile.
On his government’s digital track record – the Census disaster, losing the head of his digital transformation unit shortly after he started and now the Centrelink problems – one has to wonder whether the Turnbull expertise is actually as great as promised or whether he simply hasn’t managed to convey the message to his Cabinet.
The blog is sympathetic to anything which aids communication which raises awareness of climate change and combats the work of the climate denialists – particularly given how so many of them will be part of the Trump administration.
But sometimes the blog wonders if some progressives are not their own worst enemies. Earlier this month Alex Evans – a climate activist and former advisor to the UN and the British Government – published a book (The Myth Gap) which seeks to explain why much progressive climate change communication has failed and what can be done about it. The blog became aware of it, fittingly, from the The Economist’s religion blog Erasmus. By the way the historical Erasmus is one of the blog’s great heroes. When everybody else was busy trying to send their opponents to the stake Erasmus was the voice of reason and moderation – indeed so much so that it is a bit surprising he didn’t get sent to the stake himself.
The blog, like most other people, has lots of good intentions which often don’t amount to much. The most persistent is buying books and putting them aside for later. Sometimes it is years before the blog gets around to them and sometimes they are still sitting on shelves.
The Umberto Eco principle is also useful. Eco had a massive library and was always being asked by visitors: “have you read them all?” Well no bibliophile ever has – partly because they will be buying books without making actuarial calculations – and partly, as Eco explained, because the bibliophile has generally looked at the books, knows what’s in them in general terms and sometimes picks them off the shelf to look something up. But the bibliophile also has the pleasure of taking up a work some years after the initial fuss about it has died down.
The former Supreme Court Justice, Frank Vincent QC AO, has achieved much in a distinguished career at the Bar, as a judge, Patron of the excellent Western Chances charity and in the fields of probation and domestic violence and many other fields.
But above all else he is known in Port Melbourne as a son of Port, the son of a family who worked and lived in Port before it became fashionable and very expensive. His father was a waterside worker and he has had a long association with maritime industrial matters.
In all the post-Trump analysis the most consistent feature has been the emphasis on the ‘post-truth’ phenomenon and the decline of the traditional media’s role.
Some interpretations have dated the post truth era from Karl Rove’s comments about how the Bush administration created its own reality and that while the traditional media was interpreting a new version the administration had moved on. Successive Republican apologists and apparatchiks continued to employ the tactic through the Iraqi disaster (it wold have all been okay if Obama hadn’t withdrawn troops) and the GFC (all caused by forcing otherwise responsible banks to lend to poor people for homes). Needless to say these ‘realities’ were echoed by the Republicans’ Australian epigones such as Alexander Downer and others.