Thursday, October 4, 2012

Obama, Ken King, And Framing.

Like I suspect many of you did, I watched the United States Presidential Debates last night. Like I suspect many of you did, I chalked up the decision to Romney.

Many people are now, the day after, giving their opinions as to why they think Romney won. They are also giving their opinions as to why Obama lost; it depends, like so many things, on ones perspective.

My two cents have as much diminished value as any in these days of QEternity. I think Team Obama thought that this Mitt Romney character was really the caricature they had tried to make him out to be, so they were dismissive of how much an adversary he could be. In other words, I think they scouted poorly. I also think that at some point Team Obama internalized all the nice and flowery things that were said about their mans rhetorical ability, and at some level thought that all they had to do to win was to show up because of the 'talent' difference.

But I think there is another reason that Obama lost the debate, and I think the way he talked, the way he used language during the debate, gave the game away.

Obama lost the debate partly because of style, and partly because of preparedness, and partly because of Romney's own competencies, but he also lost the debate because his ideas are being rejected. And while I don't know that for sure, I think I am right, because I think the candidate acknowledged that as well when he employed the rhetorical technique called 'Framing'.

Framing is essentially when you take an idea that will hurt you if you state it plainly, and try to 'frame' it in a way that so that it doesn't sound like it is such a bad idea. It is pretty much lying, but we are too polite to call it that, so we call it 'framing'.

For an example: At one point during the debate, Obama said he wanted more centralized planning of the economy. Except he didn't say it like that, because to say it like that is a vote killer in America. Instead of calling for increased centralized planning, Obama called for more 'economic patriotism'.

(I will leave it to the reader to figure out why calling central planning 'economic patriotism', in America, where the principle of limited government is enshrined in the constitution, is boneheaded. Or maybe I won't.)

There were numerous examples of Obama employing framing throughout this debate as a way to blunt the backlash his support for unpopular positions would bring. He described taking $716 billion dollars out of one of the government medical plans as 'saving from', not 'taking from'. As in he is going to 'save from' medicare $716 billion dollars.

As in your wife 'saved from' the bank account the amount of money it cost to buy her heels.

This is a classic example of framing. Obama knows taking $716 billion dollars from the program is not a winning message politically. Instead of adopting a more popular stance, he employs rhetoric to try and bamboozle the electorate.

Because he chose to do so, because he chose as his main debate weapon the rhetorical tool of 'Framing', is why I say he lost the debate because his ideas are being rejected. He knows this too, which is why he chose to frame his ideas in language designed to shield the intent of his ideas.

If you are pushing an unpopular position, you have two options: You can switch your position to one more in agreement to the electorate, or you can try to 'frame' your unpopular ideas in a way that makes them more marketable to the electorate.

But by choosing to frame, at some level one has had to level with themselves about the unpopularity of the position. One would not need to frame a winning idea.

Now why are we talking Presidential politics and message framing on what was at one time a hockey blog?

Because of Ken King.

The Flames President was recently on an Edmonton area radio show discussing the situation of the arena in that city. Not surprisingly he seemed to endorse the idea that the city of Edmonton should give the owner of the Oilers anything he demanded. But what got my attention was the way Ken King chose to 'frame' his argument.

(Link to the article here)

In fact, why don't I let the man explain it himself:
"This isn't about wealthy people, and it isn't about giving money to rich people to build buildings and do their business." (King) adds, "This is about community assests (SIC), and we should all be exceedingly greatful (SIC) for the Daryl Katz's and the ownership groups in markets (like Edmonton)."  - Ken King
 (Two spelling mistakes in a 'news organizations' article? Really?)

Do you see what the man did there?

The issue is actually about 'wealthy people' and 'giving money to rich people to build buildings and do their business'. But Ken King knows that asking for taxpayer dollars for 'wealthy people' to 'build buildings and do their business' is a losing proposition. In a place where the provincial government is under heat for its profligate spending, and the city is constantly crying about not having enough money because it spent all the money it had on bike paths or foot bridges or art for water treatment facilities, asking for more taxpayer money for superfluous things is probably not a winner.

But he also knows the people of Alberta like Alberta, and the people of Calgary particularly like Calgary. So the issue is framed accordingly. It is no longer about giving a private businessman unfair advantages through access to the same lending rates a municipality enjoys, but rather it is about whether or not you, Citizen, actually like your city, and whether you, Citizen, are willing to step up to the plate and deliver your city a community asset.

I find it all Orwellian. Love is hate, peace is war. Spending is investing. Private business is a public asset.

It's called message framing. It really should be called lying. 

I hope the people of Calgary are aware enough to see through this ploy, and I suspect they are. If you believe the NHL, there are only a few places that hockey makes money. Calgary is one of them. With an old building. If the Flames want to a new building to open up and enhance revenue streams, that is fine. But I don't see how that is a community issue, and I don't understand the justification for public dollars.

Mind you, I don't see the justification for the use of public dollars for a lot of what our public dollars are used for.

Oh yeah, vote buying. Sorry, I framed that badly. I meant civic responsibility. 

Furthermore, I think Peter Loubardias Ken King should be fired. 


  1. Great fuckin' piece!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. We've always been at war with Eurasia

  4. lol... Framing isn't always "lying" it depends on the persons personal subjectivity on where certain issues are important.

    You said it right in this piece. For example, If you think or believe that the Calgary Flames as a private business (organization) bring some sort of cultural, or community based wealth & enrichment to the community, namely, the way in which they give back through the flames foundation, the amount of revenue brought into the city because people actually know where the city is because of the NHL team in it, etc. then one might argue that the investment of tax dollars is worth the additional economic advantages having a team provides and therefore it does benefit the community. Not everyone may think that way and thus not agree and that's fine too.

    I believe objectively though framing in politics is used because people don't always understand that spending money benefits the greater good in the long term if the plan/strategy/policy is well thought out. Or vice versa taking away money benefits in the long term because that money is being wasted on inefficiency. Either way one side of the argument is not going to like you so framing it in a way that makes it sound more appealing isn't necessarily lying. It's not that you're doing something different from what you said you were going to do necessarily. Framing with good intentions is useful when dealing with public opinion.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Excuse my language in that second paragraph I started to write something else and changed my mind and didn't delete properly.

    I should have said "framing in politics though may sometimes be used because people don't always understand... In fact, framing can even be objective given the proper research and economic advisory.... "

    Really I believe objectively... there's a mighty paradox. I must have been listening a little too closely to Romney.

  7. Does this mean the girls are gonna change?

  8. "In politics, lies are what we call promises."
    - George Jefferson

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