Thursday, November 10, 2016

Our Over-Communicated Environment

-Well, I have decided to not only return to the blog for a bit of thought-presenting, but also tread very lightly into dangerous territory...the political arena and aftermath of the election.

I will not ever divulge my political leanings in a public setting. I made that decision many years ago when I decided to get into broadcasting. It's no-one's business but mine. And as someone who believes in maintaining some level of credibility and, at least the appearance of objectivity, my choice to do so is as much professional as personal.

I teach a course at Lindenwood University-Belleville (Mass Comm Theory) that delves into the many propositions and postulations espoused by communication and sociology professors over the centuries, even going as far back as Aristotle and his thoughts on rhetoric. Aside from the nuts-and-bolts of communication analysis, after digesting most communication theory you come to realize one thing; that most of what is said or manufactured in the way of messages, can be taken in a multitude of ways depending on one's cultural background and upbringing. We all ascribe, usually similar, but often very different meanings to words, gestures, images and all other forms of communication. And these meanings are based on our own values. Neighbors, friends, and anti-friends can, will, and do value and define the very same communication attempt potentially much differently than we do. We don't all laugh or cry at the same movie.

Why is this important? I'm of the opinion that, in the digital world, words have become relegated to the backseat of the communication process. Aristotle would be appalled. The populace is more interested in who is presenting, and what overarching picture is being presented to the brain. People are too busy with their own little digital worlds to be bothered with actual words of persuasion.

I recently read an article about the election that suggested supporters of, now President-elect, Donald Trump looked beyond his campaign promises to "build a wall", and other unusually ostentatious and difficult-to-swallow utterances, to place more meaning on the big-picture person. Trump supporters, heard and saw his speeches but their minds went  past them to the basic values he proposed and represented, rather than the temporary words of his line in a speech. Trump's supporters just wanted reinforcement of their own thoughts on the issues, they didn't much care who was delivering them, as long as he represented the things in which they believed. This concept seems to make sense to me. Otherwise Trump may have been laughed off early in his attempts to run in this election.

If this is true, could it also be true that Hillary Clinton's words were not powerful enough, or indicative enough of Democrat/liberal values, to present her supporters, or would-be supporters, with a representative worthy of a vote? The typical Democrat turnout was way down from President Obama's in 2012. Perhaps the Democrat-leaning public looked past her speeches to other background issues and unconsciously said, "she's not connecting with me"...or " I'm not getting excited." One has to believe something along those lines as an explanation of what blew up the predictions by the pollsters.

Are we now living in a world in which political speeches have become just "face-time" for the candidates? Do we hear and see the sound bites and not care about the news analysis of them. Do the pundits get tuned out and turned off? Are the left and right-leaning news channels just so much noise to the voting public? Whatever the explanation, it's obvious that the pollsters and those who predict elections have some work to do to figure out what's going on in the world of new and social media. Have we devalued the words that public figures speak, or tweet, to the point where they don't really register? Communication has obviously changed in the digital age. Politics, and politicians, will have to adjust.

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