It seems that, during his first year in office, President Obama is progressively losing control of his narrative.
It also seems that Italy’s Berlusconi is, instead, holding on to his narrative with success.
Is the ‘cuckoo’ public relations model more effective than the ‘social media’ public relations one?
Last Sunday two very different articles from the New York Times made me think about this issue and attempt to suggest a rational (if at all possible..) explanation.
Tom Friedman is surprised that, last week in Davos, various members of the international business community asked him, for the first time ever, clarifications about the current US political instability….
Ever since I was a kid, I have been accustomed to being asked a similar question related to Italy by my international acquaintances.
A question to which I had a very compelling and convincing response: the Italian post second world war political system has been by far the most stable and predictable in Europe because, no matter how many governments went in and out, it really was only a game of ‘musical chairs’: the same political personnel governed the country for decades until 1994.
Which does not mean it was particularly efficient, nor effective, but it never really witnessed discontinuities like other European countries.
Today they don’t ask me this any more, because -if at all curious about a country which is quickly sliding into benign (?) neglect- they prefer to ask me about our growing racism, our growing organised crime, our growing vulgarity and sexism….
Richard Stevenson instead says that Obama’s narrative has become increasingly ungraspable given the huge number of issues on the agenda and their complexity.
The American public is not used to today’s unprecedented and frontal bi-party conflict which has developed every inch of the way, and is clearly confused by the complication (not the complexity, mind you…. and for us public relators it is essential to make this distinction) of the arguments coming from the two sides.
Because of the conflict, they both tend to be manifestly manipulative, and therefore individuals and groups do not now who to believe and in any case, every time one of the two sides comes out with a reasonable argument, the other side immediately reacts with other reasonable counter arguments which demean the former.
Confusion reigns, and quite clearly Obama has not been able to make that highly important distinction between complexity (thus naturally inducing simplicity) and complication (thus naturally inducing counterclaims).
Italy also has (and has been having since at least 1994..i.e. 16 years!) a growing conflict not only between the two poles but also within each of the two (Italy has a bi polar and not a bi party system, which implies that more parties with identity issues and urgencies coexist in each pole…thus ‘complicating’ political narrative).
The aggressiveness has reached levels which tea party or radical American groups have yet to even come near to….
Nonetheless Berlusconi grows in his strong hold of political narrative and his personal popularity today is rated between 61% (polls commissioned by his opponents) and 68% (polls commissioned by him).
In attempting a rational answer to this, at least apparent, ‘conundrum’, I would suggest that:
a- Italians have had now 16 years of aggressive, slanderous, un justified and un comprehensible conflict amongst political parties and do not pay much attention. The single biggest political party expected to emerge from the coming late February Regional elections is the sum of non voters and voluntary abstentions;
b- While Obama’s narrative basically requires his decreasing followers to advocate sacrifices on behalf of the public good in what is considered to be a highly individualistic and self concerned culture, Berlusconi’s narrative explicitly invites his increasing followers -in what is considered to be a collectivistic culture- to evade taxes, have fun and sex, implant artificial hair to avoid baldness, use high heel shoes to appear taller, be rich, play games, tell dirty stories, play cuckoo to international leaders and, of course, repeal and kick out other ethnicities.
Ok, I agree, reality is never as simple as this.
But I need to be coherent and professional by simplifying complex issues without complicating them.