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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Outsider Authenticity

The NPR show On the Media had a fascinating program in which Brooke interviewed Erica Seifert, author of The Politics of Authenticity. 2016 is supposedly the year of the “outsider”. History reveals that many candidates have run as outsiders, including Lincoln, Carter, and most remarkably Reagan while running for a second term. His deft ads portrayed him as someone never a part of Washington even as a sitting president. Cruz even as a sitting Senator and one who worked for a Republican president, argues he is an outsider because he’s against everything. (Eisenhower was perhaps the most legitimate outsider along with Ulysses S. Grant.)

The famous Howard Dean “scream” is featured in another one of the “On the Media” programs. Those of us old enough to remember the famous win in Iowa will remember the crash-and-burn of his campaign after the media played and replayed his supposed “scream” at the rally following his victory. The show brought in a media expert to explain why no one who was at the event remembered the scream, but everyone who watched on TV remembered nothing else. The producers were using a special microphone and it was intended to pick up only that voice of the speaker, eliminating the crowd noise. The audio technician was then supposed to mix in the crowd noise picked up from different microphones scattered throughout the auditorium to get a more accurate rendition of what happened. He didn’t do that, so the media was left with only Dean’s voice. The crowd noise was so loud that he had to yell and shout to be heard over it.

That famous scream was rebroadcast over and over, more than six hundred times accompanied by commentary that it would sink his campaign. Well, that’s just what happened. One theory as to why it was hammered on over and over was that Dean had said he would break up the large media conglomerates and they wanted him to lose, especially as an “outsider.” In fact, several media outlets said later that they wish that they had not done that that. It was overkill and totally unnecessary. But this is a case where a failure to do the technology correctly ruined a political campaign. No one blames the individual individual engineer for doing this deliberately, but failure to use the technology correctly destroyed Dean, whose campaign never recovered.
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