Numbers and stories; the stuff that political campaigns are made of

Numbers and stories; the stuff that political campaigns are made of

Politics | Judette Coward-Puglisi

May 3, 2010








Yesterday was Super Sunday and a huge  marketing day for the two main political parties in Trinidad.


Both PNM and UNC Alliance  held massive rallies to tap into their tribes and  each relied  on their party’s key stories to capture the crowds. Granted those stories had a mixture of the selfish and the scurrilous; the heartfelt and the honest. 


Both parties knew what was at stake.  That if  they told their  stories right,  the masses would  believe them and would  mobilize  their  tribes around the key   messages. 


Rallies serve an important purpose; they stir up  passion, they convince the converted, they provide the spectacle. The party whose messages resonated  yesterday will press ahead today  with some measure of tempered confidence..


As much as electioneering is about stories,  it is also a numbers game. 


  • The party with the most votes win. 
  • The party  with the most crowds at late night political meetings foretell the  future. 
  • The campaign with the biggest funds get more air-time. 
  • The one with the most air-time gets more attention.

There are two concerns with the latter point.


The first  about the conflicting role of  the media as purveyors of information and business entities was expressed  really well  by media and cultural consultant, Josanne Leonard, this weekend on facebook. Leonard wrote: “ Where did we get to the point where the role of the media is simply to make money by selling block prime time to political parties. She argued that “Spectrum” airtime is a resource that belongs to the  people  and that public interest and democratic principles  were largely being ignored in the period leading up to the election.  


My concern has more to do with the quality of the analysis on the airwaves and in print.  We have too many media outlets and broadcasters who have clear political agendas and they  are so loud with their megaphones  that they are drowning out reasoned  public discourse. Radio today is extremely  inflammatory with its  over the top rhetoric and newspapers concerned about getting scooped,  go for the most salacious headlines;  TV programmes  with the exception of a  select  few,  lack the  experts to give their programmes a decent balance.


I suppose that stories and numbers are grounded in a strategy that works during this starting gate period. Bus people in, provide enough food and drink. Add the picong. Throw in the music. Whittle down each other. Tell the most atrocious  stories. Stoke the fires.  This is  a winners take all game after all


Here’s my concern though, inflammatory  slash and burn politics has always been the stuff that the  ideological fringes were made of.  Decades later  it continues  to seep into the center of the discourse. My hope for  Silly Super Sunday was that we would have  learned something. 


But I look at the newspapers today and I see we haven’t come that long a way.