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