Posted Feb 21, 2017 at 19:36. Revised Sep 6, 2019 at 21:05.
Your pants are on fire;
Your nose is as long
As a telephone wire!
Does this childish playground taunt apply to the President of the United States? Obviously it does, but not exactly….
J.D. Nobody finds it interesting that so many people do not understand the game and the dynamics behind Donald Trump’s winning presidential campaign. An earlier Complexity Traps post comparing Trump to FDR summarized the historic context preceding FDR’s presidency and its similarities to that of Donald Trump. Indeed, Trump’s campaign and post-election actions are right out of FDR’s playbook, as explained in the earlier post. FDR relentlessly vilified his opponents while perfecting the use of radio as a voter-communication tool. JFK later paved the way for Trump by perfecting the use of television as a campaign tool. Trump made the next big campaigning innovation by perfecting the use of social media in political campaigns. A common thread in the Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Trump presidential campaigns is that these presidents conveyed their messages in story form.
Recounting stories and myths while relaxing around an evening fire precedes civilization and remains an important part of life because it appeals to the important human yearning to understand one’s place and role in the universe. Mythology recounts important truths and lessons that are not literally true but recount spellbinding stories that often teach something as well. Many, if not all, of the listeners around the fire understood that those stories and myths were in fact lies and that inconsistency, contradiction, and literal lies are all part of the storytelling process. These lies are sometimes whoppers told for entertainment and to make a point, not to maliciously mislead.
The Greek poet Homer produced the Iliad and the Odyssey. Both works are nothing but literal lies from cover to cover. 2500 years later, millions of people still look to these entertaining lies and recognize that they contain no malicious intent.
The introduction of modern technology and communications has caused traditional storytelling and mythology to become progressively less a part of life, resulting in people becoming progressively more dismissive of myths and stories as just useless lies.
The electronic communication devices that occupy our minds today cannot replace the life enrichment that fireside stories provide. These devices have created a gaping hole in the emotional needs of people who are looking for fulfillment from the human interactions that quench this thirst. Good fireside stories are part of this process.
The shared work and social interaction in occupations such as farming have always produced strong family and neighbor ties. Boasting, storytelling, and great mythology flourish in this environment. It is no surprise that the people who most understand this world are the ones who related best to Donald Trump’s sometimes crude, but folksy and mythopoetic, style of campaigning. They clearly understood that his ideas were to be taken seriously but not literally, whereas those chased away by his campaigning style generally were rebuffed because they took him literally but not seriously.
Those who took Trump literally were horrified because they did not fully understand that storytelling and locker-room boasts are often nothing more than that. A good story involves heroes and villains, escaping danger, and heroes that survive the machinations of the villains. People enjoy good stories even when they know the storyline and the outcome.
Donald Trump’s post-election thank-you tour speech in West Allis, Wisconsin is a good example of his ability to bring these components together to appeal to his audience. The first thing he did in that speech was set a favorable mood by wishing the people in the audience Merry Christmas and thanking them for supporting him. Casting himself in the West Allis speech as a hero, Trump announced that the days of political correctness were over and assured the audience that it was once again OK to wish people Merry Christmas.
Moving on, Trump recounted the days immediately before and after the election. He created the suspense by allowing that Big, Bad Hillary might actually win! He thought he had her cornered, but did he? Would his fever pitch of speeches and rallies just before the election save the day? With the suspense building, there was more fear than hope. Some new hope came when learning that Big Bad Hillary had canceled her post-election fireworks display. She would not have done so unless her confidence in winning was ebbing away.
The story’s fear and tension reached a fever pitch late in Election Day afternoon. Loyal daughter Ivanka Trump called her father with the worrisome message that the exit polls were looking bad and that there appeared to be little hope of winning. Could a level-headed hero turn this suspense into success, especially since the news media and polls had said there was almost no path to the 270 electoral votes needed to defeat the evil Hillary? Was the fever pitch of speeches and rallies in the last three days of the campaign all for nothing? Trump recounted his memory of the large crowds at his rallies and speeches, and he could not believe that so many people would have turned out for his rallies if he were losing.
In a few hours the vote counts would begin to arrive, and the uncertainty would be over. As the critical results from the must-win state of Florida started coming in, the situation continued to look bad but most of the votes from the Florida Panhandle were yet to be reported. With those votes Florida was won. Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes and victory was still open!
The story continued as attention turned to the must-win state of Ohio. The suspense lifted somewhat when it was clear that Ohio was being won by a large margin of votes. Again the path to 270 electoral votes was still open because the wide margin in Ohio bode well for the vote count from other states!
Focus then shifted to the “can’t-win” states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania, because the first vote counts from those states looked a little better than was expected. Trump might be able to win one or both of them! When both states joined the victory column, it became clear that Big Bad Hillary’s earlier taunts that Trump had no path to 270 electoral votes were now starting to look hollow. As the votes piled up, it became ever more clear that it was Big Bad Hillary who had no path to 270 electoral votes. The story was over, and with a heroic happy ending. Dewey had defeated Truman!
The audience, of course, knew the outcome of the story from the start. Hearing the story of the hard-won victory retold was nevertheless inspirational. People who focused solely on the world of facts and logic were clueless that retelling such a story was important and mattered even though the election was over and the entire audience had known the outcome from the beginning. Were parts of the story lies? If so, nobody cared.
The research for this post turned up an unexpected Complexity Trap involving just what President Trump said in his West Allis thank-you speech. One would think that it should have been easy to find a complete transcript of Trump’s West Allis remarks, but that was not the case. It was easy to find many snippets of remarks from many different speeches, including the one in West Allis. All of the snippets were out-of-context quotes and in many instances carried distorted connotations due to the omitted text.
Once again, ever-increasing complexity devolves into a simplicity in which sound bites and snippets reduced the records of the West Allis speech to vacuous trivia. It even made the research for this post difficult. Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.” Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Feb 21, 2017 at 19:36. Revised Sep 6, 2019 at 21:05. –> Retrieved Nov 13, 2019 at 00:10.
Transcript News Feed: https://ct.complexitytrap.org/feed/
Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.”
Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.