Austin, Texas, April 18, 2013 — An emotional Barack Obama was at his best, once again, as the ‘Mourner-in-Chief’ at the Healing the City memorial service for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing on Thursday.
The President spoke in short crisp paragraphs, using expertly composed declarative sentences, shifting frequently into imperative mood.
Two standard ‘easy-to-understand” English measurements both ranked among the highest ever scored by the President, similar to the Tuscon memorial service, and his Grant Park, ‘Yes, We Can’ victory speech.
The President’s words were dignified, stately, with many faith-related expressions, praising Boston as a world cultural center belonging to us all.
He singled out the three victims of the attack by name (Martin Richard, the eight-year old, with the now-iconic smile, Krystle Campbell, who would have turn 30 this week, Lu Lingzi, the Chinese graduate student) as representative of the indomitable spirit typical of the commonwealth, city and the Boston Marathon.
The President concluded his oration quoting St Paul in the second book of Timothy: ”God has not given us the spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
Obama ended with a solemn flourish praising the strength, resilience of the people, with the call to ‘finish the race’.
La couverture de l’élection de Barack Obama a été sans commune mesure avec les élections présidentielles de 2000 et 2004. Jacques Portes explique pourquoi le président des Etats-Unis n’a pas réussi à transformer ce succès planétaire en atout au cours de son mandat. Extraits de “Obama, vers un deuxième mandat ?” (1/2).
Austin, Texas. October 23 — The President chose to go on the attack in the Third Presidential Debate last night; in a sort of reverse ‘rope-a-Hope’ strategy the challenger attempted to defuse the pummeling by not quite praising the President’s efforts but, rather, agreeing with him whenever it was even remotely possible. This was the Obama of 2008, though the pounding spoke less of hope and change & more of a desperate attempt to please his base.
For all the chest-pounding on the President’s side of the aisle, er, Spin Room, the fact remained that Obama was back in familiar territory of long sentences, a relatively high usage of the passive voice, with a lower reading ease, and attendant higher grade level scores. Once again, the higher use of the passive voice often is interpreted as attempting to evade ownership or shift responsibility. Obama’s use of passive was more than double his use in the Second Debate. Typically, a bellicose style does not win over the undecided, who seek to be more reassured than shouted at.
Romney’s numbers were remarkably similar during all three debates, which apparently reflects his steady, controlled, ‘gee willikers’-type personality, with a direct, if quaint, speaking style. This is a style of moderate-length, declarative sentences, with little use of the passive voice, and short, direct, and easy to understand words.
Both candidates were attempting to sound (and look) presidential and it was apparent that the second task was quite wearying. Holding back on Biden-esque smirks and Al Gore-ish disdain, feigning interest while keeping their talking points in mind, looked to take a singular toll.
Now the question remains if the Third Debate, along with a narrow win in the Second, is enough to unwind the havoc wrought by Debate No. 1, which introduced Mitt 2.0 (or even 3.0) upon an unsuspecting American electorate. Indeed, who knew that Mr. Romney could even affect let alone reverse his apparent off-course trajectory in a 90-minute span? Seldom has the course of a major American campaign change in a shorter amount of time. And seldom has a foregone conclusion, Obama winning an electoral landslide, collapsed as suddenly.
Austin, TEXAS. October 17, 2012. The President Obama of yore (2008, that is) showed up at the debate last night and so was hailed the victor. In fact, the numbers show that it was not that Romney faltered. He did not. Rather it was the President who recovered from his first debate ‘debacle’ (as viewed by his strongest supporters).
The numbers reveal the story. First, keep this number in mind: 7.4. This is the grade level of Obama’s most widely hailed speech, the “Yes, We Can!” Grant Park victory speech. ’Yes, We Can!” is widely perceived as a classic to be enshrined in the American Oratory Hall of Fame along side Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream,” Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,’ and Ronald Reagan’s “City on a Hill” speeches.
In the first Presidential debate, Obama’s grade level came in at 9.2. For a debate, with all its give-and-take, interruptions, pauses and the like, that was a rather high number. A Town Hall meeting is definitely not the place for the grandiloquent turn of phrase, especially when you are trying to woo the undecided citizens of the land with plain speakin’ — no matter how uncomfortable that might be.
We all told in sixth grade that a newspaper should be written at the sixth-grade level, which from the sixth-grade perspective can be quite a challenge. What this really translates to is short sentences, concise paragraphs, fewer polysyllabic words, and all written in active voice.
As an example, Joe Biden spoke at a sixth grade level (6.1) in the vice presidential debate and there were few who claimed the inability to understand Ol’ Joe. (Unfortunately, these tests do not evaluate facial expressions.) In last night’s debate , Obama scored 7.2 in the grade-level score, about 28% lower (and in this case better) than his first debate — and nearly identical to his Grant Park discourse.
Both Romney and Obama cut their used of passive voice nearly in half from 6% to 4% and 3%, respectively. Active voice, where the subject is the doer of the action, is always preferred over passive voice in political discourse since it can be used to avoid responsibility. (‘Taxes were raised’ rather than ‘I raise raised the taxes.)
Finally, Obama’s reading ease score improved over 8% from 63.1 to 70.1; Romney’s remained a bit higher at 71.0.
In champion fights, the unwritten rule is that you never take the current champ’s crown away on — points unless the victory is overwhelming. Last night the President showed up to fight, and thus is awarded the victory on points. So the Presidential Debate series now stands even at 0ne all, with the rubber (and deciding) match to take place next week.
October 16, Austin, Texas — (Opinion) We have seen this all before in politics, in the board room, on the ball fields, and in life. The person at the top of the pecking order makes a misstep, seemingly minor, and then cascades into something major, and then cascades further still until it become calamitous — unless it can be stopped in time. Time is of the essence here. It must be squelched immediately, or sooner. And hopefully sooner still.
Perhaps it is ironic that one of the best examples was that of Mitt Romney’s Dad, George, in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination back in the late ’60s. George Romney claimed that he had been ‘brainwashed’ by the U.S. military and diplomatic personnel on a visit to Vietnnam. “Romney brainwashed’ screamed the headlines. And that was all it took for his campaign to unravel.
Even a youthful observer could understand that Romney was using what in literature is known as synecdoche, where a part is used to represent something far larger. I have since seen this repeated scores of times in political confrontations of all types most recently in the Arab Spring. Today, we label this kind of support ‘shallow’ where a significant number of supporters are ready to abandon their candidate at the first instance that a viable alternative arises.
Could this explain what we saw in the aftermath of the first debate? It seems unlikely, but nevertheless could explain the remarkable transformation of the presidential contest we are now witnessing. I should note that it also doesn’t mean the the president will lose on November 6th. His lead is structural, both in terms of constituents as well as geography. There are many paths available for Obama to construct a electoral majority. For Romney the options are far fewer. Even if Romney’s momentum continues to build, there is a possibility of Romney eking out a slim victory in the popular vote, while losing by a far larger margin in the Electoral College.
The stakes in Tuesday’s debate could not be higher. For Romney the task is to build upon his momentum, for Obama it is to halt Romney in his tracks before he loses complete control of the race.
Paul JJ Payack, president, Global Language Monitor
A slightly different version of this article appeared on TheHill.com on October 15, 2012.
Two words can be used to distill the essence of Thursday Night’s Vice Presidential Debate: Malarkey Vs. Adorkable.
On the one hand you have Joe Biden in familiar territory talking, interrupting, spinning, smiling feverishly to help the Democrats regain control of the political narrative after the widely perceived misteps of the president in the first Presidential Debate; on the other you have Paul Ryan, the wunder wonk, attempting to demonstrate 1) that he is NOT Sarah Palin, and 2) that he is more than simply a policy wonk and has the attendant seriousness, intelligence and skill set necessary to sit a heartbeat away from the presidency. Both succeeded in their appointed tasks.
Though Biden used the term ‘malarkey’ to describe Ryan’s debate performance, it was Biden who more closely typified the concept of ’malarkey’ (bluster). Ryan did not stray too far from his policy wonk persona, but was fortunate that dorks, nerds and wonks are now in fashion. Hence the term ‘adorkable’ for ‘adorable dork’. In fact, The Global Language Monitor had named ‘adorkable’ as the Top Television Word of the Year just a month or so ago.
In terms of language usage, Biden used about 30% more passive voice than Ryan. Many believe that the passive voice is used to shade the truth, opposed to simple declarative sentences. Ryan and Biden both were relatively easy to understand according to the standardized algorithms coming in at 69.4 and 72.6 on the Reading Ease Scale. As for Grade Level, Ryan came in at 6.6, while Biden scored a 6.1. For comparison, Obama scored a 9.2 and Romney a 6.8 in their first debate.
(As a side note, Biden’s score (6.1) was the lowest ever recorded in a debate, surpassing Ross Perot’s previous low of 6.3).
Austin, Texas. October 9, 2012 — The controversy swirling around Obama’s debate performance completely misses the point. For better or worse, this is it. Stripped of all pretension. Devoid of the catch phrases and the swoons. Minus the Hollywood glam. This is he. Barack Obama. The man, unadorned. No longer do we see Obama through a glass dimly. Now we see him for who he is. This is neither to embellish nor dis-embellish the man. This is to see things for what they are and not what they ought — or ought not — to be.
At the Global Language Monitor we understand that life is not an exit poll; we cannot shape the reality of how we just voted. It is a zero-sum thing, a binary action, a one or a zero, a yes or a no. In the same manner we have tracked the narrative of Barack Obama the preceding five years, stripped of all adornment, searching for the reality that was all too frequently, standing right before us, actually in our midst, if only we had the will to open our eyes to see.
Of course we have unabashedly published our findings along the way but at that time our findings seemed a bit out-of-step, as indeed they were. Out-of-step with the perceived reality, but in step with reality as it was. Unlike most of life, a new president is graced with a honeymoon period, when missteps are overlooked, forgotten, or forgiven. This is not the ‘suspension of disbelief’ that allows us to enjoy a fantastical story in the cinema but rather a ‘suspension of self-interest,’ where we put aside our partisan differences and wait. We wait for the cues and signals, both small and large, that will reveal the intentions, proclivities, and (dare I say it?) the character of the incumbent.
For some presidents this grace period is over nearly before it starts (Gerald Ford and George W. Bush come to mind). For others, it lasts a bit longer (George H.W. Bush), and for others longer still (Ronald Reagan). In the case of Barack Obama, the situation was markedly different. Being a black man, most Americans wanted him to succeed precisely because he was a black man. As a relative outsider, he was a welcome break from the recent past (and impending future) — Bush 41, Clinton 42, Bush 43, Clinton 44?
Being a newcomer, he was the classic tabula rasa, a blank slate upon which we could pour upon all our hopes and dreams. And change? Who on this planet did not want change from the preceding eight years: a divisive and disputed election, global terrorism and 9/11, two wars in the Middle East, a devastating tsunami, the inundation of one of America’s great cities, and to top it off, the global financial meltdown. All this being so, Barack Obama began his presidency with an extraordinarily large reservoir of good will. Let’s call this reservoir the Hope and Change Quotient (HCQ).
During Obama’s first days in office, the nation was engulfed in ’anger and rage’? GLM analyzed the situation back in February 2009 and found that what was being reported as ‘anger’ was actually ‘frustration,’ while what was being reported as ‘rage’ was actually ‘despair’, a sense of foreboding or impending doom. GLM followed this rather odd undercurrent during the earliest, most hopeful, days of the Obama administration. The results were striking, especially, in contrast to the immense outpouring of global goodwill in response to the inauguration of Barack Obama, since the survey included the ten days immediately following Obama’s swearing in. Some of the keywords showing heightened awareness were Abandoned, Despair, Desperation, and Fear — all appearing in the media with double digit increases over the pre-election period. This was perhaps an abberation we thought, but as we moved forward, the pattern continued unabated.
We saw a turning point with the Gulf Oil Spill speech. This was the opportunity to show the world how a US President would properly respond to a major crisis threatening the Gulf Coast, the ecosystem, and the forces of nature and the evil of Man (an arrogant CEO from Central casting, BP, Halliburton, and a 24×7 ‘Spill Cam’ spewing forth colorful filth, worthy of a Dreamworks 3-D treatment. And what did we get? We got what we had been measuring for the preceding two years: Obama 2.0, with an academic-sounding speech detailing a broad plan for an alternative-energy future and few specifics, and little of the hell-and-brimstone his followers had hope for.
By now it was becoming apparent for all to see. This was a changed and changing man, at least how he revealed himself publicly through speech. By time the 2010 Mid-Terms delivered their ‘shellacking’ the transformation was nearly complete. With a few noteworthy exceptions, such as his Tuscon eulogy,which ranked among his best, the President has appeared less-and-less engaged, more-and-more distant.
In July we noted that the top political buzzwords were telling a far different story than either campaign was presenting to the American people. Our analysis found that Bush was clearly assigned responsibility for the so-called Great Recession, while Obama was responsibility for the economy’s current condition, just as concern over Bain Capital and the ‘war against women’ were of less and little concern respectively. In other words, the American people saw the issues as if the virulent political ads of both parties did not exist. In contrast ‘Still believe the American Dream’ was No. 5 and ‘Disappointment in Obama Administration’ was No. 6.
At the same time, the Hope and Change Quotient has nearly been depleted, this being the normal course near the end of every president’s first term in recent memory. The President has finally been vetted. We now know the man, his strengths, weaknesses, and his proclivities. This is not to say that he will not win in his bid for re-election. But this is to say, that for better or worse, this is it.
This is the final narrative of Barack Obama.
GLM used NarrativeTracker Technology in this study. NarrativeTracker is based on the global discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture of what any audience is saying about any topic, at any point in time. NarrativeTracker analyzes the Internet, the top global print and electronic media, as well as new media sources as they emerge.
AUSTIN, Texas, July 12, 2012 — The Top Political Buzzwords are telling a far different story than either campaign is presenting to the American people, One hundred and twenty-days before the presidential election, the Global Language Monitor has found profound differences between the actual concerns of the public and the political narratives of both parties. The Top Political Buzzwords 120 Days Before the Vote, was released earlier today. GLM has tracked political buzzwords associated with the national political scene since 2003 in the process compiling perhaps the largest statistical database of the kind.
The “War Against Women” is next to last at No. 52 even though it figures quite heavily in the Democratic narrative. It ranks just below No. 51 Outsourcing, which is key to the narratives of both parties. Other political buzzwords on the top of mind in the campaigns but in the bottom ten in the survey include: the Bush Tax Cuts, Progressive Politics, the Decline in US Manufacturing, Political Stalemate (in Congress), Angry White Males, and the Obstructionist Congress.
The electorate definitely has a sense that the American Dream Still Alive (No.5.)though it is clearly Disappointed in the Obama Administration (No. 6).
The public is quite mindful of the negative tenor of the debate, reflected in the rankings of Toxic Politics (No.2), Haters and those who label their opponents as -phobic (such as Christophobic), (No. 15), and the Politics of Fear (No. 23). Perhaps this helps account for the fact that enthusiasm for the campaign is tempered by non-enthusiasm (Nos. 17 and 18).
The Top Social Issue in the survey was Pregnancy Reduction and Sex-selective Abortion at No. 25, the debate on which crosses the Progressive/Conservative chasm, though neither seems much discussed on the campaign trail.
Both parties would do well to note that Romney’s Wealth is dead last; the electorate no-doubt inured to the fact that US presidential candidates are frequently wealthy (for example, the Bushes and John Kerry each had fortunes equal to or larger than that of Mitt Romney). Though Mr. Romney should note that Mormonism in Politics is No. 11.
“The narratives of both political parties are becoming further and further removed from the actual concerns of the American voters,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of GLM, “This is happening because they focus on smaller and smaller segments of voting population, writing off states, demographic segments, and entire geographic regions in the process.”
Highlights from the analysis include:
The top priority is the Current US Economy (1)
Responsibility for the Current US Economy is assigned to Obama (1)
Responsibility for Great Recession is assigned to Bush (7)
The name Obamacare is favored over the Affordable Healthcare Act by a 25:1 margin (3, 42)
The hot button top Illegal Aliens is relegated to the No. 21 position
The Affordable Healthcare Act [is recognized] as a Middle-class tax (25)
Bain Capital is pushed into the background at No. 27
The recent Supreme Court Affordable Healthcare Act ruling and Chief Justice John Roberts appears at a modest No. 32 just below Hydraulic Fracturing (31).
The issues of the The 1% registers at No. 36, Super Pacs at No.37,and Teachers Unions at No.38.
The Top Political Buzzwords follow:
Current US Economy (with Obama Ownership)
The American Dream Still alive
Disappointment in Obama Administration
Bush Responsible for Great Recession
The Iraq War
Wall Street Bailout
Mormonism in Politics
Rise of China
US Debt Crisis
Middle Class Whites
Identifying opponents as Haters (or -phobic)
Transparency in Government
Excited about Presidential Election
Not Excited about Presidential Election
The Euro Crisis affecting US
Politics of Fear
Middle-class tax (Affordable Care Act)
Wall Street Occupy Movement
Pregnancy Reduction and sex selective abortion
John Roberts Healthcare
George Bush Responsible for US Economy
Obama responsible for Great Recession
Affordabe Healthcare Act
Bush Tax Cuts Affecting Middle Class
Decline US Manufacturing
Angry White Males
War Against Women
Political buzzwords are terms or phrases that become loaded with emotional freight beyond the normal meaning of the word. For example, the word surge has been in the English-language vocabulary since time immemorial. However, in its context as an Iraq War strategy, it inspired a set of emotions in many people far beyond the norm.
The PQI tracks the frequency of words and phrases in global print and electronic media on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere, Twitter and other social media outlets, as well as accessing proprietary databases. The PQI is a weighted index that factors in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity. Because PQI is based on the national discourse, it provides a real-time, accurate picture of what the public is saying about any topic, at any point in time.
President Obama’s State of the Union Address earlier this week provided the Global Language Monitor the opportunity to analyze the changing Obama Narrative since he rose to the national prominence some five years ago. GLM found three distinct narratives with the communication styles supporting each narrative forming arcs of their own, characterized by their specific word choices, styles of delivery, rhetoric, and diction.
Obama 1.0 Narrative
We had Obama 1.0 whose narrative was that of soaring rhetoric, of hope and inclusiveness, and meeting ourselves in the future.
This was the “Yes, We Can!” presidential hopeful who would lead us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, harness Iran, close down Git-mo, bring peace to the Holy Land and then get elected to the presidency. This was the time of short declarative sentences or finely honed sentences that would never end, but who cared? This was the un-Bush and proud to say it. This was yet another ‘New Order for the Ages’”.
Obama 1.0 Frequent Word Choices: Americans, Change, Hope, Dreams, Unity
Then the Bush Iraq war policies were kept in place (or even expanded), Guantanamo remained (and still remains) open. This transformation occurred as the hopes and dreams that Obama represented collided with a very real political reality, of war and terrorism, of K-Street operatives, and healthcare plans that had to be passed it in order to know what was in them.
This was the era when the top political buzzwords included ‘anger and rage’, the residue remaining from the (still-ongoing both then and now) global economic restructuring. GLM tested out the new meme and found that what had been characterized as ‘anger and rage’ was actually better represented as ‘frustration and disappointment’.
Obama 2.0 Narrative
The Obama 2.0 Narrative that emerged from the bitter and prolonged healthcare battle, where the behind the scenes wheeling-and-dealing seemed to equal (or even surpass) the worst in memory. Obama 2.0 was now viewed as an ‘aloof’ president who presided over the decision to ‘surge’ in Afghanistan, expanded Bush’s drone warfare, culminating in the president’s handling of the Gulf oil spill and the nationwide speech he then delivered.
Obama’s speech was considered a turning point by many supporters who longed for a leader who would demonstrate how an engaged president would quickly and effectively reach out to those in dire need during such an event (the direct opposite of the Bush response to Katrina). This was to prove not be the case – and the ‘Spill-Cam’ made it all the worse as the oil spouted forth, 24 x 7, for weeks on end.
The voters delivered their verdict on Obama 2.0 in early November 2010, where Obama’s party was pommelled by historic proportions.
When President Obama delivered his third and possibly final State of the Union address, he used language that seemed to introduce yet another public persona. This would be his third since his emergence into the spotlight in 2007.
Judging from the language used during his recent State of the Union address, the Obama 3.0 Narrative will be very much like those of George W. Bush, with equal portions of the second term Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and even a sprinkling of JFK. The Obama 3.0 Narrative’s word choices are only remotely attached to those of Ted Kennedy (and even Al Gore). Those of Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter were definitely eschewed.
Obama 3.0’s Narrative, according to his word choices and focus was on “American Values,” even citing “America as the indispensable nation” (Madeline Albright’s phrasing) apparently an updated reference to ‘American exceptionalism’, a phrase normally verboten to the American Left, since it can represent cultural imperialism and American political hegemony.
The president also emphasized phrases and buzzwords that are generally considered to skew right:
Mentioned America and Americans nearly fifty times (vs. 11 times in his Inaugural Address)
Defining issue was reclaiming American values.
Offered unvarnished praise for the military
Praised increased oil and oil production.
Preaching fiscal and individual responsibility
Highlighted “More feet on the border than ever before”
Finally, the use of negative words and phrases nearly surpassing that of positive words phrases in the State of the Union address.
Obama Narrative 3.0 is strikingly different than that of his campaign and early administration.
In some ways this could be the Left’s worst nightmare: a potentially transformative president, now turning into a Bill Clinton/Ronald Reagan hybrid.
In other ways this could be the Right’s worst nightmare: Obama as the 1996 Bill Clinton, adjusting to his Mid-term ‘thumpin’ and rushing to the center to win a second term.
GLM used NarrativeTracker Technology in this study. NarrativeTracker is based on the global discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture of what any audience is saying about any topic, at any point in time. NarrativeTracker analyzes the Internet, the top global print and electronic media, as well as new media sources as they emerge.
Paul JJ Payack is the president of Global Language Monitor.
‘Make no mistake,’ Obama is a big fan of his own catchphrases
BY ANTHONY DECEGLIE AND JENNY MERKINMONDAY, MARCH 28, 2011
Statistics gathered by the Global Language Monitor reveal that Obama has said it 2,924 times since he was sworn into office more than two years ago.
Other signature Obama sayings include “Here’s the deal” (1,450 times) and “Let me be clear,” (1,066 times). In a nod to the tough financial times he has faced, the president’s fifth most popular motto is “It will not be easy.”
Obama’s reheated rhetoric has recently come under fresh scrutiny. Parts of his speech warning Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to honor the United Nations’ cease-fire pact were strikingly similar to the words spoken by President George W. Bush when he launched military strikes in Afghanistan.
“Our goal is focused. Our cause is just. And our coalition is strong,” Obama said. Bush, nearly a decade earlier: “Your mission is defined. Your objectives are clear. Your goal is just.”
Make no mistake, The Daily is hoping Obama lifts his creative game and “wins the future” (another rhetorical crutch) when it comes to this public speaking deal. Although we understand it will not be easy.
Scale of Top Sayings (Source: The Global Language Monitor, as of March 25)
#1 “Make no mistake” — 2,924 times
#2 “Win the future” — 1,861 times; 9 times in his 2011 State of the Union address
Prevailing view ‘harmless,’ Opposing views called ‘laced with hysteria’
AUSTIN, Texas. March 23, 2011. With radioactive elements from Japan’s Fukushima Daiiachi disaster finally reaching the continental US this week, the Global Language Monitor’s NarrativeTracker has found that the possible long-term dangers of Fukushima Daiiachi’s radioactive fallout has been little discussed in the media. In fact, there has been little or no discussion of the ongoing debate about assessing the long-term risks associated with Cesium-137 and Iodine-131, etc.
The prevailing view of the global print and electronic media is to pronounce the radioactive elements ‘harmless,’ which is in direct contract to the accepted view of the National Academy of Sciences, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and many others. In fact, the discussion that does appear, labels opposing views as ‘irrational’ or ‘laced with hysteria’, as in a recent article in the New York Times.
According the the Global Language Monitor’s NarrativeTracker there have been only two references to the controversy in the past week in the major global media, or even to the fact that the analysis of the heath impact of the escaped radiation could be far off base. An article in the Malaysian Star was the most insightful. Even on the web news side, NarrativeTracker picked up fewer that half a dozen references to the controversy in the last week.
On the Internet and in Social Media, there were some 10,000 references to the controversy, which pales in comparison to news about, say Charlie Sheen (who has hundreds of million citations). In addition, there were about three million references to the ‘harmless’ effects of the Fukushima fallout, with about 7,000,000 references to its ‘dangers’.
Therefore, the prevailing and accepted view of the National Academy of Sciences, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and, for that matter, the US Congress has been overlooked in the global media discussion. This is the view that holds sway in legislation ranging from the regulation of cigarettes, CT scans and the Hanford Reservation cleanup. In addition to the risk to human life, billions of dollars in government are at stake.
The controversy concerns Linear No Threshold (LNT) methodology to calculate risk from exposure to radioactive elements. The LNT dose-response relationship is used to describe the relationship between radiation dose and the occurrence of cancer. This dose-response model suggests that any increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) accepts the LNT hypothesis as a conservative model for estimating radiation risk.
There are two competing theories here.
1. There is no lower-level threshold to the threat from radioactive exposure. Basically this means that even a small exposure to radioactivity will increase the chance of cancer occurring in a corresponding small percentage of the population. The smaller the exposure, the smaller the risk, but the risk never falls to zero.
2. There is a lower-level threshold to the threat from radioactive exposure. This is model that the media has adopted in claims that the fallout is ‘harmless’ while still recognizing that it is harmful in large doses. Some scientists adhere to the radiation hormesis model that radiation might even be beneficial in very low doses
The LNT model is generally accepted by most governments and scientific agencies and predicts higher risks than the threshold model. Because the current data is inconclusive, scientists disagree on which methodology should be used.
However, the fact that there has been little or no discussion of the topic in the media is cause for concern.
AUSTIN, Texas January 13, 2011 Echoing Lincoln, King, and, even, Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama gave his strongest speech, perhaps since his “Yes, We Can!” victory speech delivered in Chicago’s Grant Park last November.
The president delivered the speech with the cadence of a eulogy to the packed audience of some 12,000 at the University of Arizona’s McKale Memorial Center. The crowd had none of the hallmarks of a hand-selected, pre-screened crowd that we have come to expect for such occasions; tickets were distributed on a first-come first-served basis.
Obama’s remarks echoed Lincoln and Martin Luther King in at least two respects: 1) the use of scriptural passages to set the tone, 2) and the emphasis on worthiness and living up to expectations of the children, particularly those of Cristina Green, the inspirational nine-year old girl, who was born on September 11, 2001.
Structurally, the address was nearly identical to his “Yes, We Can!” speech, Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream,” and Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”. Though delivered to differing audiences in different eras, the speeches each had nearly identical ‘understandability statistics’ in terms of grammatical constructions, rhetorical elements, tone and vocabulary. In terms of empathetic concern, he echoed Bill Clinton, who was often referred to as the “Mourner in Chief” with his ‘I feel your pain’ mantra.
It was a somber, sorrowful message filled with future-related, hopeful constructions with words such as hope, light, and love address delivered to a respectfully attentive crowd. With the 2010 Mid-term elections now in his wake, this can be an opportunity to begin a new narrative for the remainder of Obama’s term.
What Political Buzzwords Tell Us about the Vote, Part II
AUSTIN, Texas. October 21, 2010 — Reports of ‘anger’ and ‘rage’ at the economy, incumbents or President Obama himself as the main theme of the 2010 Mid-term elections have been greatly overstated, possibly for political motivations. In an analysis of the Top
Political Buzzwords of the 2010 Mid-terms, Global Language Monitor (GLM), has determined that the words ‘anger’ and ‘rage’ and their various combinations come in a distant second to words associated with ‘disappointment’, ‘frustration’ or being ‘let down’ by the actions of the Administration.
Anger and Rage: 27%
Disappoint and Frustration: 73%
GLM has also found that the top three subjects linked to ‘anger’ and ‘rage’ outside the Administration are Healthcare Reform, the various actions termed Bailouts, and the initial Stimulus package, formally named the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
GLM has found ‘anger’ and ‘rage’ to appear far less in the media on the internet, blogs and social media sites than one might expect from reading the headlines. In the last 30 days, the New York Times used the word ‘rage’ in political contexts some 70 times, a far greater percentage than what was found in the overall media, on the Internet, the Blogosphere and in Social Media.
The phrase ‘incumbent rage’ is highlighted as a major trend of the Mid-term elections. Once again, the use of this phrase and variations is noteworthy only in their dearth of references.
World-wide news searches find that ‘anti-incumbent’ appears about 550 times in the global media in the last 30 days, of which some twenty percent of the references appear in the AP, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and the Wall Street Journal, while ‘anti-incumbent rage’ appears twice. In comparison, the word incumbent appears some 19,000 times.
Global Media Percentage of Total
Anti-incumbent Rage: 0.01%
When you add in the Internet, the Blogs and Social Media as well the top 5,000 global media, the total number of citations approach 20,000,000 and reflect a broader dialogue about the topic. However, ‘anti-incumbent rage’ still hovers below 1%.
Internet Percentage of Total
Anti-incumbent Rage: 0.05%
Lack of Competitiveness in Congressional Races
Over the last several decades, the political cognoscenti have bemoaned the lack of competitiveness of congressional elections. Both parties, of course, have done all within their power to keep it that way, primarily through the gerrymandering of districts to their own benefit. The latest trend is to create ‘majority-minority’ districts that virtually ensure the election of a member of a specific demographic group.
In 2010, various news organizations estimate that there are between 35 and 80 competitive congressional districts, or districts ‘in-play’. This is, of course, is attributed to ‘voter’ and/or ‘anti-incumbent rage.’ Even so, this means that a majority of districts, ranging from 92% to 81% are still considered non-competitive. To our way of thinking, this is a very important development – and one that should be further encouraged.
In a related finding, GLM found that overall the Tea Party is viewed more positively than negatively, by a small percentage of the overall number of citations.
Positive Associations: 54%
Negative associations: 46%
We will discuss this further in What the Top Political Buzzwords Tell Us about the Vote, Part III.
GLM’s Top Political Buzzwords are based on the Narrative Tracker Index. Narrative Tracker is based on the national discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture of what the public is saying about any topic, at any point in time. Narrative Tracker analyzes the Internet, blogosphere, the print and electronic media, as well as new social media sources (such as Twitter). In addition to the NTI, the NarrativeTracker Arc™ follows the rise and fall of sub-stories within the main narrative to provide a comprehensive overview of the narratives being tracked.
Austin-Texas-based Global Language Monitor analyzes and catalogues the latest trends in word usage and word choices, and their impact on the various aspects of culture, with a particular emphasis upon Global English.
For more information, call 1.512.815.8836, email editor@GlobalLanguageMonitor.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com
Paul JJ Payack
What the Top Political Buzzwords Tell Us About the Vote, Part I
AUSTIN, Texas, October 4, 2010 — Recently, the Global Language Monitor (GLM) announced that the Top Buzzwords of the Mid-term Election. GLM found that the buzzwords portrayed a strongly negative narrative that has increasingly entangled the president and his party. The Top Ten Buzzwords included Narrative, Lower Taxes, Obama as a Muslim, Conservative, Climate Change, Liberal, Recession (linked to Obama), Hillary Clinton related to Obama, Tea Partiers, and Obama as Aloof, Detached, or Professorial. In the interim GLM has found that Obama as a Smoker will break into the Top Ten when the list is updated two week hence.
This is the first of a number of reports that will analyze what the top political buzzwords seemingly tells us about the upcoming vote.
The first thing you notice about the Top Political Buzzwords of the Midterm Elections is that many concern President Obama as a person. Two years into his presidency, this tells us something about the president’s relationship to the American people: a good number of citizens are only now beginning to understand the president as a person. And it is interesting to see that many news organizations, apart from the blogs and talk radio shows, are also following these citizens’ lead. Only now is President Obama being ‘vetted’.
According to yourDictionary.com, ’to vet’ is the process ‘to examine, investigate, or evaluate in a thorough or expert way’. In the throes of Obama-mania, many were apparently willing to take a chance on the engaging, handsome, thoughtful newcomer, especially after many eventful and exhausting years under his predecessor. We read the autobiographies, we joined the explosive rallies, and we watched as the entire world seemed to yearn for a ‘regime change’ in the US. We were, after all, the people we had been waiting for. But in the ‘rush to victory’ we never really got to know the president. not in the same way we knew, say, Hillary.
We’ve known Hillary, her husband, her daughter, her history, her religion, her schooling, her scandals, alleged or otherwise, the rumors, for better or for ill — we know Hillary.
And we knew John McCain’s life since Vietnam, Albert Gore’s roommate at Harvard, GBW’s stint as a cheerleader at Andover, John Kerry testifying before congress in ’69, Bush pere , and Bush pere’s pere, Ronald Reagan since Bedtime for Bonzo, and so on. All of the above have decades of public service and have (or had) been vetted every which way possible, and then some.
An exception, of course, was Jimmy Carter, the peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia (and nuclear engineer) — as he first introduced himself to the nation. Carter was elected to office at least partly as an antidote to what had transpired before him (Watergate), and was thought to be part of a national cleansing, a fresh start, a break with a troubled past. And, like Obama, was relatively new to the political scene, and lightly vetted, when elected to the presidency.
In Barack Obama’s case he is more than a self-made man; Obama is a self-defined man. In this he is not unlike John F. Kennedy with the legend of PT-109 and his Pulitzer-prize best-seller, Profiles in Courage, which was, perhaps, ghost-written. Though JFK was a relative newcomer to the national scene, the stories of Joe Kennedy as a ‘rum-runner’ during Prohibition and his maternal grandfather ‘Honey Fitz’ Fitzgerald, the storied Boston politician, were circulating for decades before JFK stood for the presidency.
As a self-defined man, much of the traditional vetting provided by the media was compressed into a number of months, and much of that was taken directly from his autobiographies, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. And so we are back to the self-defined man, to a large extent, vetting himself.
And so it is none too surprising that many of the buzzwords surrounding the Midterms are about Obama as a man, a person, a personality.
Comparing data from just before the 2008 general election, we see much the same patterns as today. Citations about Obama’s religion, his supposed ‘aloofness,’ and even his smoking were much higher than what we had seen for other candidates (Bush, Kerry, Gore, etc.) in the previous two election cycles.
What we are seeing in the data appears to be a continuation of the process that ordinarily would have been ongoing for a decade or more. So the public vetting of the president continues on the Internet, in the Blogs, throughout Social Media, and in the print and electronic media, itself.
AUSTIN, Texas, September 24, 2010. The Global Language Monitor (GLM) today announced that the Top Buzzwords of the Mid-term Elections portray a strongly negative narrative that has increasingly entangled the president and his party with six weeks remaining before the Mid-term elections. The Top Ten Buzzwords include Narrative, Lower Taxes, Obama as a Muslim, Conservative, Climate Change, Liberal, Recession (linked to Obama), Hillary Clinton related to Obama, Tea Partiers, and Obama as Aloof, Detached, or Professorial.
These are a dramatic departure from the top buzzwords immediately preceding the 2008 Presidential election where the Top Buzzword was Change, blame for the recession was clearly assigned to George W. Bush, Raising Taxes was No. 27, and the Surge was still a Top Ten issue as was the price of gasoline. Obamamania was the No. 3 Word of 2008 (after Change and Bailout); Obamamania now stands at No. 63. One consistency: Nuclear Iran was No. 31; now Nuclear Iran is No. 33.
Austin-based Global Language Monitor has been analyzing political buzzwords since the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003.
“The Top Political Buzzwords reflect a strongly negative narrative that the president and his party have six weeks to overcome,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of GLM. “Typically an opinion swing of this magnitude can be directly attributable to outside events, not of one’s personal doing.”
Election Forecast: In an additional analysis, the Global Language Monitor has forecast the results of the Mid-term Elections based on the number of citations received, relating to Liberal/Progressive, Conservative and Independent labels. Liberal and Progressives were measured together and separately. Based on the analysis concluded earlier this week, the results are projected to largely inversely mirror the results of 2008, where Obama won some 53% of the vote to McCain’s 46% with 1% other. With the Independents splitting evenly or slightly in favor of the Republicans, the 2010 results would range from 53% to 56% Republicans to 44% to 47% for the Democrats. Of course there are still six weeks before the election with game-altering ‘October Surprises’ a very real possibility.
Some seventy political buzzwords were tracked; the analysis was concluded on September 22, 2010.
The Top Political Buzzwords Six Weeks Out include:
1. Narrative – Idea of the narrative is a strong No. 1
3. Obama Muslim Connection - Two weeks before 2008 Election it was No . 6
4. Conservatives – Stand at 43% of sample citations
5. Climate Change – Always one of Top 5
6. Liberal - Liberal/Progressives stand at 33% of Citations
7. Recession (linked to Obama) – Over 4x the number that link to GWB (No.20)
8. Hillary Clinton – Hillary Ascendant
9. Tea Partiers – Very strong for a recent phenomenon
10. Obama Aloof, detached, Professorial – Reached peak in reaction to his handling the Gulf Oil Spill
11. Raise Taxes – Only 16% of lower taxes (No. 2)
12. Progressive – 74% of Liberal citations; Liberal/Progressives stand at 33% of Citations
13. Deficit Spending – Close to Out-of-Control Spending (No.15)
14. Independents – Independents stand at 20% of citations
15. Out-of-control Spending — Spending is widely viewed as out-of-control
16. Sarah Palin – Apparently, opposition only makes her stronger
17. Healthcare Mandate – Nearly triple the concern for HC Reform (No. 21)
18. Change you can believe in – Not so much, these days
19. Iraq War – Far from top of Mind
20. Recession (linked to Bush) – Warning to Dems, this is fading from view
21. Healthcare reform – Comes in just a bit higher than the Gulf Oil Spill
22. BP Gulf Oil Spill — The BP SpillCam was the No. 1 Television Word (Teleword) of the Year
23. Anti-incumbent — It’s not just a matter of anger; lower than pundits have it
24. Obama “oil spill” response — Major factor in negativity of overall narrative
25. Al Qaeda – Low ranking reflected by several polls, also
26. George Bush — Not much value in running a ‘Not Bush’ Campaign
27. Wall Street Bailout – Bush, Bailout, Pelosi and Limbaugh, Cheney (and Reid) line up closely
28. Grand Zero Mosque – More than 110 times the number of citations for 51 Park Place
29. Nancy Pelosi — Off the radar nowadays
30. Rush Limbaugh – Interesting pairing at Nos, 29 and 30, no?
Other highlights include:
· Afghanistan stands at No. 37
· Obama is now linked to Katrina more often than Bush
· Transparency now stands at No. 43
· Birther seems to receive much more media than deserved (No. 49)
· Sarah Palin’s malapropism Refudiate is No. 55
· Shovel Ready is down to No. 64.
Top Political Buzzwords of Past Elections
The Top Political Buzzwords of the 2008 Elections included: Change, Climate Change, the price of Gasoline, Recession, Experience, and Obama as a Muslim
The Top Political Buzzwords for the 2006 Midterm Elections included: Throes, Quagmire, Credibility, Global Warming, and Insurgency
The Top Political Buzzwords from the 2004 Elections included: Swift Boats, Flip Flop, Quagmire, Fahrenheit 911, Misleader, and Liar!
About Narrative Tracker
The Narrative Tracker is based on the national discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture of what the public is saying about any topic, at any point in time. NarrativeTracker analyzes the Internet, blogosphere, the print and electronic media, as well as new social media sources (such as Twitter). In addition to the NTI, the NarrativeTracker Arc™ follows the rise and fall of sub-stories within the main narrative to provide a comprehensive overview of the narratives being tracked.
NTI by its very nature is non-biased. When we take a statistical snapshot there is no adjustment for ‘underrepresented’ groups, there are no assumptions about probability of turnout, the proportions of newly registered voters, traditional models, or expanded modularity’s. In other words, it is what it is.
With less than two months to go until the November midterm elections, a clear winner is beginning to emerge in the race to declare the year’s biggest political buzzword.
Hey, buzzwords matter. Who could forget — no matter how much we might like to – such hits from years past as “chad,” “Swift Boat” and “lipstick” as it might be smeared on a pig or a pitbull?
On Tuesday, the website Global Language Monitor, based in Austin, which has been monitoring words on thousands of news, blogs and social network sites since 2003, announced the No. 1 political buzzword so far this year – beating out “climate change,” “Obama Muslim,” “lower taxes” and even “tea partiers” – is (drum roll please) “the narrative.”
The Narrative? “It’s been running strong since last spring,” GLM President Paul J.J. Payack told me in a telephone interview.
That confirmed my suspicion. I don’t even have a computerized algorithm like Payack does, but I, too, had begun to notice in my fanatical surfing of political media that the word “narrative” was popping up with increasing frequency.
For example, Steve and Cokie Roberts observed in a recent column, “For a growing number of Americans, President Barack Obama’s narrative no longer defines who he is.”
Columnist Maureen Dowd similarly wondered back in June how such a gifted storyteller as Obama could “lose control of his own narrative.”
E.J. Dionne, writing in The New Republic, notes Obama has decided to “confront a deeply embedded media narrative that sees a Republican triumph as all but inevitable.”
In fact, “narrative” was popping up so much in reference to Obama as he grappled with crises like the Gulf oil spill that a Washington Post reporter was inspired to lead one feature with, “Sing to me of the Obama narrative, Muse.” [Read More.]
Social Media and Internet Citations More than Double in 90 Days
DALLAS & AUSTIN, Texas (August 17, 2010) — The Healthcare NarrativeTracker™ has found a sharply rising national concern about keeping one’s insurance and rising healthcare costs in light of the regulations associated with the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The new results of the Healthcare NarrativeTracker Index™ (NTI™) were reported earlier today by OpenConnect, the leader process intelligence and analytics solutions, and The Global Language Monitor, the media analytics company.
The NTI has found that the number of social media and Internet citations are significantly diverging among those who cite healthcare price and premium increases vs. those citing lower costs and premiums decreasing. For example the price and premium percentage increase is now nearly double the percentage (188%) for price and premiums decreasing.
In addition, the analysis indicates that the number of social media and Internet citations regarding ‘keeping one’s insurance’ vs. ‘losing one’s insurance’ have also diverged significantly, especially over the last ninety days, with the citations for ‘losing one’s insurance’ increasing some 1160% over the period.
“The numbers in the Healthcare NarrativeTracker are widely supported by the polls, the surveys, and the media,” said Edward M.L. Peters, CEO of OpenConnect and author of The Paid-for Option, which describes how only through the application of innovation and technology can productivity be achieved in the healthcare industry. “The predictive element of the Healthcare NTI has correctly foreshadowed this shift in public sentiment; it will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the run-up to the mid-term elections.”
On August 3, voters in Missouri overwhelmingly (71%) supported a state measure barring the federal government from penalizing those who do not acquire health insurance – a key measure for funding the Obama Healthcare Reform plan. Other evidence indicates that support for Healthcare reform is flagging. According to the Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll “shows erosion in the intensity of support. Last month, 23 percent of Americans held ‘very favorable’ views of the law. This month, that figure is 14 percent, with most of the falloff coming among Democrats (Republicans and independents already being skeptical).” Other polling reinforces these views.
The Healthcare NTI™ is based on the national discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture of what the public is saying about any topic related to healthcare, at any point in time. NarrativeTracker analyzes the Internet, blogosphere, the print and electronic media, as well as new social media sources (such as Twitter). In addition to the NTI, the NarrativeTracker Arc™ follows the rise and fall of sub-stories within the main narrative to provide a comprehensive overview of the narratives being tracked.
The Healthcare NTI is released monthly. The first analysis completed in May 2010 detailed the various narratives surrounding Massachusetts Healthcare reform, a healthcare model which has been adopted in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as the national healthcare reform bill.
About OpenConnect: OpenConnect is the leader in process intelligence and analytics solutions that automatically discover workforce, process and customer variations that hinder operational efficiency. Armed with this information, executives can make the quick and incremental improvements that will increase process efficiency, improve employee productivity, reduce cost, and raise profitability. With a rich history of developing innovative technology, OpenConnect products are distributed in more than 60 countries and used by more than 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies. For more information on OpenConnect, visit www.oc.com.
About the Global Language Monitor: Austin, Texas-based Global Language Monitor analyzes and catalogues the latest trends in word usage and word choices, and their impact on the various aspects of culture, with a particular emphasis upon Global English. Since 2003, GLM has launched a number of innovative products and services monitoring the Internet, the Blogosphere, Social Media as well as the Top 25,000 print and electronic media sites
DALLAS & AUSTIN, Texas, July 7, 2010 — The Healthcare NarrativeTracker™ has detected a growing wave of concern throughout the nation about containing rising Healthcare costs. The catalyst stems from the new regulations being now written to implement The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. At this point the affordability issue is coalescing around the President Obama’s oft-stated pledge that you can keep current Health Insurance plans if you so choose. As M.I.T. health economist Jonathan Gruber recently stated, “It’s unclear that companies will want to have the same insurance plan in 2014 that they have in 2010.”
These facts have not gone unnoticed by the public and are considered by many to be a significant turnaround from earlier analyses, where people took at face value the President’s oft-stated words: “If you like your healthcare plan, you’ll be able to keep your healthcare plan, period.” Obama declared in a speech to the American Medical Association last June, “No one will take it away, no matter what.” In fact, the New York Times recently reported that the government calculates that while 70 percent of small-business plans will remain grandfathered in 2011 that number will drop to 34 percent in 2013. Apparently, even the routine changes that occur every year as employers search for better products can be defined as changing the plan enough to obviate the provision that allows you to keep your current insurance, potentially leading to increasing costs for employer and employee alike.
Subsequent analysis of the Internet, blogosphere, the print and electronic media, as well as new social media sources (such as Twitter) has shown that the public is aware of this shift. The results of the Healthcare NarrativeTracker Index™ (NTI™) were reported by OpenConnect, the leading company in event-driven intelligence solutions, and The Global Language Monitor, the media analytics company.
“Policies need to be evaluated by the effect they will have on the cost incurred with their implementation. The economics of healthcare reform need to be based on changes that help pay for themselves rather than make the problem worse. Only by realizing the type of efficiencies that have kept America in the forefront of world economic growth for the past century and a half will we be able to keep costs under current projections. All that is necessary is to summon the courage to make the tough choices ahead,” said Edward M.L. Peters, CEO of OpenConnect and author of The Paid-for Option, which details the methodology that has proven effective in the healthcare industry.
The Healthcare NarrativeTracker has detected rising concern about price increases perceived to be associated with the implementation of yet-to-be written regulations. The public is well-aware of the overall trillion dollar cost of the program, as well as associated costs, such as the so-called ‘Doc Fix’ not directly counted with the Healthcare Reform effort budget.
In the first three months of this year, conversations about keeping the price of insurance low were exceeded by conversations with those concerned about the rising costs of their healthcare by some 40%.
In the same manner, in the first three months of this year, conversations about keeping one’s insurance were surpassed by those about losing their insurance by some 54%. For the first six months of this year, the conversations about keeping one’s insurance were surpassed by those about losing their insurance by some 43% but with volume of the conversations increasing over 11,200%.
In summation, the media discussion resonating throughout the Internet, blogosphere and social media is driving the online discussion and conversations. This is particularly true when such narratives are being driven by articles such as those written by Dr. Marc Siegel who concludes, “the regulations impose a major vise on private insurance, restricting a company’s ability to increase cost sharing (such as coinsurance, deductibles and out-of pocket limits) as well as copayments (“more than the sum of medical inflation plus 15 percentage points or $5 increased by medical inflation”). So it is unlikely that many insurers will be able to remain viable without raising premiums (not restricted by the regulations) or slashing services.”
The NarrativeTracker Index is the first product specifically designed to use social media-based monitoring to better understand the issues driving healthcare reform. Because the Healthcare NTI is based on the national discourse, it provides a real-time, accurate picture of what the public is saying about any topic related to healthcare, at any point in time. In addition to the NTI, the NarrativeTracker Arc™ follows the rise and fall of sub-stories within the main narrative to provide a comprehensive overview of the opinions surrounding a single issue.
The NTI is based on the GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator™ (PQI™). The PQI tracks the frequency of words and phrases in global print and electronic media on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere and other social media outlets as well as accessing proprietary databases. The PQI is a weighted index that factors in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity.
The Healthcare NTI is released monthly. The first analysis completed in May 2010 details the various narratives surrounding Massachusetts Healthcare reform, a healthcare model which has been adopted in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as the national healthcare reform bill.
Austin, Texas, July 2, 2010. The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed a great many terrible, sad and historical events, with a few, unfortunately fleeting moments of great joy sprinkled between the dirges. We have done our best to analyze the impact of these events on the global print and electronic media as well as on the Internet, throughout the blogosphere, and now the emerging social media.
After analyzing political speeches for a decade now, as well as all 55 Presidential Inaugural Addresses and transcripts of historical interest (including Washington’s Farewell Address, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, FDR’s ‘Live in Infamy’ radio address, Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech) you would think that we had seen and heard everything by now.
However, it wasn’t until our analysis of the President’s Gulf Spill Oval Office address, that we experienced the full force of the Internet’s fury scorned.
And this for an analysis that we considered basically non-newsworthy.
President Obama had given yet another address to the nation. GLM used the same standardized, widely available, language tools that we used to name Obama’s Grant Park ”Yes, we can!” victory address as one that ranked with the greatest of presidential orations. Now these same standardized, time-tested tools are being conveniently criticized as of questionable repute.
We were told that our analysis was either ‘bashing Obama’ or ‘excusing Obama’. At the same time, we were either ‘insulting the people’ or ‘insulting the President’. Finally, it was suggested that we were rather transparently calling for the President to ‘dumb down the rhetoric’ so that one and all might understand the superior intelligence of ‘his highness’. Whoa!
Apparently, many readers never got over the headline, missing the actual analysis and what the numbers told us about the speech. Our concern was that our initial headline, Obama Oil Spill Speech Echoes Elite, Aloof Ethos might be considered demeaning to the President. Wrong. It was considered demeaning to everyone on the Left and the Right.
For general information on the readability tests used by GLM, click here.
For scientific literature about readability tests, enter Flesch or readability into the ERIC database.
This past December, we encountered fierce criticism from the Chinese government dailies because we named ‘The Rise of China” as the No. 1 news story of the decade. (You can follow the narrative arc of this controversy here. ) But the criticism that accompanied the Obama Gulf Spill speech, was a good bit nastier, indeed.
Our analyses of the three preceding US Presidential elections were praised from many quarters from the New York Times to Nicholas Kristof to NPR to the worldwide media. During the preceding ten years, few alleged political motivation, or denounced the standard language-measurement tools as inherently flawed. In fact, as long as readers basically agreed with the more predictable outcomes, there were few complaints. Here were some of those results: Ross Perot scored the lowest we’ve ever recorded, John F, Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were stars, both Bushes settled in the middle of the middle school years, and Obama’s ‘Yes, we can!’ speech had nearly equivalent numbers to Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream’ speech and Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’. So far, so good. We did have a few outliers, such as Sarah Palin achieving quite a high score during her debate with Joe Biden, which was duly noted by New York Magazine and quite easy to explain.
Here’s what we attempted to communicate:
1. Obama’s speech, though deserving a ‘solid B’ did not live up to his past efforts.
2. Obama’s most well-regarded speech came in a at 7.4 grade level. This is not talking down to the American people. This is communicating clear and concisely to his audience. This is Obama at his best, communicating with a deft combination of vision, passion and rhetoric.
In fact, our headline for that effort read: Obama’s “Yes, We Can” Speech Ranked with “I have a Dream,” “Tear Down this Wall,” and JFK Inaugural. Rather high praise, indeed.
Our commentary read:
Obama’s “Yes, We Can” speech delivered Tuesday night in Chicago’s Grant Park ranked favorably in tone, tenor and rhetorical flourishes with memorable political addresses of the recent past including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech, “Tear Down this Wall,” by Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address.
“As is appropriate for a forward-looking message of hope and reconciliation, words of change and hope, as well as future-related constructions dominated the address,” said Paul JJ Payack President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor. “Evidently, Obama is at his best at connecting with people at the 7th to 8th grade range, communicating directly to his audience using simple yet powerful rhetorical devices, such as the repetition of the cadenced phrase ‘Yes, we can’, which built to a powerful conclusion.”
Well-regarded, indeed (and well-deserved).
3. GLM and our predecessor site, yourDictionary.com have analyzed every presidential inaugural since that of George Washington. The idea was, and continues to be, to look at the presidents’ words in the total historical context of the American presidency.
In 2001, we were quoted as saying,
Our goal was to spot trends that are all to easily overlooked in the political (and all too partisan) passions of the moment” [and continued that our] analysis included patterns of word usage choices, the use of such grammatical constructions as passive voice, the length of words and sentences, the number of paragraphs, and other parameters of language to gauge the content [including] the well-regarded Flesch-Kincaid Reading Scale.
4. The use of Industry-standard language analytics. The Fogg Index, the Flesch Test, the Flesch-Kinkaid Reading Scale, and many others, are used in all forms of publishing from technical manuals to ensuring proper comprehension levels for textbooks used for various ages and classes. This has been true for more than fifty years.
The reason we choose to use the standard tests and analytical tools was a simple one: to enable the same set of measurements over any period of time. And also that these analyses could be replicated by scholars and historians and journalists the world over.
5. We use our proprietary tool, the Predictive Quantities Indicator or PQI to measure media analytics, narrative tracking, and TrendTopper Media Buzz, as such we do not use the PQI for this task.
By the Way, here are a few historical precedents;
Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796 — 12.0.
Lincoln-Douglas debates, 1858 — Stephen Douglas’ seven speeches averaged a 12th-grade level 11.9; Lincoln’s averaged 11.2.
President Franklin Roosevelt’s declaration of war in December 1941 — 11.5.
Nixon-Kennedy Debates, 1960 — The first nationally televised debates: Kennedy, 9.6 ; Nixon, 9.1.
The usual key to staying on top in the murky world of politics is to control the narrative. And, by all linguistic accounts, Barack Obama’s control of the oil spill narrative has slipped away.
Lonely warrior. Barack Obama counting tar balls on a Louisiana beach in May 2010. (Larry Downing/Reuters)
In his first prime-time address from the Oval Office recently, Obama attempted to take back the reins by employing warrior-like language.
In his best Churchill impression, he spoke about “the battle we’re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens,” going on to vow that “we will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long as it takes.”
The president then talked about creating a battle plan as well as the need to develop energy independence and to “fight for the America we want for our children.”
The president then talked about creating a battle plan as well as the need to develop energy independence and to “fight for the America we want for our children.”
In fact, Obama’s rhetoric around America’s biggest environmental disaster has intensified in recent weeks.
Accused of not being angry enough at the company that has still not managed to fully plug a gushing oil well, “No Drama” Obama, as he was once known, is using tougher language and framing the oil spill as an environmental 9/11.
He also uttered the now oft-quoted explanation of why he’s spending so much time talking to experts: So he can “know whose ass to kick.”
But in this unfolding drama, with a wavering protagonist, a motley crew of characters and a slick, unrelenting enemy, one is compelled to shout in frustration: “Words, words, words!”
(An unscientific, comparison)
BP: Use remotely operated underwater vehicles to try to reactivate blowout preventer.
Political narrative: Remotely control response, i.e. let Coast Guard handle it.
BP: Introduce small tube into burst pipe to slow flow.
Political narrative: Introduce oil spill commission and temporarily stop offshore drilling
BP: Drill relief wells, this is going to take awhile.
Political narrative: Drill home the need for relief/compensation (this is going to take awhile)
Therein lies the problem, says language analyst Paul Payack. Words alone mean nothing if they are not backed up by action and, as a result, Obama has lost control of what he wants to say.
“He who wins control of the narrative controls the story in terms of political capital,” says Payack. And at the moment, Obama isn’t doing so well, which could hurt his party in the November mid-term elections.
According to Payack, the most important storyline currently defining the president is “Obama as oil spill enabler.”
If the Gulf oil spill is a national tragedy, the arguments over President Obama’s response to it have descended into a national farce. When former law professors go looking for “ass to kick,” they end up looking like the eponymous hero of Kickass, a nerdy kid copying moves he’s seen in comic books. The difference is that the fictional Kickass was ennobled by failure, which, sadly, is not the kind of outcome open to the President of the United States in matters of national importance.
Obama’s mistake was to respond to the Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots of punditry. The country didn’t want Spock at the helm during environmental armageddon, they protested; the situation demanded a theatrically-appropriate response–as if the presidency was the background music to the movie of our lives, rousing in adversity, compassionate in suffering, a boom box of linguistic effects.
If style is the image of character, you cannot go from the calmest, most judicious intellectual in the room to a Schwarzenegger character in leather trousers and expect to be perceived as authentic. This is why responding to his critics was the wrong thing to do. By following their lame advice, by trying to be someone he isn’t, Obama sounded bathetic.
All of this is an object lesson in how democracy isn’t helped by the media. Just as an analysis of the Katrina response shows that it was a complex systematic failure of government and not a simple fumble by George W. Bush and “heck of a job” Brownie, the Gulf oil spill is not really in the league of a car wreck caused by distracted texting. The very intractability of the problem demands openness, an admission of complexity and a detailed description of solutions that are being pursued. And yet, according to one manufacturer of conventional wisdom, the problem was not that Obama’s White House address on the spill was too simple or vague, it was that it wasn’t simple enough. As CNN reported:
“Obama’s speech may have gone over the heads of many in his audience, according to an analysis of the 18-minute talk released Wednesday by Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor. Tuesday night’s speech from the Oval Office of the White House was written to a 9.8 grade level, said Payack, who gave Obama a ‘solid B.’ His Austin, Texas-based company analyzes and catalogues trends in word usage and word choice and their impact on culture.”
The president’s 19.8 words per sentence apparently “added some difficulty for his target audience.” But 19.8 words is well within the breath of television’s cutthroat culture of political sound bites, which now stands at seven seconds. Indeed, as Elvin T. Lim notes in his brilliant historical and linguistic analysis of presidential rhetoric, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, the average presidential sentence in recent years (as defined by speeches) has ranged from 15 to 20 words, well within the assumed attention span of the presumptive television viewer.
But now, even this is apparently too difficult for most Americans to follow. It gets worse. Take the following sentence from the President’s speech, “That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge–a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy.” According to Payack, this is the kind of phrasing that makes the President seem “aloof and out of touch.” It’s too professorial, too academic and not “ordinary enough.” Perhaps the President should just have tweeted “I got smart folks fixin’ to fix the oil spill” and let everyone go back to their regular broadcast fare or communicating with each other in grunts and clicks.
People understand spoken and written word differently
Payack gives Obama “Solid B”
(CNN) — Language experts weighed in Thursday after poring over the nearly 2,700 words of President Obama’s Oval Office speech on the Gulf oil disaster.
“It was straightforward and easy to understand,” said Ron Yaros, assistant professor at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, referring to the explanations of the crisis and its possible solutions. He divided the speech into 1,200 “idea units,” each of which represents a point the president was trying to make.
He then looked at how many of those idea units contained jargon — unexplained terms that the average person might not recognize — and found none in the 65 idea units that explained the problem.
Of the 417 idea units that discussed what Obama planned to do, “I found only one idea unit that probably would be potentially confusing to a nonexpert. That was the term ‘relief well.’ He never explained that.”
BP is digging a relief well that is expected to intersect with the blown-out well in August. At that point, BP plans to pump heavy drilling fluid into the runaway well, ending the flow.
“If you look at the entire speech, and you look at the amount of jargon, it came out to 1.5 percent,” he said.
But Obama’s speech may have gone over the heads of many in his audience, according to an analysis of the 18-minute talk released Wednesday by Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor.
Tuesday night’s speech from the Oval Office of the White House was written to a 9.8 grade level, said Payack, who gave Obama a “solid B.” His Austin, Texas-based company analyzes and catalogues trends in word usage and word choice and their impact on culture.
He singled out this sentence from Obama as unfortunate: “That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge — a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s secretary of energy.”
“A little less professorial, less academic and more ordinary,” Payack recommended. “That’s the type of phraseology that makes you [appear] aloof and out of touch.”
Yaros disagreed, supporting the quality of the president’s explanation for spelling out the efforts under way, even if they have not succeeded in ending the flow.
“He’s just trying to be transparent,” Yaros said. “We can’t cure cancer, but I’m comforted to know that the best researchers in the nation are devoted to finding a cure.”
Payack found these three sentences insensitive: “Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it is not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.”
“You shouldn’t be saying that in Katrina-land,” said Payack, referring to the 2005 hurricane that devastated the Gulf Coast. “New Orleans lost a third of its population [to evacuees who did not return]; it’s still recovering.”
But he praised Obama’s phrase “oil began spewing” as active and graphic.
Obama’s nearly 10th-grade-level rating was the highest of any of his major speeches and well above the grade 7.4 of his 2008 “Yes, we can” victory speech, which many consider his best effort, Payack said.
“The scores indicate that this was not Obama at his best, especially when attempting to make an emotional connection to the American people,” he added.
Though the president used slightly less than four sentences per paragraph, his 19.8 words per sentence “added some difficulty for his target audience,” Payack said.
Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, was unimpressed with Payack’s criticism of the sentence length.
“I think we can all agree that those are shockingly long professor-style sentences for a president to be using, especially in addressing the nation after a disaster,” Liberman wrote on his blog.
“Why, they were almost as long as the ones that President George W. Bush, that notorious pointy-headed intellectual, used in his 9/15/2005 speech to the nation about Hurricane Katrina, where I count 3,283 words in 140 sentences, for an average of 23.45 words per sentence! And we all remember how upset the press corps got about the professorial character of that speech!”
Yaros challenged the value of Payack’s analysis. “There’s a tremendous amount of difference between analyzing the written word and interpreting the spoken word,” said Yaros, a former science reporter who studies how to make complex topics understandable.
Payack acknowledged Thursday in a telephone interview that his analysis is indeed based on a written version of the speech, but said that does not necessarily render it invalid. “With the internet, probably as many people read the transcript as heard it,” he said. “To think it’s not read and analyzed by tens of thousands of bloggers is looking at the old model.”
Yaros countered that he doesn’t just count words and sentences, but instead measures the audience’s comprehension of news content.
By Cristina Silva, Saint Petersburg Times Lambasted by charges that his response to the gulf oil spill comes across as emotionally flat, President Barack Obama has made repeated vows to stand by the victims “until they are made whole.” His ambitious promise now stands as the rhetoric of choice among political leaders looking to sympathize with those affected by the environmental and financial crisis. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry and Gov. Charlie Crist have made near identical pledges and a trio of Democratic congressmen demanded oil giant BP postpone $10 billion in dividend payments to stockholders until “the people of the gulf (are) made whole.” Problem is, what does it mean? ”That is the one question I have been asking for five weeks,” said Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, who fears the sheets of oil sliding toward the shores of his Alabama tourist haven will bring new financial hardships after weeks of canceled hotel reservations and half-empty seafood shacks. “That is the one question we need to know before we can move forward.” Politicians are well aware of the power of words. Obama, a legal scholar with a penchant for headline-grabbing speeches, hasn’t elaborated on his definition of “made whole,” but his repetition suggests he thinks it is a good message. It means he wants to help. It means he cares. But, as with many political messages, “made whole” has more than one layer. In legal jargon, “made whole” implies full restitution. A stolen laptop is replaced. Hospital bills are paid. A cracked windshield is repaired. But the Gulf of Mexico crisis likely won’t be so easily resolved. Some losses could be hard to prove in court or even single out, creating a complicated web of cause and effect that might not immediately produce a culprit, said economic and legal scholars. ”What (Obama) said is true. They (BP) are going to be responsible for the damage they did,” said Fred Levin, a trial lawyer in Pensacola. “The question is, what is the damage they did?” In other words, will those indirectly hurt by the oil spill be “made whole,” too? Or does the promise only apply to the victims who can successfully make their case in court? Consider some potential ramifications. If affected business owners can no longer afford to send their children to private schools, should the schools file a claim? If the private schools hire fewer teachers because of declining enrollment, do the unemployed teachers get help? And if those teachers then can no longer afford to buy quality meat from the local supermarket, how does the supermarket prove its losses are tied to the oil spill? It’s simply not clear, said Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law at Wayne State University in Detroit. ”To the extent you are talking about just the cleanup, yes, BP is on the hook, but to the extent that you are saying we are going to return these communities to what they were, the law does not appear to extend that far,” he said. “While it is couched in legal terms, this is really more of a political promise than a legal assertion.”
Wordsmiths countered “made whole” is not an abstract concept.”To ‘make whole’ means exactly what it says, meaning not to kind of prop you up, not to give you some aid, but to put you back precisely where you were,” said Paul JJ Payack , president of the Global Language Monitor based in Austin, Texas, which analyzes speech. “It is a very precise choice of words and they know it.”
BP so far has paid $49 million to individuals or small businesses through its claims process and sent out roughly 18,000 checks, spokesman Max McGahan said. ”We have said we will compensate individuals and businesses in full for whatever damages or loss of income has resulted from the oil spill. We have made that commitment very clearly,” McGahan said. He declined to address the “made whole” pledge. Read More in the St Petersburg Times
The White House lost control of the story, and now Obama is painted as the bad guy.
These days, if you hadn’t already noticed, everyone and everything is ascribed a ”narrative”, something that is to be owned and shaped, that tells a particular story in a particular fashion.
Narratives aren’t necessarily truthful accounts, but they are often powerful and persuasive. They can also be hijacked. If you neglect to write your own narrative, somebody else will write it for you. Which is why US President Barack Obama is no longer travelling to Australia and Indonesia this month. Essentially, his administration lost control of the narrative of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Others have been its lead authors, constructing a story that reads like this: the White House allowed BP too much licence in running the operation to fix the crippled Deepwater Horizon well, too readily trusting the oil giant’s version of events; it left the US Coast Guard alone to marshal the federal response; and it was slow to pick up on the exasperated cries of Gulf communities readying for environmental and economic catastrophe. The authors dared even to suggest that the spill looms as Obama’s “Katrina”.
The President’s response to contentious issues has often been characterised as more cerebral than heartfelt. This is the guy, after all, who makes Cool Hand Luke look jumpy and uptight. And the media has long invited him to “get angry” and “get even”.
It’s not that the administration hasn’t put the hours into combating America’s worst-ever environmental mishap.
Read and See Moreincluding ‘Kick ass’ Obama slams critics video where US President Barack Obama rebuts claims that he has been slow to react to the oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.