Flashback: Gulf Oil Spill and Rise of ‘the Narrative’ in Politics

The Importance of  Tracking Evolving Narratives

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Gulf Oil Spill Vs. Katrina

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Obama vs. BP

The Lesson of the Gulf Oil Spill narrative is the importance of controlling the narrative, since whoever wins of the narrative, controls the story in terms of political capital – for good or ill.

Austin, TX, June 02, 2010 (Updated May 24, 2014) — In an exclusive analysis by The Global Language Monitor’s NarrativeTracker™, there are now several differing story lines emerging from the Gulf Oil Spill. The ‘narrative’ refers to the stream of public opinion captured by blogs and other social media outlets on the Internet, as well as the leading print and electronic databases.

Colleen Ross:  How Obama Lost Control of the Oil-Spill Narrative (CBC)

The Narratives emerging from this on-going (and slow-moving) disaster include: Obama was Slow to Respond – 95% of the social media conversations characterize the President Obama as ‘slow to respond’. Obama vs. BP: who’s in charge? — 52% see BP in charge of the spill. This may or may not be a political liability. Democrats need the blame assigned to BP; at the same time, Obama needs to be seen as in overall control of the disaster Worst environmental disaster ever – 42% see the current spill the worst environmental disaster ever. Federal Response — 57% see the Federal response using ‘poor’ or related keywords. Not a good month for the Feds; come to think of it, not a good year for the Feds. Katrina vs. Exxon Valdez – 61% make the comparison to the Exxon Valdez; about 39% compare the ongoing spill to the inundation of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

 

Biblical Prophecies Abound Once More — About 61% of all references involve the Bible. (Even Ted Turner has a theory how the oil spill might be a warning from God.) These are markedly different in tone than those used with Katrina where the references focused on apocalyptic imagery, End-of-the-World scenarios and doom. The Obama Style of Leadership – This is a close one 52% see Obama as ‘hand’s on’ leadership, 48% see ‘hand’s off’. Again, this is either positive or negative depending on your political bias.

Clarence Page:  How stories, true or not, drive politics

Ronald Reagan was seen as a ‘hand’s off’ president and that was considered good. Jimmy Carter was a ‘hand’s on’ type president and that was considered bad. “The development of the Gulf Oil Spill narrative is important to track since he who wins control of the narrative, controls the story in terms of political capital – for good or ill,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of GLM. “With the mid-term elections just five months away, and the prospect of the Gulf Oil Spill continuing unabated for months, control of the narrative is more important than ever.” The rise of the narrative can render positions on the issues almost meaningless, since positions now matter less than how they fit into a particular narrative.

The NarrativeTracker is more effective in capturing the true opinion of the public because it tracks unfiltered keywords in Social Media and other sources, rather than how that opinion is interpreted by the news media or by pollsters. The term ‘narrative’ in this sense is now appearing thousands of times in the global media on the Internet and blogosphere as well as throughout the world of social media, meaning the main streams of public opinion running in the media that needs to be fed, encouraged, diverted or influenced by any means possible. GLM recently announced The Healthcare NarrativeTracker Index™ (NTI™), in partnership with OpenConnect Systems of Dallas. The Healthcare NTI is the first product specifically designed to use social media-based monitoring to better understand the issues driving healthcare reform, providing a real-time, accurate picture of what the public is saying about any topic related to healthcare, at any point in time. The NarrativeTracker 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. 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.

Obama in Boston: “State of Grace” among his best orations

“Heal Our City” Service

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’.

Paul JJ Payack

 

 

Obama: du candidat super star au président mal aimé


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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).



Third Debate: a Reverse ‘Rope-a-Hope’

Exclusive Analysis

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.


Not the Thrilla in Manila, but Certainly Nasty in Nassau

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.


With Obama’s structural lead, debate stakes couldn’t be higher

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.


Malarkey Vs. Adorkable: The Vice Presidential Debate

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).


The Final Narrative of Barack Obama

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.

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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 and Chief Word Analysts of Austin-based Global Language Monitor.


Top Political Buzzwords Paint a Different Picture than the Campaigns

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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.
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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.
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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.
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“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.”
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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:

  1. Current US Economy (with Obama Ownership)
  2. Toxic Politics
  3. ObamaCare
  4. Out-of-control Spending
  5. The American Dream Still alive
  6. Disappointment in Obama Administration
  7. Bush Responsible for Great Recession
  8. The Iraq War
  9. Stimulus Package
  10. Wall Street Bailout
  11. Mormonism in Politics
  12. Rise of China
  13. US Debt Crisis
  14. Middle Class Whites
  15. Identifying opponents as Haters (or -phobic)
  16. Transparency in Government
  17. Excited about Presidential Election
  18. Not Excited about Presidential Election
  19. The Euro Crisis affecting US
  20. Hilary Clinton
  21. Illegal Aliens
  22. Climate Change
  23. Politics of Fear
  24. Afghanistan War
  25. Middle-class tax (Affordable Care Act)
  26. Wall Street Occupy Movement
  27. Bain Capital
  28. Pregnancy Reduction and sex selective abortion
  29. Drone Strikes
  30. Birther
  31. Hydraulic Fracturing
  32. John Roberts Healthcare
  33. George Bush Responsible for US Economy
  34. Keystone Pipeline
  35. Obama responsible for Great Recession
  36. Deficit Spending
  37. The 1%
  38. Super Pacs
  39. Teachers Unions
  40. Global Terrorism
  41. Nuclear Iran
  42. Affordabe Healthcare Act
  43. Long-term Unemployment
  44. Bush Tax Cuts Affecting Middle Class
  45. Progressive politics
  46. Decline US Manufacturing
  47. Political Stalement
  48. Angry White Males
  49. Obstructionist Congress
  50. Obamamania
  51. Outsourcing
  52. War Against Women
  53. Romney Wealth

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.


Evolving Narrative of Barack Obama

Three Distinct Narratives during Presidency

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.

Reprinted from The Hill, Washington, D.C.
Reprinted from The Hill, Washington, D.C.

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.

Obama 2.0 frequent word choices: surge, Tea Party, deficit, oil spill, healthcare.

The Obama 3.0 Narrative

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.

  • Weakened
  • Shrinking
  • Bailouts
  • Handouts
  • Cop-outs
  • Fraud
  • Dumping
  • Out-dated
  • Unnecessary
  • Phony
  • Obstruction
  • Fiasco
  • Plunged
  • Unstable
  • Corrosive
  • Loopholes

Summary

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.


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