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A New Model for the Near-mythical Rise of Donald Trump; this one from the Ancient Greeks

Greek Gods

A New Model for the Near-mythical rise of Rise of Donald Trump; this one from the Ancient Greeks

Donald Trump’s Source of Power is the People, The Only Thing Separating Him From the People Will Cause His Downfall


Austin, Texas, May 24, 2016 — After reading yet another in an apparently unending number of ‘Dump Trump’ plans, we noticed that the latest differed from all the others, only in increasing its level of desperation.

It is now ever more evident that the party establishments are destined like Sisyphus to push their particular rocks up hills (in the current rendering) of their own making.

We’ve witnessed the attempts at explication of the origins of the Trump phenomenon to become more and more, dare we say it, detached or even unhinged from the current reality.  After all, it is now a given that the ‘establishment’ had completely missed (or were oblivious to) the rising anger, frustration and contempt that was seething beneath the surface of the body politic over the preceding seven years. (See Nate Cohn’s of the New York Times Apologia here.)

We at the Global Language Monitor have been documenting this undercurrent since 2007 And, indeed, it has and has been recorded in the pages of The Hill, the news organization most frequently accessed by the White House, Congress and  key influencers, as well as here in the Global Language Monitor.  However, those disruptive forces appear to have been masked, for good or for ill, by the triumphal arrival of the Obama Administration and its immediate aftermath. Of course, we also tracked the highs over the preceding time frame, but were prescient enough to pay attention to the lows, thinking there might be an interesting story that would unfold in the fullness of time.

At this point, it begs the question as to why would we expect these very same thought and opinion leaders, to suddenly, as if by epiphany or the unseen hand of the electorate, understand the enormity of the disruptive forces now sweeping the nation?

Nevertheless, how to explain this miss of near mythical proportions?  How would the ancient Greeks have

They might have called to mind the story of Antaeus.  (Antaeus here standing in for Donald J. Trump.)

Antaeus, the son of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and Gaia, the goddess of the land, the earth.  Antaeus was a giant who lived in North Africa.  He would challenge other giants striding across his land to a wrestling match to the death.  So skilled was he as a wrestler that he built a tower of skulls of the giants he had conquered in a tribute to father. This went on for ages until he encountered Hercules who was in the midst of the eleventh of his famed twelve labors.  The struggle was long, brutal and bitter; Antaeus and Hercules appeared evenly matched.

Then Hercules noticed a rather curious occurrence:  Antaeus appeared to gain a bit of strength every time Hercules (or Clinton in this case) threw him to the ground. So Hercules began to hold him in the air, for longer and longer periods, until he was weakened enough for Hercules to crush him until death.

Antaeus was finally beaten, because Hercules came to understand that he gained strength from his mother Gaia (in Trump’s case, the people), whenever he was thrown to the ground.

In the same manner, many have noted that the more his opponents attempt to take Trump down, the more they thrust him to the ground, the stronger he becomes.  In the same manner for Trump, the ground, the earth, his strength are the disenfranchised, the belittled, body politic.

And the only way to beat Trump in this scenario is to separate the candidate from those who love him.

The question then becomes — is there a Hercules or Herculean team who can separate one Donald J Trump from his ultimate source of power — the people?


This MetaThought Commentary was written by Paul JJ Payack, commentator, author, speaker and Big Data Analyst, and president of both the ThoughtTopper Institute and the Global Language Monitor.

You have permission to publish this work as long as proper attribution accompanies the copy since it is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

MetaThought Commentary is a service of the ThoughtTopper Institute.

For more information call 1.512.815.8836.



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Politics 2016: Fighting the Last War, Again

Vietnam 2
It used to be said, that old soldiers are always fighting the last war.  That they are trained in the techniques and strategies that were acquired on battlefields past, and the old lessons don’t always apply to the current fields of battle.  In 2016, this lesson does not apply to the American Military who deal in contingencies of every imaginable stripe, but rather to the political class who seem to be impervious to the will (and pulse) of the American electorate.
Rather than trying to harness the anger beneath the surface, the political elite is attempting to ignore that which is in plain sight to in order to keep the control they have exerted over the electorate.

On the Republican side, senior leadership is arguing amongst themselves about how to stop Trump, the unannointed usurper.

On the Democratic side, there is some comfort in the fact that the party’s unelected, non-represetative ‘Super Delagates’ can direct the vote to whom they please, in a new (and ingenious) kind of voter suppression

While arguing over who voted to authorize the Iraq War, the Syrian Civil War becomes ever more ominous,, which now has resulted in more than a quarter of a million civilizian deaths while ex-patriating millions of rufugees to an EU, which can’t keep up with the continuing inflow.
And, again, while arguing over who voted to authorize the Iraq War, the Islamic State (ISIL or ISIS) captures huge swaths of Iraqi land, and an ever enlarging footprint in the Middle East (and now North Africa), and declares the existence a new Caliphate, which by tradition, all Muslims are ordered to support.
The same can be said for our political leadership in the current election cycle where the political reality in 2016 is in direct conflict with the will of their own people.

Not a day goes by without any number of screeching headlines referring to the Republican or Democratic leadership as well as the elite opinion makers attempting to stop the current political ‘revolutions’ and return to the more managable election landscape of elections past.

While Democratic and Republican Party leadership are busy fighting the last war (or eve worse the last several wars), the American electorate has been busy moving forward with eyes squarely on the current battle, writing headlines of their own.

Somehow it appears as if enough Americans have had their fill of the status quo — and are moving onto the new fields of battle, daring to lead the elites into a hazy, ill-defined political future.

Examples of Fighting the Last War:

  • Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – OK, so they might actually win their party’s nominations.   Obviously, this is a result of a series of major mis-judgements of Party Leadership of both parties.  Stop managing expectations and start managing reality.
  • Deaths by Opioids — Every year, there are now as many deaths from Opioids in the US as deaths from guns.  And this is affecting all demographics.  Where is the outcry!?
  • The 1% — No matter how you define the elite, the facts remain that an ever larger percentage of the nation’s wealth is flowing to those at the top.  And it is all too obvious that the banks that are ‘too large to fail’ are also ‘too large for jail’.
  • Middle East — Problems in the Middle East do not spring from George W. Bush, but rather from the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923) and the creation of boundaries of convenience for the British Protectorate.  Fighting the Last War (Iraq 2003) here has led to the ongoing struggles in Iraq, the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Syria, and the spread of the Islamic State.
  • Manufacturing Jobs — The focus on ‘bringing back’ lost manufacturing jobs — In numbers employed, the Service Sector topped the Manufacturing Sector in the 1970s.  Since World War II the Manufacturing Sector has declined from about a quarter of total in percentage of total employment to just below 10% currently.  Fortunately, the sector’s productivity has exploded and the US still produces about 20% of the world’s manufacturing output.  But those millions of jobs (including three or four million shipped to China since the turn of the century) are not coming back.
  • Unemployment Under 5% — All Americans are quite aware that the employment number is not right. Does it include those who’ve given up looking for work? No.  Is the largest prison population in the world included in the number? No.  We all know those who are working two (or more) jobs to maintain their previous standards of living.  Are the underemployed counted the same as the ‘fully employed’?  Yes.
  • Focus on Identity politics — There is ample evidence that the younger population is not as focused on ‘identity politics’ as do the party’s elite. The current electorate focuses less on ‘race’ and identity politics, and more on the reality of income inequality, as well as disparities in opportunities, educational attainment, and employment.


What is sure: the current electorate is delivering a resounding No Vote, a stunning vote of No Confidence to the current leadership of both parties.  A good portion of the American public has decided that they are tired of past and present policy initiatives, and the ever smaller focus on slights delivered to each other each, than their concerns with a world teeming with war, terrorism, and economic inequality.

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

The Importance of  Tracking Evolving Narratives


Gulf Oil Spill Vs. Katrina


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.


Map of the United One Hundred Years in the Future





Obama and the null set narrative

Reprinted from The Hill, May 31, 2009

Obama and the null set narrative

By Paul JJ Payack

We have been analyzing the narrative of Barack Obama for some years now. In fact, we’ve tracked three differing narratives in the course of his campaign and the first term of his presidency. We’ve tracked the president’s highs (the “Yes we can!” Grant Park Speech, and others of soaring rhetoric), and his lows (the much more pedestrian Gulf Oil Spill effort).

We’ve been praised for our astute analysis, and condemned for announcing his premature political death. At the time, the Global Language Monitor’s analysis of the BP Oil Spill speech was actually pulled off CNN and replaced by a far milder critique. In retrospect, that speech was a harbinger of what was to come — Barack Obama bereft of Hope and Change.

Not that we didn’t have hints about of what was about to transpire. Consider the disposition of these “hope-and-change type” promises: (1) the immediate shutdown of Guantanamo, (2) the end of the K Street revolving door and (3) holding the bankers accountable for their part in the financial meltdown. How exactly do you make sense of these countervailing (or even contradictory) positions?

Obama and the null set narrative.

Now consider the president’s recent speech on U.S. defense policy: after ramping up the use of drones against “enemy combatants,” with hundreds of civilians deaths by the administration’s own estimate, he stands firmly against gratuitous drone strikes. After keeping Gitmo open for going on five years now, he will now do everything in his power to close it. How to make sense of these seemingly oppositional positions?

The null set narrative.

In the run-up to the 2010 midterms, we began to formally track the president’s narrative. We were curious to better understand how the word ‘narrative’ rose to be the No. 1 political buzzword at that time and what it meant to this presidency. Other terms frequently used to describe Obama at the time, included: detached, aloof, hands-off or professorial. Some took these words to be demeaning and/or insulting.

Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “The danger comes when politicians and their operatives essentially use ‘narrative’ … the version of the truth that they want us to believe even when they don’t believe it.”

Since his reelection last November, we have remained silent on the subject — awaiting the second term narrative to emerge. With the recent series of crises, scandals and/or events, we now are, indeed, witnessing this new narrative: the null set narrative.

Consider, if you will, the current plight of one Jay Carney.

It is always interesting how one’s attributes can be used to praise or condemn depending on the narrative in which they are described.

However, this is a narrative that can fit around any news, story or scandal; more to the point, it is completely irrelevant to the words ensconced within it. Any words, anytime, anywhere. This is the narrative of choice for the administration at this point in time.

And now detached, aloof, and hands-off are the favored phrases in this administration’s null set narrative.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/the-administration/302749-obama-and-the-null-set-narrative#ixzz2UuzupYr7


Obama: du candidat super star au président mal aimé




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).