Ming the Mechanic:
Managing Perceptions

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Managing Perceptions2002-12-29 18:12
picture by Flemming Funch

I was watching a documentary on Jimmy Carter's presidency the other day. It is striking how he is such an intelligent and hardworking person, who's always trying to do what his heart tells him is the right thing to do, so he can act with integrity. And he accomplished some remarkable things both while he was president and after, in terms of brokering peace internationally. But at the same time he was one of the most unpopular and unsuccessful U.S. presidents ever, according to popularity polls during his presidency, lower than any previous president in history. Which points us to something very important which he didn't do. He didn't manage the public perception of him or the country or the world. He speaks in a boring monotone and doesn't pay much attention to public relations. So things go badly in the economy and in polls, because people don't have confidence that things are good. Whereas an actor like Ronald Reagan gave great speeches, and seemed confident and inspiring, so people responded accordingly. He mushroomed taxes and national debt more than any U.S. president every had, effectively nationalizing several trillion dollars worth of private property, while pretending that the government was being trimmed down. What mattered the most was the perception, not what actually happened. And fast forward to George W. Bush, and it is now ALL about perception. He's half illiterate, knew nothing about history or foreign policy, is a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict, and has many other problems that other candidates would have been nailed for. Now it is no longer necessary to get all the details right, and in most situations it doesn't really matter much if the facts are all wrong. As long as the president is looking good, looking confident while he says the right things, and as long as there are a bunch of people supporting him who do likewise, it doesn't really matter if the only reason for bombing Iraq is to get at its oil business. Doesn't really matter if nothing much came out of the investigation of 9/11. Doesn't really matter if Bin Laden gets to go free for no good reason. Doesn't really matter that the U.S. is now more in debt than ever before, and that military expenditures are skyrocketing. All that matters is managing the confidence in the system as it is.

My point here is not the politics. Rather, the world seems to have gradually changed so it is more and more about the perception of what is going on, rather than what really is going on. It is a virtual reality. That is both good and bad. The bad part is that slick political and corporate rulers can use the mass media to create the picture of reality that they would like to create. The good part is that it is public opinion that really rules the world. It is what you and I think, and what you and I see, that makes a difference, if there are enough of us. Which means, you don't necessarily have to figure out how to be president, or how to run a billion dollar company, or how to own an army. You just need to figure out how to influence public opinion in a more useful direction. It is not controlled, only influenced or inspired. If most people in the world stopped voting for people who mislead them, while pursuing special interests; if most people in the world stop buying products from companies who don't have their best interest in mind - the power structures would change very quickly. And how it all looks is now more important than who owns what. If public opinion changes its mind, and starts believing in totally different structures, and SEEING different structures - that would be the new world order.

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29 Dec 2002 @ 20:42 by martha : not exactly
"But at the same time he was probably the most
unpopular and unsuccessful U.S. president ever."

I think your American history is a bit off. There are a number of presidents that have that honor like Nixon, Andy Johnson, LBJ (with public, not congress) and I am sure many others. Jimmy Carter was a fine president. He had his flaws. History will be kinder to him than many other presidents.  

29 Dec 2002 @ 23:44 by strydg : a slight exaggeration
still this piece says a lot. some good questions here.  

29 Dec 2002 @ 23:50 by ming : Exaggeration
Yeah, maybe I was exaggerating a bit there. So, let me modify that part a little bit, in the interest of correctness. And let me go off and see if I can find data on popularity polls somewhere... And I agree that history will be kind to Carter. But public opinion at the time wasn't.  

30 Dec 2002 @ 00:31 by shawa : The important point here...
...I believe, is "who manages public opinion". The picture is incredibly good!...Says volumes.  

30 Dec 2002 @ 02:07 by jazzolog : Inflated Values
President Carter was a man of the people, clear and simple, and remains so down to today. He prefers not to say anything about someone that might be unkind, and simply offers constructive and alternative proposals. He probably appears naive, and certainly must have been wide open to the manipulation of retail prices during his administration. I believe that happened, creating the most horrible and ruinous inflation of the modern period. I believe there were people who planned that and carried it out, rather than some "invisible" force of the market economy. (I'm very careful about the invisible forces I believe in!) It was inflation that brought Carter down...and the whole Democratic party with him. I wish someone would write a book on that.  

30 Dec 2002 @ 12:14 by sharie : Things you don't know about Carter
Carter was "wide open to the manipulations" of the ruling elite. Pat Robertson (the TV evangelist) was a friend of Carter before he was elected, and has written a book that details how Carter became President (the ruling elite selected the naive peanute farmer, promoted him through their TV programs - ABC, NBC, and CBS, then after Carter was *elected*, they selected Carter's advisors (here's some online info http://www.ontherightside.com/columns/carters_castro.htm ), and got Carter to *give away* the Panama Canal to China (probably sold for billions under the table) http://www.jbs.org/canal/articles/panama_treaties.htm and other articles on the subject.

Carter is a good person, but he was sucked in by the devil.  

28 Dec 2004 @ 09:33 by bianca @ : i agree
i agree with what flemming is saying here, that it is the perception of the president that maters more than the reality of what he really is,that is the only way a drunk could have won the election and there is no exaggeration her either, the only place where an exaggerationnis being made is in the movies.Politicians know what the people think they want and that is what the voters ar given every time, and then are made to think they are to blame for whatever eveil they supposedly unleahced.  

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