Friday, November 14, 2008

Our New Spokesman

So, I'm talking to a friend.

She points out that President-elect Barack Obama is likely to be drafted for a new job that he never asked to hold.

Spokesman for the Entire Black Race.

Yep, it makes sense.

Gone are the days when reporters had to deal with people like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or, if the reporters are feeling adventurous, Louis Farrakhan. No more feeling like a white devil, or closet racist. Now they have the easy option of talking to one of the most non-threatening, easy going black people on the planet who also happens to be the most powerful politician in America.

The checks are really about to stop for Jesse and Al.

Actually, that's not totally true. After all, the media needs controversy to drive its business, so I expect that Al and Jesse will still be in demand. But, instead of letting Jesse and Al have the last word on what black people think, I expect many reporters to turn to Obama to provide his take. And when conservative black people like Ward Connerly and Shelby Steele make their comments, I expect the White House to get a call as well.

The thing is, this presents a dilemma for Obama. Although his election was a triumph of all Americans, it cannot be ignored that 95 percent of black voters supported him. I'm pretty sure that some of the folks are going to expect Obama to be actively involved in their issues and their struggles on a grassroots level. No, I don't think this is particularly fair, but I do think it's life.

So, when the first plucky white reporter decides to ask Obama to weigh in on the latest protest in Harlem, Obama and his aides can't just offer up some random platitudes. That may have worked in the campaign, but now that Obama actually has some power certain black folks are going to expect real involvement. They are going to expect him to react the way they would react, and if he doesn't it won't be long before he's being called a sellout and other nonsense.

But, the rub is that Obama can't start spouting black liberation theory or co-signing the ramblings of the Revs. Al and Jesse if he wants to maintain credibility with the true power base in America. Random white people. While only 44 percent of them may have supported him, he still needs them on board if he wants to make any substantive improvements to America.

So, what should the HNIC do?

Here's my action plan. Obama aides need to aggressively attack reporters who attempt to make them discuss the actions of random black people across the country. Sure, there will be times when Obama has to take a stand, but most of the time he needs to have his aides question the motives of these reporters and their thinking. After all, did they ask George Bush to comment on every protest or issue involving white people? No they did not. They decided that certain things weren't Bush's concern and Obama aides need to make sure they get the press to install that same sort of filter when it comes to their guy. Of course, they need to make these attacks off the record and not for attribution.

Second, if a reporter persists in making Obama the new black spokesman, that reporter needs to go on the shit list. That's right, as a journalist, I am advocating that the government stonewall the press. It's blasphemy. But, here's the thing. Reporters expecting Obama to comment on the latest police shooting in Cincinnati are holding him to an unfair and borderline racist standard. Consequently, I feel no remorse about advocating that they be cut off from the spigot of information and forced to fend for themselves. Those reporters are not interested in fairness or balance and dealing with them would only result in more problems.

Finally, Obama needs to develop a squad of attack dogs to advance more aggressive viewpoints pertaining to the black community. These attack dogs cannot be directly linked to Obama, but they must create arguments based around a core set of principles that reflect his viewpoints while appealing to black people. These attack dogs need to be dispatched to traditional and non-traditional media sources to advance these memes. Obama's election means that intelligent black commentators are more in demand, and Obama would be wise to get ahead of the curve and get his people organized. He can also recruit white people to play this role on mainstream media programs.

Now, these people will not be just telling folks what they want to hear, they will actually be repeating the unvarnished version of where Obama stands on certain issues. I do not advocate misleading people, but you definitely have to shape your argument based on the audience you're trying to reach. Obama's people need to craft messages that resonate with black people and assure us that he has not forgotten about us or our concerns. These messages must be followed with concrete action, but he must get black people to understand that they should not expect him to respond on the timeline set by the media.

I think these three strategies are a good starting point for Obama to avoid the pitfalls of the title he is sure to inherit given his recent success. I'm pretty sure that if Obama makes it through two terms with a fair amount of success he will be labeled as the spokesman of black people for the rest of his life, so he might as well get comfortable with the role.

Lord knows Jesse and Al haven't set the bar too high.



Anonymous said...

There is a precedent for what you are suggesting.

the Bush administration met with Talk radio hosts ALL THE TIME and spoonfed them talking points during the run up to the war.

Ain't no reason why the Obama administration can't break off some bloggers (hint hint) with some exclusive ish and get the REAL word out there.

Big Man said...

Republicans have been doing this for years.

They have different talking points that feed to different types of media sources. The ones for Fox News are typically more reputable than the ones for Drudge or Rush.

Democrats have been woeful about this. You don't have to be dishonest to be aggressive and calculating. It seems like Democrats can't seem to get this right.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

unfortunately i speak for myself and follow no one, i dont even order well in resturants

Deacon Blue said...

Big Man, I'm thinking maybe you need to be part of Obama's press team...

(And in the unlikely event they tap you, can I ride on your coattails?)

Big Man said...

There is plenty of room on my coatails, Deac.

After all, my name is Big Man, so my coat is pretty large.


Esquire said...

I definitely agree with you that he needs a team of attack dogs to speak on and sometimes directly address matters going on in the community. I've thought about this some myself and I think its the only way for him to go.

Personally, I would snag some people from the media - Soledad O'Brien types who aren't very threatening, but can handle their own in front of the camera.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff

Raving Black Lunatic