Monday, September 26, 2016

Why Debate Preparation Matters

Who cares about debate prep? The press, sadly, seems to depict debate prep as about pretty much nothing but preparing one-liners, put-downs, and elegant evasions. And yet debate preparation for a president or a presidential candidate has an important substantive and systemic function, as it requires the principal to listen to and to read briefings on a range of important and difficult policy matters, to try formulating sensible and persuasive responses, and to hear those responses criticized by smart aides -- forcing the candidate or president to try again--and to think again. In a fine book called the Fourth Branch of Government, Douglass Cater wrote, many years ago, that a presidential press conference has the beneficial effect not only of providing an occasion for presidential communication, but also as requiring the president and crucially the presidential staff to see to it that they had a grasp of everything that was happening in the administration, so as not to be surprised. Without such occasions, the temptation of subordinates to hide bad news from the principal is strong. Debate preparation matters -- as a function of self government.

If Donald Trump does not bother to prepare for the current round of presidential debates but instead treats them as an occasion for extemporaneous mud-slinging and lies, what does that predict about how a Trump presidency might unfold?

Mud Wrestling for the Oval Office

Headlines: the face-off, the battle . . . Granted these are not actually "debates" as we academics would describe them, and of course they are dramatic mysteries as well as a rehearsal of presidential speech, but Donald Trump is already programmed to win the sort of encounter that our press describes in its metaphors of conflict. If we sell ourselves on the idea of the debates as mud wrestling, we have decided it before it has begun.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Women of America!

Women of America! If you want to put a vote in in 1920 put a (.10, 1.00, 10.00) in now. National Ballot Box for 1920. Photograph by Harris & Ewing. 1920. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Collection.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Posters for Peace wins Everett Lee Hunt Award

Posters for Peace: Visual Rhetoric and Civic Action (Penn State University Press, 2015) is the 2016 recipient of the Everett Lee Hunt Award of the Eastern Communication Association.

ECA describes the Hunt Award:
The Everett Lee Hunt Award is presented annually at the discretion of the ECA Committee of Scholars. The Hunt Award reflects the philosophic commitment and scholarly contributions of Everett Lee Hunt, one of the founders of the discipline of communication and the eighth president of ECA (1927-1929).
The nominee should have provided a major contribution to the understanding of rhetoric and communication as a human function in the contemporary world; a means of explaining and realizing public responsibilities beyond the discipline of communication; and/or an intellectual and humane instrument for merging diverse fields of knowledge in a way that infuses them with moral purpose and public significance.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

New York Public Library Poster Collection

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Art & Architecture Collection, The New York Public Library. "Harper's July" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed February 24, 2016.

From the free, downloadable collection of turn of the century art posters at the New York Public Library.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Canary in the Mine

Some friends have disliked Hillary Clinton's yellow coat at the debate with Bernie Sanders last night. I did not much like that coat either, but with all due respect I think this line of criticism wanders into and reveals the anti-feminist double bind. This is a middle aged woman. The rules of dress for senior politicians are based on the standard followed by men -- dark suit, white shirt, dark or red tie. Women's clothing either imitates men (reminding us that she's not a man, implicitly qualified on those grounds for senior office), or it doesn't (ditto). That's the double bind, and none of us is immune to it. I don't remember much mockery of the clothing choices of the men in the race -- suit for the debate, jeans for the farmyard, casual for the diner, or whatever. Or implicit mockery of them for their figures. It is fashionable to suppose that the society has moved past sexism (or racism), but we haven't. I'm not accusing any of my friends here of this -- it's all of us.