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Pontifications and Other Mindless Banter

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September 4, 2008

Stick it in your Narrative

Filed under: Pontifications,Rants @ 12:22:56 PM
From the "Talking-in-the-third-person, in-the-first-person" Department

Question: What does “The Narrative” mean to you?

I’m asking, cause I’m not sure what it means, myself.

One of the things that stands out to me in this Presidential Campaign is the phrase, “The Narrative”.

…the choice of Biden really changes the Narrative of the Obama campaign…
…McCain chose Palin to add her family’s Narrative to the campaign…
…Barack’s Narrative is growing up in a middle class black family. But history shows he grew up in a middle class white family…
…The Narrative in Iraq…
…The Narrative of this Convention…
…The Narrative of my Carbon Footprint
…The Narrative of my views on your Narrative…

From my limited perspective, it appears to be something that was synthesized by the reaction to the Obama campaign, copied by the McCain Campaign, and now expected by any public/political figure.

Peggy Noonan defines it as:

The story the campaign wishes to tell about itself, and communicate to others.

I’m already tired of the word. It is making less and less sense, the more I hear it.

What frustrates me is the idea of a “story”. To me, the story is preceding things like: Qualifications, Achievements, Character, Beliefs, or even Results. Sure a Story can include those things, but is it?

Noonan goes on to say:

I don’t like the idea of The Narrative. I think it is … a barnyard epithet. And, oddly enough, it is something that Republicans are not very good at, because it’s not where they live, it’s not what they’re about, it’s too fancy. To the extent the McCain campaign was thinking in these terms, I don’t like that either.

Granted, I hear the word a lot, because all the political commentators are using it, and I listen to a lot of political commentary.

It made sense with Obama, because his lack of any news worthy experience required something more than “Here are my political accomplishments, so elect me President.” His campaign is centered entirely on his presence as an Agent of Change, so his Narrative was required to give something for his supporters to cling to, to identify with, or to recognize and appreciate.
It is why he has two autobiographies. He needs to get his Narrative out there, because what else has he got to campaign on?

I’m not sure it is a valid element for other candidates. But we’ll see. I imagine that we’ve not seen the last of The Narrative in any campaign, but that might depend on how well Obama does in November.

Is anyone as confused as I am? Is the art of politics now all about Story Telling?


  1. I am still trying to wear off “Deflection.”

    Comment by Stinkin' Rick — September 4, 2008 @ 12:59:10 PM

  2. It’s more than just politics. The not-so-small-software-company is all about telling “the story” now as well.

    Comment by Cisco — September 4, 2008 @ 6:33:47 PM

  3. I was thinking about the Not-So-Small-Software-Organization, as I was writing this, and how “The Story” superseded actual results. It didn’t matter if your business was failing, as long as you had a good story.

    Or in my case, it didn’t matter if you fixed something, as long as you showed that Product Development was the source of all evil in the world, and must be stopped at all costs.

    Comment by Jeremy — September 4, 2008 @ 10:12:51 PM

  4. Most people aren’t going to put in the effort necessary to really investigate a candidate/result/product/etc, so creating an easily digestible and remembered nugget of information, i.e. the narrative/story/brand, is ideal. I’ve read that our minds are wired in such a way that storytelling is a tremendously effective way to retain memory.

    I think the story is an effective tool, but even when used in good faith the underlying facts may change over time so it’s no longer helpful. Unfortunately changing such an entrenched “tribal wisdom” is well nigh impossible until the facts are so overwhelmingly obvious they cannot be denied.

    Comment by Cisco 2 (Electric Boogaloo) — September 5, 2008 @ 9:36:13 AM

  5. I want to be clear that this “Cisco 2″ has no affiliation with me. While it is understandable that someone would try to ride my illustrious blog-commenting coat tails, I do not endorse his statements or misuse of my name.

    Though I agree with his statement.

    Comment by Cisco — September 5, 2008 @ 2:14:48 PM

  6. Its okay, Cisco. Everyone knows the sequel is never as good as the Original.

    Unless you are Star Wars, or Star Trek, for that matter.

    You should throw some foam crap over your cubicle wall at your doppelganger.

    Comment by Jeremy — September 5, 2008 @ 2:19:23 PM

  7. Done and done.

    Comment by Cisco — September 5, 2008 @ 4:06:57 PM

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