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Rushfield Babylon

where it all went wrong
Writer, reporter, Idol chronicler, seer. Contact: rr at richardrushfield dot com

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  • June 5, 2012 3:30 am

    The Death of Buzz: Politicians and Show Runners Beware!

    Observing a political paradox this election year a fascinating phenomenon seems to be unfolding - that we may have reached a phase in our cultural evolution where there is no such thing as good attention.

    (Side note: I am observing politics here as a petri dish through which to study a particular cultural phenomenon.  I am not looking to debate the election and if anyone grabs on to my mention of certain political figures to argue with me about politics, I swear by all that is unholy I will block you forever from my every social network and blogging platform til the end of my days.) 

    A poll today revealed that Mitt Romney’s favorable ratings have risen over the past few weeks, during a time when he’s largely been off center stage.   There’s been the Bain brouhaha, but Romney himself has mostly let others take on the fight, with Pres. Obama and Romney surrogates occupying the foreground, while he’s taken a step or two back. Compared to the primary battles when he was standing in the floodlights every day.

    Likewise, I’ve seen it demonstrated before that Obama’s approval rating tends to go up when he was out of the limelight, during the Republican primaries or when he’s been on vacation for instance.  

    Looking at this it seems very clear that there is no such thing as positive attention in the Twitter age; that anyone who sticks their head up is going to just have it picked apart by 100,000,000 gnats.  The internet has largely become a roving lynch mob and you can’t stop a lynch mob with comedy GIF’s.

    What might perhaps be true in politics at this point absolutely holds true in entertainment, that any attention you receive only serves to inspire an even greater backlash. (e.g. Girls).  I dont think its possible any more to have hype without inspiring a greater reaction.  Unless your hype is ironic to start with like Betty White’s.

    Another scenario is the Game of Thrones model, in which your core hype-base is so nerdy and unwholesome it scares off everyone else from jumping on your hype parade.  Until the series is off and running anyway.   I’m not sure if that model could translate to politics but it’s worth trying.  

    Also helpful - if like Veep or Justified or Adele actually you are really bulletproof level good.  But that almost never works even in entertainment and it’s a metaphysical impossibility for anyone in politics to be that good, because if they were, they wouldn’t be in politics, and certainly wouldn’t have risen in it.  

    For TV shows and movies, however, we have almost reached an inflection point where nobody talking about a show or movie is better than anyone talking about it.  This chart certainly made that point clear.   Longmire last night, which not a single person on all of Twitter or Tumblr mentioned, got 4.2 million viewers - as much as GOT, or Mad Men and Girls combined on a typical night - shows that having no buzz may be the new path to media enormity.

    As for would-be Presidents, asking them to get through their party’s convention, the debates and the fall campaign without anyone talking about them is a tall order. But if they want to win it all, they’ve got to try. The Longmire/Lou Diamond Phillips strategy is the only one that stands a chance in the post-buzz era.