April 13, 2020

Trump wants to measure how he's doing on this pandemic based on the numbers he chooses. To counter this we must show the numbers that doctors chose to use to measure a pandemic.

Then we frame Trump's chosen numbers with important numbers that show his failures.

Trump has always picked the numbers he wants to measure his success. First he wanted it to be inauguration attendees. The media pushed back Sean Spicer so hard he had to go on Dancing With The Stars for not being a good enough liar. Next Trump used numbers the media couldn't deny, like the electoral college vote. When the stock market was up it was tweet, tweet, tweet! When unemployment was down? He bragged about it in every rally, especially in a category that he was weak in--African American support.

Thursday he picked a number he believes shows he is winning the fight against the coronavirus. TV ratings. I'm not going to let him, so I've physically--and linguistically--started framed the metric he chose with one the people care about.

  1. Picking a number you are a leader in is a classic technique used by marketing and PR people for decades.
  2. Find a category you are winning in.
  3. Show how your product is winning--as compared to others that YOU select.
  4. Find an organization/company that shows that your product is winning in that category. If you can't find a company that shows your product leading the category you picked, commission a company to prove it.(Some market research
  5. firms are good for this, especially those that let you pick the questions & audience.)
  6. Get those winning numbers to the media so THEY repeat them. "Research Group says, Product T is the winner in X, Y & Z!!"
  7. Repeat the headline from media stories that use Research Group numbers--because most people only read headlines.

Trump regularly uses this technique and changes his metric when it suits him. Friday he was bragging about the market going up again.


So how do we combat this?

  1. Determine what SHOULD be the measurement of success or failure from people and institutions we trust. .
  2. For example go to CDC to count the spread and the dead. Back it up with supporting data as it comes in. Use data that people need to know now and in the future. What's the percent tested in a community vs. total numbers?
  3.  Get those numbers to the media. Use them regularly and consistantly. Keep updating charts and graphs.
  4. Break out what the numbers mean and give context. Because Trump will claim credit for what was done by others it's important to show who did what when, both good and bad.
  5. Detail what Trump's failures and successes mean. For example, he's always bragging about the travel restrictions from China. It started January 31 but It was ONLY for Chinese nationals. He says it so often with out caveats people think it was great.

To remind everyone how weak those restrictions were we must keep inserting numbers that put his brag numbers in context. For example, every time he brags about the China travel ban a pop up should say:

40,000 Americans and other authorized travelers came IN FROM CHINA following the travel restrictions.

  • Most passengers arrived in January at airports in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Newark, Chicago and Detroit.
  • "Thousands of them flew directly from Wuhan," the original epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak"If passengers are screened and show no symptoms they will be re-booked to their final destination and asked to "self-quarantine" inside their home, DHS says. "Once back in the U.S., it's imperative that individuals honor self-quarantine directives to help protect the American public," DHS acting Secretary Chad Wolf  said in a statement. NY Times


Why did the death rates not go up as quickly in California as other locations? How much of that was because of the actions of city mayors and Governor Newsom?  What else is a factor? These all need to be measured to compare with other states and put into a national context. What's the number of dead vs alive because of Trump? We can figure out those numbers.

Can we force the White House to do this? The media will always first deal with the White House's chosen number (that's if the White House puts out numbers at all).But we can't just wait for the White House to put out the numbers the people want to know and care about.

On Friday Rachel Maddow talked about the numbers the administration wasn't counting and put out some some of their own charts and graphs. It's a good start.

Credit: Topos

But we need more. There needs to be simple charts and ways to show the data that reaches everyone, and that's difficult, especially people who are in the Fox News media bubble. We need to get through to the people in the 8 states who don't have state-wide stay at home orders (shown in white).

Trump makes up some numbers and willfully misinterprets others. We know this and have been dealing with this, but the President also has people whose JOB it is to support misleading numbers. He has an entire media arm that will create a narrative to support his bogus numbers and downplay the important ones.

But some numbers are very powerful. Who died and who lived? Who is responsible? These might even get through to Fox News. But they get through to the rest of us. We need to help get the message out.

I can't believe I have to say this, but the reality is we have to make it clear to the right wing media and the GOP that all human lives matter. Even theirs.

Can you help us out?

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