Yesterday it was Friday, August 21 of the year 2020. I watched an interview on CNN. Mike Pence, by John Berman. Pence took each of Berman’s questions as a hint — not for answering, but for to trigger propaganda, presented in a way that Berman could not domesticate. Berman lost the lead in those episodes and looked like a loser. He was not doing any service to Biden’s campaign. American voters don’t like losers, I guess.
Berman questioned the quality of a federal policy that resulted in more than 170,000 US COVID-19 deaths. Pence didn’t just manage to not answer. He used the floor given to him to frame the numbers into a Trump policy success.
He could only do that by totally ignoring the interviewer until after he had gotten his message across. Who prefer substantive exchanges of views over one-sided propaganda snippets delivered in cringe-inducing debating manners could be surprised by their involuntary feeling of an urge that Berman should have had a button to turn off Pence’s microphone whenever he severed contact and drifted off to subjects out of order.
Freedom of expression
The benefit of such a scheme would be that the Republicans would revolt over unlawful curtailment of Pence’s freedom of expression, possibly even threatening to litigate. That would not only bring useful exposure. It would also bring the debate to the core topic of this presidency and this campaign: whether freedom of speech may be used by those in power to give them the freedom to abuse the spotlight that comes with the job for propaganda purposes.
In such a debate, the Democrats could rest their arguments on the doctrine that Robert Post developed and that gives them the space to at least show their teeth in the debate. And if Pence does not want to give interviews under those conditions, he can be framed as a scared, witless propaganda robot.
Facing neuropublicity techniques
Such an approach avoids the civilized-loser imagery that Berman and Biden seem to prefer. If civilized debating manners remain mainstream for the Democrats against Trump’s advanced neuropublicity techniques I see Biden lose. Is the competition for the US presidency really between civilized losers and jaded bullies? My hopes are on Harris.
The GDD number
And yes, the US fares poorly in the COVID-19 comparison. Elsewhere I suggested a standard for comparison analogous to what is common in economics: the average income in terms of GDP per capita. You can do something similar with a different value: the general domestic number of coronavirus deaths per capita. Not GDP but GDD. That is going to be a very small number. It is therefore better to translate it into the number of corona deaths per million inhabitants. I call that the GDD number. The lower the better.
How the US compares in handling its COVID-19
When compared to the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, China and Brazil, only the United Kingdom fares worse than the US (which, by the way, is about to be overtaken by Brazil.)
Moving in the wrong direction too
Equally important, the American and Brazilian GDD numbers are still in flux and getting worse. That is not the case in the UK, France, the Netherlands or China. The dynamics in the GDD number depends on the political approach adopted. The dynamics in deaths per day now appears to be currently stabilizing in the US at around 1,000. Overtaking the United Kingdom in GDD numbers will go quickly. See Fig. 1 for the development of the global GDD number and those in six jurisdictions up to 22 August.
It is a mystery to me how this image can be translated into a successful administrative approach to COVID-19 in the US.