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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

An Original Voice

President Barack Obama (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Barack Obama (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Choreographed spontaneity on Twitter

Miriam Schulman

"It’s not exactly the same as downloading a paper from the Internet," writes Center Associate Director Miriam Schulman in a post for Real Clear Politics, "but fielding a team of social media mavens that purports to speak in the president’s “own voice” does raise questions about the authenticity the White House seems intent on mimicking." 

Schulman takes on the social media practices of politicians and argues that the press has a role in helping audiences separate real actions by government officials from their fabricated personas.  She writes:

I suppose at some level we all know that political identities are constructed things. Certainly we’re aware that many utterances by politicians were written by others. George H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light” line was written by Peggy Noonan. John Kennedy’s famous “Ask not what your country can do for you” was borrowed from a former headmaster.

And watching the recent round of presidential debates, only the very naïve cannot see the hand of handlers in the carefully crafted and often totally unresponsive answers to questions. These are well-rehearsed snippets designed to show toughness or compassion, wonkiness or relatability—whether the candidate has these qualities or not.

Yet even in this highly choreographed world, she urges reporters to maintain the line between what social media teams invent for "the president" to say and what the president really says.

November 13, 2015

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) 



Nov 13, 2015

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