Don’t let Trump pick how to measure his pandemic response

Trump wants to measure how he’s doing on this pandemic based on the numbers he chooses. To counter this we must actively promote legitimate metrics of success and failure that come from trusted entities. Then we frame his numbers with numbers that matter. Like how many died who didn’t have to because of his actions.

Trump has always picked the numbers he wants to measure his success. First he wanted it to be inauguration attendees. When the media pushed back Sean Spicer had to go on Dancing With The Stars for not being a good 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 employment.

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–framed the metric he chose with one the people care about.

Picking a number you are a leader in is a classic technique used by marketing and PR people for decades.
1) Find a category you are winning in.
2) Show how your product is winning–as compared to others that YOU select.
3) Find an organization/company that shows that your product is winning in that category.
a) 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 firms are good for this, especially those that let you pick the questions & audience.)
5) Get those winning numbers to the media so THEY repeat them. “Research Group says, Product T is the winner in X, Y & Z!!”
6) 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 failure and success from trusted entities.
For example, we can count the spread and the dead. Use percent tested in a community vs. total numbers.
2)  Ensure those numbers get to the media. Use them regularly and consistantly. Keep updating charts and graphs.
3) 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.
4) Detail what Trump’s failures and successes mean. For example, he’s always bragging about the travel restrictions from China. It started January 31. It was ONLY for Chinese nationals.

Keep inserting numbers that put his numbers in context. For example,

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.

How do we force the White House to do this? The media will always go into reaction mood with the White House’s chosen number. If they put out numbers at all. On Friday Rachel Maddow talked about the numbers the administration wasn’t counting and put some some of their own charts and graphs. It’s a good start. But we need more. There needs to be simple charts and ways to visualize the data that reaches EVERYONE.  Especially people who are in the Right wing Fox News media bubble.

Trump makes up numbers and willfully misinterprets others. It should be easy to deal with that. But the President 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.

I can’t believe I have to say this but we have to make it clear that human lives matter.

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