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对特朗普而言,失败竟是一种胜利

更新时间:2017-3-7 10:32:14 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How Donald Trump Wins by Losing
对特朗普而言,失败竟是一种胜利

It is impossible not to watch: Every day of the Trump administration seemingly brings another plot twist, a new initiative, outlandish attack or bizarre reversal. Not since wartime has news been so riveting — and with the president fighting so many “enemies,” it is actually not unlike war coverage. The nonstop media coverage cannot be faulted for being uncritical: It is, instead, a detailed assessment of the wins and losses of a wild presidency. Yet is it possible that the media, and many viewers, are using the wrong metrics of success?

很难忍住不去看:每一天,特朗普政府似乎都会带来一个故事情节转折,一个新的动议,一场稀奇古怪的攻击,或是什么奇异的逆转。自从战争年代结束以来,新闻从未如此引人入胜——虽然总统要与这么多的“敌人”战斗,但是现在的新闻确实有点像战争报道。人们不能指责媒体不间断地进行报道,对事实不做鉴别:相反,媒体对这届疯狂的总统的胜利和失败做出了详细评估。然而,媒体和许多读者有没有可能使用了错误的标准去判断成败?

Traditionally, politicians have measured “success” or “failure” by public approval or the achievement of political goals. But these may be the wrong ways to assess a president who, in his heart, seems interested in a different metric: attention, or less colloquially, “mindshare.” While he may prefer winning to losing, he can still win by losing. For what really matters are the contests themselves — the creation of an absorbing spectacle that dominates headlines, grabs audiences and creates a world in which every conversation revolves around Mr. Trump and his doings. By this standard, Mr. Trump is not just winning, but crushing it.

传统上,政治人物通过公众是否赞同自己的政治目标,或是通过这些目标的成效来衡量“成功”或“失败”。但是,对于这位总统来说,这些评估方法可能是错误的,内心深处,他对另一套标准更感兴趣:那就是关注,或者用更书面的语言来说,是“注意力占有率”(mindshare)。虽然他可能喜欢胜利,不喜欢失败,但他仍然可以从失败中获取胜利。真正重要的是比赛本身——创造一个引人瞩目的盛大场面,占据新闻头条,抓住观众,并且创造一个世界,在这个世界里,所有对话都围绕特朗普和他的行为进行。按照这个标准,特朗普先生不仅仅是赢了,而且是大获全胜。

A centerpiece is the media strategy of “continual warfare” that has characterized the presidency. Since assuming office, Mr. Trump has waged war on intelligence agencies, immigrants from Muslim countries, the federal judiciary, “professional protesters,” Barack Obama, Mexico, Australia and, above all, the media, the very “enemy of the people.” Every politician picks fights. But by any traditional measure it would be folly to pick so many fights at once, and those battles have already yielded some spectacular defeats that have cheered his opponents. Yet the warfare makes sense in so far as it gives the president what he really wants: a role in which he can fully employ his naturally abrasive energies to generate a riveting spectacle. As George Orwell put it, “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous.”

这套做法的核心是这届总统特有的“持续对战”媒体策略。自上任以来,特朗普向情报机构、来自穆斯林国家的移民、联邦司法机构、“职业示威者”、贝拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)、墨西哥、澳大利亚宣战,尤其同媒体开战,称之为“人民的敌人”。每个政客都会挑起战斗。但是根据任何传统的标准衡量,同时挑起这么多战斗都堪称愚蠢,而且这些战役已经带来了一些可观的失败,令他的对手欢欣鼓舞。然而,战争是有意义的,只要它能给总统带来他真正想要的:一个角色,在这个角色里,他可以充分利用自己天生的粗暴能量,创造一个引人入胜的大场面。正如乔治·奥威尔(George Orwell)所说:“战争的目标不是获胜而是持续。”

Beyond the combat, another key to the addictive nature of Trump-news is its unpredictable, erratic nature. A single day might include some random attacks, followed by a surprise policy reversal, like Tuesday’s promised compromise on undocumented immigrants, followed immediately by something shockingly normal, like his scripted address to Congress, which, illogically and unexpectedly, made no reference whatsoever to the earlier proposal. These kinds of random and rambling sequences create what behavioral scientists call a “variable reward schedule,” a key addictive ingredient in things like slot machines, social media and the Kardashian family. You don’t have to like it to get hooked, and the result is to keep the whole country, and much of the world, entranced, as if to a disco tune that has implanted itself in the global consciousness and will not go away. Indeed, a good sign that Mr. Trump is winning by his own terms is just how many of your private conversations somehow turn to him, compelled by the irresistible force of addictive media.

除了战斗,特朗普新闻之所以引人入胜,另一个关键在于它那无法预测、反复无常的特性。一天里可能会有一些随机的攻击,随后是一个让人惊讶的政策逆转(比如周二他承诺对无证移民做出妥协),紧接着又是惊人的正常之举(比如他对国会发表了预先写好讲稿的演讲,这场演讲不合逻辑且出人意料地完全没有提及此前的提议)。这种随机而零散的连续动作创造了被行为科学家称为“变动奖励安排”的东西,这是上瘾的关键成分,在老虎机、社交媒体和卡戴珊(Kardashian)一家中都能体现出来。就算你不喜欢它,也可以中它的圈套,结果就是整个国家、乃至世界的大部分都参与进来,仿佛一首迪斯科舞曲被植入了全世界的头脑,无法散去。事实上,有个很好的证据,表明特朗普根据自己的定义已经取得了胜利,那就是,在上瘾的媒体不可抗拒的力量驱使之下,你有多少私人对话变成了谈论他。

If Mr. Trump is winning the contest for mindshare, the more important question is whether he’s really winning — whether the fixation on attention is an astute assessment of where the real power lies in our times, or just the superficial and maybe uncontrollable pursuit of attention for its own sake. One possibility is that, for this presidency, whether anything is actually “accomplished” will end up being entirely beside the point. One doesn’t ask whether an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” or a season of “Survivor” accomplished anything. After four (or maybe two, or maybe eight) years of riveting developments and a blowout finale, the administration will be gone, leaving little in its wake, beyond the memories, occasional cast reunions and “where are they now” columns. The careless execution of some of the early initiatives supports the idea that this president views the trouble of actually following through as inessential. “Victory” can always be claimed anyhow, especially when facts are just props, deployed for dramatic effect.

如果特朗普先生赢得了“注意力占有率”的胜利,更重要的问题是他是否真的赢了呢——对注意力的迷恋究竟是对我们这个时代真正权力的一种精明评估;抑或只是出于自身目的,肤浅而失控地追求受人关注。一种可能性是,对于这届总统来说,任何事实是否真正“完成”,最终都变得不再重要。人们不问《奥普拉·温弗瑞秀》(The Oprah Winfrey Show)或《幸存者》(Survivor)的某一季是否完成了任何事情。经过四年(或许两年,也或许八年)引人入胜的发展和精彩结局后,这个政府就将消失,之后留不下什么东西,只有回忆、偶尔的成员重聚,以及“他们现在在哪里”专栏。那些被草率执行的早期举措能证明这个观点:这位总统认为,实际跟进的麻烦是不重要的。不管怎样,总是可以声称取得了“胜利”,特别是当事实只是用来充当道具,摆出来只是为了增强戏剧效果的时候。

But alternatively, and as painful as it may be to admit, the strategy may actually be a winning media strategy in 2017. Outsiders may think that the White House gets all the attention it wants, but even the Executive Office faces tough competition when trying to reach a highly distracted citizenry. Gone are the days where the president could turn to the radio for a fireside chat and expect, as Franklin Roosevelt did, 60 million listeners. President Obama also delivered a weekly radio address — but most radio stations declined to carry it. While Mr. Obama’s big televised speeches were widely watched, many of his policy initiatives were poorly covered, being worthy but not particularly newsworthy. Barack Obama was a celebrity, but by contemporary media standards, just too well mannered and predictable to grab huge attention.

但是另一种可能性承认起来可能很痛苦,这个战略可能实际上是一个在2017年赢得媒体的战略。外人可能认为白宫已经得到了它所需要的一切关注,但是,即使是总统行政办公室,要赢得被高度分心的人民的注意力,也是需要面对激烈竞争的。总统曾经可以像富兰克林·罗斯福(Franklin Roosevelt)那样,依靠收音机发表炉边谈话,拥有6000万名预期听众,但那已经是过去的事。奥巴马总统也提供每周的广播讲话——但大多数广播电台拒绝播放。虽然奥巴马的重大电视演讲拥有广泛收视,但是其中没有提到太多他的政策倡议,它们值得观看,但不是特别有新闻价值。贝拉克·奥巴马是一个名人,但是以当代媒体的标准而言,他举止太得体,太可预测,无法抢得巨大的关注。

Mr. Trump, to state the obvious, does not have that problem. Indeed, he has demonstrated that he can hold a news conference consisting of little more than shouting at his enemies for an hour and still dominate national headlines. Consequently, the Trump circus — thanks largely to Twitter and intense media coverage — has more of the nation paying more attention to the president than at any time in decades, and maybe since Roosevelt himself. The achievement is even more impressive given that Roosevelt had a built-in advantage: He was battling the Great Depression, then the Third Reich and the Japanese empire. Mr. Trump somehow draws similar attention fighting “bad hombres” from Mexico, immigrants from places like Sudan and Somalia and CNN.

特朗普显然不存在这个问题。事实上,他已经证明,他可以举行一场新闻发布会,不必有什么内容,只不过是对他的敌人喊叫了一个小时,便仍然可以主宰全国头条新闻。因此,这个特朗普马戏团——主要借助Twitter和紧张的媒体报道——令这个国家的更多人对总统投以更多关注,比几十年来任何时候都多,或许是自罗斯福以来最多的。罗斯福有一个既有的优势:他正在与大萧条、第三帝国和日本帝国作战,因此特朗普的成就便显得更加惊人。他以某种方式,通过与来自墨西哥的“坏蛋”、来自苏丹和索马里等地的移民以及CNN的战争,赢得了类似的关注。

While Mr. Trump’s methods are of our time, the goal of dominating mindshare is a classic strategy of influence, because the sheer volume of messaging allows the leader to transform minds, construct alternative realities and begin changing the rules of the game itself. As the philosopher Jacques Ellul wrote of propaganda, to be effective, it needs to be “total,” meaning that as much of the population as possible must be continuously exposed. Though we don’t have a state-run media, we do live in a society in which the president’s face and messages are sufficiently omnipresent to give Lenin a run for their money. When is the last time you went a day without seeing the “great leader”?

特朗普的方法属于我们的时代,但支配注意力占有率这个目标是一种经典的影响力战略,因为大量的信息传送让领袖可以转变他人的看法,构建另一种现实,并且开始改变游戏本身的规则。正如哲学家雅克·埃吕尔(Jacques Ellul)就政治宣传所写的,为了产生效果,政治宣传必须是“彻底的”,这意味着要让尽可能多的人口尽量持续接触到宣传。虽然我们没有国有媒体,但我们生活在一个总统的面孔和信息实质上无处不在的社会里,堪与列宁相比。你最后一次一整天都没有见到“伟大领袖”是在什么时候?

While the strategy — like an annoying advertisement — may be surprisingly effective, it may also hint at this president’s greatest weakness. If Mr. Trump is immune to ordinary defeats or criticism, he does, of course, have a desperate fear of being ignored. As the presidency progresses it may prove as much a slave to the ratings as any TV network. So if the public is bored by the Affordable Care Act (without Mr. Obama, there’s no “opponent”), might Mr. Trump lose interest and start a new battle somewhere else?

虽然这个战略——就像一个烦人的广告——可能惊人地有效,但它也可能暗示了这位总统最大的弱点。如果特朗普对一般的失败或批评是免疫的,那他当然会极度害怕遭到忽视。随着总统任期的进展,它可能最终会同任何电视网一样,成为收视率的奴隶。因此,如果公众对平价医疗费用法案(Affordable Care Act)感到厌烦(没有了奥巴马,也就没有了“对手”),特朗普会不会就此失去兴趣,在其他地方开始新的战斗?

Being hitched to the twin necessities of constant warfare and the public’s limited attention span may yield a series of unfinished projects that ultimately amount to little. It also suggests that Mr. Trump’s eventual downfall may be less like Richard Nixon’s than Paris Hilton’s. To live by attention is to die by it as well, and he may end up less a victim of political defeat than of waning interest, the final fate of every act.

特朗普需要持续不断地发起战争,吸引公众有限的注意力,这种双重需要可能会导致一系列最终没什么价值的未完成项目。这也表明特朗普最终的倒台可能不会像是理查德·尼克松(Richard Nixon),倒更可能像帕丽斯·希尔顿(Paris Hilton)。靠注意力而生的东西最终也将因注意力而死,他最终可能不会成为政治失败的受害者,而是因为日渐减少的兴趣而败亡,这是所有演出的最终命运。

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