Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Chiara de Blasio, Bill de Blasio And The Politics Of Manipulation

I thought the video the de Blasio transition team released of Chiara de Blasio talking about her struggles with drugs, alcohol and depression was on one level an important one.

We live in a high stress society in which many people are suffering from depression or other emotional problems, in which many people are trying to numb out with drugs, alcohol or other harmful behaviors.

I hope that Chiara de Blasio's struggles give the next mayor, her father, the understanding that schools are trying to help many students suffering from similar problems and need much more support in this area than was provided by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his test-centric NYCDOE.

That said, the carefully crafted and edited video itself left me feeling emotionally manipulated, like this was one of those Bill Clinton damage control specials, and makes me wonder what exactly the de Blasio transition team was trying to accomplish with it.

New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez felt the same way:

There was Chiara de Blasio, the 19-year-old daughter of New York’s next mayor, gently baring her battles with depression, alcohol and drugs in a day-before-Christmas YouTube video.

The sincerity and eloquence she showed were guaranteed to touch the hearts of many New Yorkers.
And her message could well inspire countless young people in similar situations to seek help, as she urged them to do at the end.

But Chiara’s startling video, coming eight days before the official start of the Bill de Blasio era, also left you with an eerie sense of being manipulated emotionally.

Those feeling began with the melancholy piano-and-string music that accompanied her every word. It continued with graphics that marked off each section with dramatic headlines like: “Chiara de Blasio tells her story.”

Then there were the statistics sprinkled throughout, such as: “About 28% of Americans drink at levels that put them at risk for alcohol dependence.”

Finally, there was the meticulous editing of her interview to evoke a sense of intimate conversation.
It amounted to a skillfully scripted Madison Avenue commercial that must have been in the planning for weeks — not some young woman’s spontaneous confession the day before Christmas.

It had all the earmarks of the damage-control tactics favored by Harold Ickes, the former Bill Clinton aide who is now a trusted adviser to de Blasio.

Gonzalez goes on to note how Christmas Eve is the perfect time for a politician to dump some information or story he/she would rather not divulge, so the Chiara de Blaiso video coming out yesterday also had that feel of a document dump kind of thing.

Then Gonzalez notes how Chiara reveals something very telling about Bill de Blasio himself:

It’s “the time of the year when these challenges are probably at their sharpest,” the mayor-elect added a short time later, in a brief appearance outside his home.

But Christmas Eve also happens to be the optimal moment for politicians to release potentially embarrassing information, because most people aren’t paying attention.

Even in this carefully choreographed video, however, hints of deeper strains in the de Blasio family surface.

“My mom was trying really hard to help me,” Chiara says at one point, “and my dad was doing the same, but obviously he was really busy.”

Bill, in other words, was spending so much time being a politician that Chiara’s mother was left to shoulder the burden of helping her.

In this, the de Blasios differed little from most American families. The fathers always have less time to deal with their children’s problems.

The average dad, though, doesn’t draft his children into television commercials aimed at winning votes, which is what de Blasio did with Chiara and her younger brother, Dante.

Mayor Bloomberg accused de Blasio of using his kids as political props during the campaign, and while at the time I thought that was an unfair charge, now that Chiara's video has been released, I am starting to walk that defense of the de Blasio campaign back.

They did use the kids in their ads, but only the parts of the story they wanted out there.

Go back and watch the de Blasio campaign videos after watching the Chiara's Story video and see if they resonate the same way with you that they did during the campaign.

Don't they start to feel a little more manipulative?

I come from a family rife with depression and substance abuse.

I wish I did not know the damage and heartbreak that depression and substance abuse bring, the suffering they cause, the strains they heap on the family.

Alas, I know all too well.

As someone with this family experience, I've gotten pretty good with sensing when one of my students is suffering similarly and have tried to be of service in the way I can to point them to places where they can get some help.

I hope that the de Blaiso family experience will give Mayor-Elect de Blasio the understanding that many other families suffer similarly and schools can be a place where they can find help and healing.

So in that way, I am glad the Chiara de Blasio video was released.

But the slickly-crafted Chiara de Blasio still makes me feel manipulated emotionally and gives me just another reason to feel there is something slimy and untrustworthy about her father, Bill de Blasio.

De Blasio made his bones in the Clinton administration and ran Hillary's senate campaign in 2000, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that de Blasio has learned the damage control public relations tactics of his old bosses quite well.

Hard to know if Chiara wanted to tell her story publicly or was forced to tell it by someone close to her, hard to know if they had this video in the pipeline a long time and were ready to go with it at a moment's notice or it just got made recently, but the use of this video in a very political way leaves me feeling like Bill de Blasio is one very manipulative politician willing to use his children in whatever way he needs to in order to advance his own career.

That doesn't take away from the power of Chiara's telling her story publicly or the empathy and identification I have with her, but it does make me wonder why the de Blasio transition team felt the need to get it out there right now and just what they're trying to do with it.

Finally it makes wonder about Bill de Blasio himself - just how much Bill Clinton does he have in him?

14 comments:

  1. It seems very likely to me that this was gonna get out, he knew it, and he decided to release it before the NY Post sprinkled their magic on it.

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    1. Sure, but why the carefully orchestrated Ickes special to do it? There are ways to release this kind of story without the manipulative music, dramatic headlines and other b.s. ad techniques. There's something disingenuous about the whole thing. Frankly, the most honest way to get the story out is to give a statement saying daughter has sought treatment in the past, is sober now, please respect her anonymity in recovery. Simple, honest and forthright, IMO. But they chose to go with the political ad instead.

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    2. I'd guess because this was more likely to weaken and diminish the frontal attack that was surely coming, and is probably in the pages of Murdoch's rag even as we speak.

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    3. Post knew about the story, just as the other papers did, but chose not to go with it:

      https://twitter.com/mikiebarb/status/415561732300361728

      I dunno, maybe they were going w/ it now, but it was the DN that put it on the front page while the NY Post went w/ the Spitzer marriage break-up.

      And I still maintain, a simple honest statement without the slickness of a political ad was the better way to get ahead of the story anyway.

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    4. Just saw that Hunter Walker and Jill Colvin both say every journalist covering the campaign knew the story and chose not to go w/ it:

      https://twitter.com/colvinj/status/415572501842771968

      So why did the BdB team decided to release this on Christmas Eve? Perhaps they were just trying to clear the decks and get it out there so that they don't have to worry about in the future.

      Still, I think there was a less manipulative way to do it.

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    5. Post ran with it yesterday, actually. They seem more focused on making him dump Lis Smith for whatever it was she did with Eliot Spitzer.

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    6. Yes, but not until after the video was released. Just as the other papers and news outlets went up with it too.

      Weird about the Lis Smith thing. That wouldn't have been news at all if not for Spitzer being the beau.

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    7. It never hurts circulation when you're out there calling young women whores. After all, not everyone can boast the impeccable integrity of a Rupert Murdoch.

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    8. Or the impeccable integrity of his employees either!

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  2. Excellent and courageous post. Thank you.

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  3. I am very surprised that the comments regarding this video need to be reflective of a BdB ad campaign. Maybe we sould all take a few steps back and treat this young girl's issues with the respect it deserves. Depression accompanied with drug abuse can be fatal, and maybe...just maybe, Chiara wanted to do this on her own. After all, the DeB family could have done this together, as in his ad campaign's. I give credit to Chiarra for coming forward as this is part of her therapy, as I hope others will have the same courage. Whatever the case, and however others wish to sensationalize this video, give this young girl a break.
    There are enough problems that lay ahead for us to be critical of. This is not one of them.

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    Replies
    1. Beating up on Chiara? Uh, did you read my post? Let me quote directly from my post:

      "I thought the video the de Blasio transition team released of Chiara de Blasio talking about her struggles with drugs, alcohol and depression was on one level an important one.

      We live in a high stress society in which many people are suffering from depression or other emotional problems, in which many people are trying to numb out with drugs, alcohol or other harmful behaviors.

      I hope that Chiara de Blasio's struggles give the next mayor, her father, the understanding that schools are trying to help many students suffering from similar problems and need much more support in this area than was provided by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his test-centric NYCDOE."

      And this:

      "Hard to know if Chiara wanted to tell her story publicly or was forced to tell it by someone close to her, hard to know if they had this video in the pipeline a long time and were ready to go with it at a moment's notice or it just got made recently, but the use of this video in a very political way leaves me feeling like Bill de Blasio is one very manipulative politician willing to use his children in whatever way he needs to in order to advance his own career.

      That doesn't take away from the power of Chiara's telling her story publicly or the empathy and identification I have with her, but it does make me wonder why the de Blasio transition team felt the need to get it out there right now and just what they're trying to do with it. "

      My criticism is aimed at de Blasio and the de Blasio campaign and transition team, not at Chiara de Blasio.

      One final point - I wrote I come from a family w/ substance abuse problems. I understand recovery very, very well and treat it more seriously than anything else in life. No one here is sensationalizing the video or Chiara's struggles. Quite the opposite - I am simply pointing out that the way video was put together and released sensationalizes the whole thing and leaves me feeling manipulated. And I know a few other people who are familiar with recovery who felt the same way.

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