A good political narrative would argue that Sonny Corleone was wrong…

In episode 8, season 8 of Game of Thrones, the character ‘Tyrion Lannister’, played so well by Peter Dinklage gave us an example of how to craft political narrative. In one of the final scenes, Lannister makes an argument for why ‘Brandon Stark’, played by Isaac Hempstead, should be chosen as the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Lannister provides a brief background describing the bloody history that had gotten them to the point where a choice had to be made. He then asks the heads of the most powerful households, “What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story.

Lannister then goes on to tell the story of a young boy falling from a tower who lived and though crippled would learn to fly (figuratively) acquire the power and insights to make him the bearer of the man’s memories. The standard hero’s tale.

Humans are easily socialized into a story when it sounds true. making the story compelling depends on the story’s coherence and the degree of coherence increases when facts are effectively slotted into the story.

For example, Lannister’s argument becomes effective when he describes the events supported by facts surrounding Brandon Stark’s fall, travels, struggles, and acquisition of his unique gifts. The story created a consensus among six of the seven kingdoms and provided a story that could be used to validate Brandon Stark’s ascendancy with the populace.

I have heard the word “deceit” used to describe political narratives. It is a harsh but accurate word. The amount of facts that a messenger puts into a narrative will depend on the current perception held by the audience the messenger is targeting.

If, for example, you are talking to a group of Christians and you say, “Jesus wants us to do good”, there would likely be no push back since Christian have already come to believe this assertion. It is accepted that Jesus wants us to do good. It is a part of the gospel narrative. On the other hand, if you are talking to a group of agnostics, you would have to support your assertion with a definition of the word “good”; provide evidence that doing “good” is wise policy; and argue why even the mention of “Jesus” is even important or leave him out of the argument all together. The emphasis of the message may likely change from what Jesus wants to why is doing good beneficial.

An individual citizen can avoid the deceit specifically and the narrative in general by the narrative’s attempt at cohesion. The individual does so by asking, “What does this narrative have to do with me?” This question forces the messenger to expand the narrative to explain why the story impacts the individual. This will be hard to do where the individual limits their world view to their immediate environment or is so self-sufficient that what impacts people outside of his local environment is of no concern to him.

The messenger will have to persuade the listener that Sonny Corleone was wrong when he said that “Your country ain’t your blood.”

One comment

  1. “An individual citizen can avoid the deceit specifically and the narrative in general by the narrative’s attempt at cohesion. The individual does so by asking, “What does this narrative have to do with me?” This question forces the messenger to expand the narrative to explain why the story impacts the individual. This will be hard to do where the individual limits their world view to their immediate environment or is so self-sufficient that what impacts people outside of his local environment is of no concern to him. ”

    Alton Drew: Do you think that “doing good” is beneficial? I realize that “doing good” is fairly vague, there are many interpretations of that.

    Do you think that when there are people not doing well in society, or elsewhere in the world, that that impacts all of us in some way, and therefore we should consider doing something to help, or do you believe that doesn’t make any difference to us, it doesn’t affect us, they are on their own, it’s their responsibility/fault, that’s too bad?

    There are those who believe we are all in this together, and those who don’t believe that.

    I’m curious to know what you think.

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