Obama not attending First Lady Funeral is not unprecedented; social media poster is similarly ridiculous

12802871_1084566211636432_3065067377708605311_nTL;DR Summary

  • Conservative media said that  President Obama not attending the funeral of former First Lady Nancy Reagan is unprecedented or wrong; it is neither.
  • Defenders of Obama published this propaganda poster on social media but cherry picked the data to draw you to their desired conclusion.
  • Why is the death of Jacqueline Kennedy omitted?

The above poster is ridiculous on multiple grounds. First, conservative media made an issue of this when there is really none to be made. Second, Occupy Democrats issued the above social media poster (shared in to my FB newsfeed) using their excellent  propaganda skills:

  1. They started with Mrs. Truman because prior to that, Presidents had often attended First Lady funerals.
  2. But then they left out the funeral of Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy which was attended by sitting President Bill Clinton.

Seeing that Jacqueline Kennedy was omitted was an obvious clue that cherry picking was used to strengthen the poster message.

First Lady’s Funerals Attended by Sitting Presidents?

  • Coolidge – No (family requested, small, short service)
  • Hoover – Yes
  • Roosevelt – Yes
  • Truman – No
  • Kennedy – Yes, Pres. Bill Clinton gave eulogy
  • Johnson – No
  • Nixon – No
  • Ford – No
  • Reagan – No

There really is not much of a tradition either way in terms of Presidents attending the funerals of First Ladies.

  • We can conclude that not attending the funeral of first lady is far from unprecedented, as alleged by conservative media.
  • There is no tradition associated with attendance at the funerals of former First Ladies. From the propaganda poster perspective, this poster used cherry picking of the start date, left  out the death of Jacqueline Kennedy, and relies on the “What You See Is All There Is” (WYSIATI) method of tricking your mind into assuming you’ve seen the full story.
  • WYISIATI causes us to make a decision based on what is presented without our realizing that important information may have been omitted. Sales people (including real estate sales people), lawyers in Court, politicians, lobbyists – anyone trying to persuade of something – often use this method of presenting true, but limited, bits of information. We then base our decision by erroneously assuming that what we just saw is all there is regarding this story.

I found the above poster perplexing. As noted in other examples, merely laying out the evidence in an honest manner would have made the argument that not attending a funeral of a First Lady is not unusual. So why cherry pick the data to emphasize the point? It reflects badly on the creator of this social media propaganda poster. And this started from equally stupid assertions made by conservative media, assertions they made to rile up emotions to grab their viewers and get them passing links on their social media! Yuck!

System 1 versus System 2

The conservative claim that this event is unprecedented is, of course false. But the simplicity of the message engaged many recipient’s quick acting System 1 thinking. To counter that, Occupy Democrats crafted a System 2 response that purports to provide “facts” to counter the System 1 messaging. Of course, they cherry picked the facts to improve their argument position.

But another point to be made is that, in general, the way to counteract propaganda targeted at System 1’s quick acting, emotional-level thinking is with information targeted at System 2’s rational thinking. But the problem with that, as we have seen, is that System 2 thinking is hard work and time consuming. Consequently, people avoid System 2 details. The result is that effective System 1 propaganda messaging is difficult to counteract – because we naturally avoid hard, detailed thinking necessary to counteract simple emotional messages targeted at System 1.

Text for Search Indexing

“How dare Obama not attend Nancy Reagan’s Funeral!”

Dear Fox News,

Pres. Reagan did not attend Mrs. Truman’s funeral.

Pres. Carter did  not attend Mrs. Eisenhower’s funeral.

Pres. Clinton did not attend Mrs. Nixon’s funeral.

Pres. Bush did not attend Mrs. Johnson’s funeral.

Pres. Obama did not attend Mrs. Ford’s funeral.

Tradition says that current First Ladies attend funerals for former First Ladies. Michelle will be at Nancy’s funeral. Once again, you’re creating a new standard that only Obama must follow. Shame on you.