News Analysis of Josh Hawley’s Senate Campaign

To: Kyle Plotkin

From: Remy Berinato

Re: Online Campaign Strategy

Date: October 31, 2018

As we enter the homestretch of this election cycle, we must increase our efforts, doing everything to propel Josh Hawley, the Republican candidate for the 2018 Missouri Senate race, to victory. It is my intention, in examining Hawley’s social media presence on Twitter and YouTube, to evaluate the strengths and weakness of Hawley’s online campaign, and thus be able to present recommendations that will be beneficial to his campaign in the final days of this election.

Beginning with Hawley’s Twitter account, we will start by analyzing the photographs. Similar to Dahmen’s discovery about Twitter profile pictures, Hawley used a family picture, featuring his two sons, for his profile picture. However, Hawley deviated from Dahmen’s findings with header images, using another family picture rather than campaign graphics or a landscape photo. Additionally, both images had good quality and sharp resolution, lending to the pleasing aesthetic quality also discussed by Dahmen.

Moving on to analyze Hawley’s Twitter images from a behavioral standpoint (evaluating the torso, arms, and face) as outlined by Dahmen, Hawley consistently scores favorably in all three categories. Concerning the torso aspect, Hawley is constantly depicted as standing or upright, which is deemed favorable behavior according to Dahmen (one digression from this pattern includes an image from October 22 where Hawley is kneeling to hold the hands of an elderly woman at one of his rallies). Concerning the arms aspect, Hawley is almost always depicted with active arms, either shaking hands with supporters, gesturing when addressing a large crowd, or holding/hugging his family, which is considered favorable. There were only a few deviations from this pattern, one being an image from October 10 in which Hawley is pictured with his arms hanging by his side. Concerning the facial aspect, Hawley is always either pictured smiling/cheerful or confident, which is favorable. However, a noticeable pattern can be seen with Hawley’s facial expressions – when he is with his wife, children, or a very small group of supporters, Hawley is always smiling, but when he is with a large group of supporters, Hawley is always depicted as serious, but extremely confident. For instance, in an image posted on October 21, Hawley is smiling with one of his sons, and in an image posted on October 12, Hawley is with a large group of supporters, and is more serious and confident. From the context standpoint also outlined by Dahmen, Hawley is also rated as favorable. In several of his images, the American flag and the colors of red, white, and blue appear extremely often – especially at Hawley’s meetups and rallies (for instance, Hawley’s campaign bus the color scheme of red, white, and blue, and appears in images posted on October 13, 15, and 23). Additionally, from the perspective aspect outlined by Dahmen, Hawley is once again viewed as favorable. The majority of the images posted are close-ups of him meeting supporters or engaging with his family (for example, the images posted on October 22, 21, and 20), and any images that depict him far away only do so in order to capture the number of supporters attending his meetups/rallies.

Progressing onwards to study Hawley’s Twitter feed using the criteria outlined by Lee and Xu, Hawley had varied results. Firstly, Hawley’s Twitter feed did align with Lee and Xu’s findings about a candidate’s tweets promoting issue agendas. Several of Hawley’s tweets, like one from October 19, address healthcare, specifically talking about the increase in premiums. Additionally, as also suggested by Lee and Xu, the majority of Hawley’s tweets dealt with his opponent’s (Claire McCaskill) problems, and attacked her character, her policies, and her beliefs (for example, Hawley’s tweets from October 19, 18, and 16). However, in deviation with Lee and Xu’s findings, Hawley’s attack tweets were not effective in drawing out voter reactions. While Lee and Xu found that voters were more likely to retweet or favorite attack tweets than positive/neutral tweets, Hawley’s number of retweets and favorites for positive, neutral, and negative tweets remained consistent. Additionally, in contrast to Lee and Xu’s study, Hawley’s use of hashtags (he only used one hashtag – #MOsen, which is neutral) and multimedia (images, links, etc.), did not have an impact on the number of favorites or retweets he received. Overall, Hawley’s Twitter account does not draw much attention from voters.

With Twitter, our candidate has a multitude of strengths. The patterns uncovered in his Twitter images – concerning favorable behavior, context, and perspective – are all strengths. When Hawley portrays himself to be actively engaged with his voters, surrounded by patriotic colors, or depicted close up and on the same level in the different images he tweets, he is giving himself an unfiltered, positive image that voters can refer to when evaluating him. This type of image is a strength to our campaign because it gives Hawley a positive public perception, which has the possibility of influencing voters. Additionally, his emphasis on his family, using them as his profile and header images, and posting images/tweets about them, is another strength. This specific aspect shows Hawley as a family man, which both personalizes and humanizes him to the general public. Furthermore, it sends the message that Hawley values family very highly, imparting that he will, as Senator, do what is best for families.

Concerning weaknesses, the only real weakness Hawley has is that his Twitter page doesn’t receive a lot of attention overall, whether that attention be in the form of favorites, retweets, or media scrutiny. For instance, the highest number of favorites Hawley received in the last month was 573, occurring on October 24. To remedy this weakness, I recommend that Hawley increase the number of people which he follows – the more people he follows, the greater the chance is that people will follow him back, increasing his follower count and therefore his potential to garner more favorites and retweets. I also recommend that Hawley begin to post more controversial statements – as we draw closer to election day, launching a Twitter attack on McCaskill will cumulate more attention from both the media and McCaskill herself, which will increase the amount of awareness about Hawley’s Twitter and give Hawley a chance to criticize McCaskill without giving her the chance to respond in time before the election.

Switching over to Hawley’s YouTube channel, I found that the channel only consists of 51 videos, a number which is obscenely low compared to the video sample Ricke studied in 2012 concerning Obama and Romney. Out of those 51 videos, around 30 videos are attacks on McCaskill, either in the form of negative advertisements (like “Claire McCaskill for Hillary Clinton”) or soundbites of McCaskill speaking and Hawley offering commentary on her statements (like “McCaskill calls Trump Presidency ‘incomplete’” and “McCaskill lies about legislative record”). Similar to Ricke’s findings about Romney’s YouTube channel, advertisements made up most of the videos available on Hawley’s channel, with the majority of them being negative (attacking McCaskill), and only a handful of them being positive (presenting issues, or introducing Hawley’s biographical information). The remaining few videos that aren’t attacks on McCaskill or advertisements are clips of Hawley on television – whether it’s his appearance on Fox News (“Josh Hawley on the Fox News Network”) or his closing remarks during a campaign debate (“Josh Hawley Closing Statement”). Overall, Hawley’s YouTube channel does not have a lot of variety in its content – its main focus is attacking McCaskill, so the majority of videos do just that.

However, the strength of Hawley’s YouTube channel lies in is his emphasis on attacking McCaskill. In relentlessly bombarding McCaskill negatively, Hawley may be forcing McCaskill to issue responses, therefore deviating her time and effort from promotion/campaigning to responding. Nevertheless, despite that strength, the many weaknesses of Hawley’s YouTube channel outweigh it. One immediate weakness of Hawley’s YouTube channel is that a voter cannot glean much information about Hawley himself. There are very few biographical or issue ads that present Hawley’s policies, future plans, or character to the general public, making it hard for a voter to gain any knowledge about Hawley as a candidate. Additionally, there are no videos that actively engage voters – Hawley does not make it a point to address the role of voters in elections, which deviates from Ricke’s findings about Obama’s YouTube channel. Furthermore, Hawley’s YouTube channel is not linked to any of his other social media accounts, like Twitter, which makes it difficult for viewers to share, therefore promoting, any of Hawley’s videos.

In order to remedy some of these weaknesses, I recommend that the Hawley campaign immediately release a five to ten-minute video that explains who Hawley is, his stance on current issues, his plans for the future, and a message to all Missouri voters about how he needs them to make Missouri better. This will help fill the absence of positive, biographical, and issue ads, as well as convey Hawley’s desire to connect and engage with voters. Additionally, I recommend that Hawley implement links to his other social media accounts/campaign website in all of his videos, making them readily available to share. Furthermore, I would strongly advise that Hawley offers a fundraising option in each of his videos and on his homepage – none of his videos address how voters can help support his campaign, so incorporating that information would be a method of educating viewers.

Callicles and the Epicureans: A Take on Happiness

Happiness, and what it entails, is a question that has been unrelentingly tormenting philosophers throughout the ages. For however many schools of thoughts that seem to be in agreement with each other on the answer, there are just as many schools of thought that disagree, and still more that only partially agree with each other. Pinpointing a specific example, the perspectives of both Callicles (from Plato’s Gorgias) and the Epicureans both assert that the highest good is pleasure, and that pleasure is what leads to happiness, but the two viewpoints diverge in their methods of achieving pleasure. To be more precise, Callicles and the Epicureans deviate from each other in their beliefs on the role of desire and the importance of virtue.

To begin, the establishment of Callicles’ viewpoint is needed. In his lengthy discussion with Socrates, it is revealed that Callicles believes that pleasure is the highest good, and that doing what is pleasurable will lead one to happiness. Expanding on that, it is the process of doing something pleasurable that attains happiness – therefore, one should consistently do things that consist of a pleasurable process. Furthermore, Callicles regards some of the virtues, such as justice, self-discipline, and self-control, as an obstruction to achieving pleasure. “What in truth could be more shameful and worse than self-control and justice?” Callicles asks, effectively criticizing those virtues, and adamantly denying that they play a part in achieving happiness (492b). For virtues, in Callicles’ eyes, are what we use to “mold the best and the most powerful among us, taking them while they’re still young, like lion cubs, and with charms and incantations we subdue them into slavery, telling them that one is supposed to get no more than his fair share, and that that’s what’s admirable and just” (483e-484a). Virtues contradict nature in such a way that restricts one from obtaining all the pleasures they can, Callicles argues, stating that “these contracts of men. . . go against nature,” for nature “itself reveals that it’s a just thing for the better man and the more capable man to have a greater share than the worse man and the less capable man” (492c, 483d). Additionally, Callicles is an advocate of unrestrained desire. “The man who’ll live correctly,” he states, “ought to allow his own appetites to get as large as possible and not restrain them” and that “living pleasantly consists in this: having as much as possible flow in” (491e, 494b).

Now, like Callicles, the Epicureans also upheld the belief that pleasure is the highest good, and that pleasure is what brings one happiness. However, that is where their similarities end.

The first point of Callicles’ viewpoint that the Epicureans would critique would be how Callicles believes that one’s desires (or as he called them, appetites) ought to be continuously filled and unrestrained in order to achieve happiness. The Epicureans regarded desire as a commodity which should be deliberately restricted, for “desire is insatiable: it destroys not only individuals but whole families; often it can even bring an entire nation to its knees” (I, 43). In plainer words, the Epicureans believed that too much desire was a destructive thing, liable to corrupt any being or entity. Furthermore, the statement made by Callicles that deemed “pleasant and good are the same,” meaning that all the pleasurable desires are good, is another concept the Epicureans would contradict (495d). The Epicureans perceived desire as a threefold category, believing that not all desires were natural, necessary, or good. Their division of desire consisted of the first kind of desire as something “both natural and necessary; a second kind as natural but not necessary; and a third as neither natural nor necessary” (I, 45). Stated more clearly, desires could either be natural and necessary, natural and unnecessary, or unnatural and unnecessary. This meant, according to the Epicureans, that not all pleasurable desires were actually good, and did not always contribute to achieving happiness – therefore, one cannot leave their desires unfettered and unchecked as Callicles would have them be. Thus, as stated by the Epicureans, desire “must be choked off” (I, 51).

Additionally, the Epicureans were sure to address the consequences of untamed desire, laying out what would happen if one did allow their desires to run rampant. “It is from desire that enmity, discord, dissension, sedition and war is born,” the Epicureans warned, illustrating the effect uninhibited desire could have on a nation or city-state (I, 44). Furthermore, the Epicureans cautioned that “desire not only swaggers around on the outside and hurls itself blindly at others: even when desires are shut up inside the heart they quarrel and fight amongst themselves,” which insinuated the conflict an individual can experience on a personal level (I, 44). Overall, the Epicureans firmly believed that “the inevitable result” of desire left unrestrained would be “a life of great bitterness” (I, 44). This is what will happen, the Epicureans believed, if one allows “as much as possible” to “flow in” (494b). Therefore, unrestrained desire does not lead to happiness, as Callicles said it does. Indeed, the person “who is always happy” is “one who sets desire within limits” (I, 62). Hence, one must curb their desires in order to guard themselves from its inevitable consequences.

The second point made by Callicles that the Epicureans would critique would be his blatant disregard for some of the virtues. While Callicles viewed some virtues as “contracts of men” that “go against nature” and as obstructions to one acquiring the most pleasurable desires that one is able to, the Epicureans placed great emphasis on the virtues, believing that they were a part of what enabled one to recognize and choose between the natural and unnatural desires (492c). For instance, temperance, or self-control, is “what bids us follow reason in the things we seek and avoid” and what holds us “to adhere to what we have decided” (I, 47). In using temperance, one is able to avoid becoming “defeated and debilitated by what spectre of pleasure” comes their way. It was this particular virtue, the Epicureans argued, that was crucial in restricting one’s desires, therefore avoiding “a life of great bitterness” (I, 44).

Additionally, the Epicureans believed that “the root cause of life’s troubles is ignorance of what is good and bad” and that the mistakes one makes in choosing between what is good and bad “often rob one of the greatest pleasures and lead to the harshest pains” (I, 43). So, in order to secure oneself against choosing wrongly, the fear of choosing wrongly, and undergoing “the harshest pains,” wisdom, which is a virtue, “must be brought to bear” (I, 43). It is wisdom, the Epicureans believed, that “drives misery from our hearts,” “stops us trembling with fear,” and “represents our surest guide to the goal of pleasure” (I, 43). It is with wisdom that “one can live in peace,” confidently enabled with the skills of choosing between the desires that are natural and unnatural.

Furthermore, justice, in the eyes of the Epicureans, is not used to “mold the best and the most powerful among us, taking them while they’re still young, like lion cubs, and with charms and incantations we subdue them into slavery” as Callicles believed it to be (483e-484a). Instead, the Epicureans regarded justice as a proponent in choosing what pleasures are natural, good, and right. “Not only does justice never harm anyone,” the Epicureans say, “but on the contrary it also brings some benefit” (I, 50). This belief of the Epicureans, that justice is an asset, is in stark contrast with what Callicles advocated. While Callicles would shun justice as a method of subduing “the best and the most powerful among us” in slavery, the Epicureans state that justice and the threat of what it will bring, “bad conscience, legal entities, and the hatred of one’s fellow-citizens,” is enough to outweigh “any contribution that wicked deeds can make to lessening the discomforts of life” (483e; I, 51). Justice is not suppression, as Callicles would say it is. Instead, justice is a method of determining between what is good and what is bad under the Epicurean ideology.

The virtues, the Epicureans insist, are the things that enable us to choose well and correctly among the countless pleasurable desires that exist, and are therefore vital in achieving happiness through pleasure. Thus, the Epicureans would criticize Callicles’ view that some of the virtues serve as unnatural obstructions, saying instead that they are what empowers one to accurately choose amidst the plethora of options.

Superficially, both Callicles and the Epicureans appear to be in agreement about their take on happiness. Simply put, the two put forth answers that revolve around the importance of pleasure in achieving happiness. However, while Callicles and the Epicureans both use the same word, pleasure, to define happiness, the two viewpoints do not attach the same meaning to it. For the Epicureans, it is the pleasure achieved through virtue that will lead to happiness. For Callicles, it is the pleasure derived from doing a pleasurable act that will lead to happiness. Hence, to the Epicureans, happiness is a state of being, while to Callicles, happiness is an emotion one feels, leading to the conclusion that the two viewpoints never were in accordance with each other.

 

Works Cited

Cicero, Marcus Tullius, and Julia Annas. On Moral Ends. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Print.

Plato. Gorgias. Translated by Donald J. Zeyl, Hackett Pub. Co., 1987.