You may not know Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s chief speech writer, but the once aspiring novelist, is now the 30-something Boy Wonder wordsmith creating the foreign policy narrative for the world’s most powerful country.
David Samuel’s recent article in the New York Times is a characteristic deep dive, and this one is well worth the time, taking us into Rhodes’ unorthodox but seemingly deserving rise to become the writer with the “mind meld” with President Obama on foreign policy positioning.
Many fascinating nuggets line the story’s path. Jobs have changed or disappeared. Money flows to new participants. In some ways, it’s the same game, largely repurposed over the Internet. But the overarching theme is that a compelling narrative is even more important–to the White House mind you–in our era of dissolving old media structures and hierarchies. It’s the story. Story. Story.
In the world of business marketing, we see this in the mantra “content is king.” Big data personalized is not enough.
Even in the world of phenomenal movie and TV budgets creating surrealistic special effects and mind-blowing cinematography, the story matters more than ever. The rise of Netflix and other independent TV series is attributed to the writing, free from the short story arcs and forced cheeriness for laundry soap commercial cycles. The narrative can be darker, deeper, and clearer–the ride is so much more convincing, the feel real.
When the stakes soar–like international war and peace–it’s fascinating that we’re still making decisions sitting around the virtual campfire listening most carefully for wisdom from the best story tellers.
Photo Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times