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Writ large?

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: This was a focus group and is not necessarily representative of the public writ large.

My comments:

“This” focus group is a small group, as all focus groups usually are. In other words, there are not a lot of people in it and therefore their interests or opinion may not be representative of the public at large.

A focus group, you see, is a small group of people selected for a study on something. For example, in light (or rather lacks thereof) of persistent smoggy air in Beijing, a select group of people is gathered together to form a focus group whose purpose is to both look into the cause of the smog and find possible solutions to it. Now, due to the fact that the group is small (otherwise it won’t be called a focus group – a group to focus their attention on something particular), not all people from all walks of life are picked as members.

Hence and therefore, the collective view point of this group may not be representative of the opinion of the general public. I mean, obviously, if most members of the group are environmental activists, their opinion may lean one way – in the way of banning polluting factories. If, on the other hand, if many members of the group are actually from those polluting factories, then their opinion may be very different.

Let’s just put it that way and leave it there.

Anyways, and oh, writ large.

Writ is an old spelling of written. Writ large then means written large, or literally written in large letters, large in size.

If something is written in large letters, then it is clearly legible and easy to read.

Hence, metaphorically speaking, if something is described as writ large, then it is big and magnified, clear and unmistakable.

The public writ large, to wit, means the public at large or the population in general.

All right, no more ado, media examples of writ large or, for that matter, small:

1. IT SEEMS every pundit in America has an opinion to offer Governor Christie on running for the presidency.

Republican partisans urge him to run to save the GOP from drowning in a sea of bitter tea. Democratic partisans cite his faults, hoping Christie won’t challenge a weakened President Obama. One well-known columnist even took on the governor's weight and advised a salad and a walk.

I’ve spent time with Christie over the years, and my advice to the governor is this: Do not run if you will be less of a president than you want to be. The people who want you to run want to win the White House more than they care about what happens after the election. You’re product to them. Good product, but product, nonetheless.

Christie is not shy for ego. No one running for high office should be shy for ego. False modesty was perhaps attractive in an 18th-century debutante. It looks ridiculous on a 21st-century politician.

Anyone who wants to be president has to want it beyond everything, because it is a job that defies description. If I may delve into some Catholic theology, sacraments change people for life. You can only be baptized once. One communion. One ordination. Becoming president of the United States is a sacramental act of a secular society. It changes the person forever. The effect cannot be undone. Christie, a Catholic, should see the presidency this way.

The appeal of Christie is his self-confidence. Some call it arrogance. Some call it bullying. It’s confidence writ large. It’s intoxicating. That’s what is driving the hysteria to make him a candidate for president.

- Doblin: The roar of the presidency, the smell of the crowds, by Alfred P. Doblin, NorthJersey.com, October 3, 2011.

2. Stealing my 9-year-old nephew's copy of The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill was the best thing I did last summer. I was his age the first time I read it, and twice his age the last time I went back to it. I’m twice that old again now, but as soon as I dove into this intimate, majestic tale of war writ small — of a battle between the pushcart peddlers and the truckers of New York City — I realized how timeless, and how deeply a part of me, the story was.

Before long, I was tearing up as I anticipated events to come — not so much the major plot points as the masterful asides and grace notes that make the story so rich. I finished that same evening — a feat my nephew found stunning — and I haven't stopped thinking about the book since.

The Pushcart War is presented as a history of a conflict that has not yet taken place; in each edition of the book, the date on which the hostilities commenced is nudged forward. I remember the power of that effect vividly from my first reading; it felt like standing with one foot in the past and one in the future, and it was strange and wonderful.

Merrill, who died in August at the age of 89, begins by explaining that most wars are too massive and too complicated to be understood, and that we cannot prevent what we fail to comprehend — true when she wrote it, nearly 50 years ago, and undiminished since. But the Pushcart War, she tells us, is different. Its battles were confined to the streets of one city, and the weapons were simple enough to be understood by a 6-year-old. It was a war in microcosm, but there were generals and campaigns, truces and casualties. At stake were the streets themselves, and thus the future of the city.

At the heart of the conflict lie two opposing models of business, and of thought: The trucking companies believe bigger is better, that growth means progress, and that might is right. They want to eliminate all other vehicles, and their first intended victims are the pushcart peddlers — small businesses beholden to a very different philosophy.

Their customer service is personal, their territories well-defined; they perform hidden services fundamental to the function of the city. They are, in today’s parlance, “sustainable.” But the pushcarts are no pushovers. When their livelihoods and reputations are threatened, they take the fight to the enemy, with a peashooter offensive that leaves the trucks deflated. Literally.

There is a familiar old-world charm to peddlers like Morris the Florist and Harry the Hot Dog, but there are no ingenues here. We know whom to root for, but Merrill’s war is wrought in shades of gray. Battles are won in the court of public opinion, as often as on the streets. Pushcart king Maxie Hammerman is as savvy a strategist as his opponents, the trucking magnates, and their ally, the mayor. Both sides know how to cultivate powerful friends and the importance of manipulating the media.

Merrill's story, full of unexpected reversals and understated witticisms, feels exceptionally modern. And by the end — after the two sides have hammered out a peaceful and deeply reasonable compromise — one can only hope that we'll catch up to Merrill's future one day.

- War Writ Small: Of Pushcarts And Peashooters, by Adam Mansbach, WABE.org, January 31, 2013.

3. When Charles Kushner was heading to federal prison in 2005 for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering, his son Jared got some advice from Howard Rubenstein ― the dean of New York damage control ― on how to rehabilitate the Kushner name, Charles would later tell a family friend.

Step one: Buy a New York newspaper. Don’t be too particular, Rubenstein told Jared, according to the family friend’s recounting of their conversation with Charles. Any newspaper will do. Step two: Buy a big Manhattan building. Any building will do. Step three: Marry the daughter of a rich New York family. Anyone will do.

The younger Kushner went on to do just that. He bought the New York Observer in 2006, made a debt-laden $1.8 billion purchase of 666 Fifth Ave. in 2007 and married Ivanka Trump in 2009. (A Kushner Companies spokesman denied the family friend’s account. Rubenstein said: “That’s preposterous. I never said that or anything like that.”)

Whether or not Kushner was indeed working through a checklist, his actions during those years have served him well. They also laid the groundwork for the meticulous public relations strategy that has made possible Kushner’s current paradoxical role in the press, as a blameless yet uniquely powerful member of the Trump administration.

Long before he could afford the counsel of someone like Rubenstein, Jared’s father had a sense for how to shape perception to his advantage. In the 1990s, Charles Kushner bought a corporate box at New Jersey’s Giants Stadium on the 50-yard line ― right next to the box reserved for the team’s owners, the Tisch family, according to the Kushner family friend. At the time, the Kushner real estate business was still small, and Charles could barely afford the expense. (A Kushner Companies spokesman confirmed that the family had box seats but denies this characterization.) But he found a way, because he recognized that if you can get close enough to powerful and wealthy people, they’ll assume you are one of them. It’s exactly the sort of maneuver Howard Rubenstein would respect.

The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta condensed the highlights of Rubenstein’s client list in a 2007 profile: “George Steinbrenner, Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, and Leona Helmsley; the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and the Whitney Museum; BMW North America, Mount Sinai Hospital, Time Inc., Bloomberg L.P., and the notorious Lizzie Grubman. He has advised the last six mayors and the last four governors.” It’s a remarkable lineup, a who’s who of rich, powerful, nefarious, or just intermittently infamous New Yorkers. Martin Dunn, the former editor-in-chief of the New York Daily News, told Auletta that Rubenstein is “much more of a power broker than a public-relations man.”

The Kushners have always had a fleet of PR people working behind the scenes to fluff their image. Rubenstein and his son and protege Steven, who now runs the family business, worked for the Kushners until around late 2011. The Kushners then took their PR business to Matthew Hiltzik, a former aide to Hillary Clinton during her first Senate campaign who went on to work for Bob and Harvey Weinstein at Miramax Films, as well as Glenn Beck, Justin Bieber and Alec Baldwin. It was during his time as a Hiltzik client that Jared Kushner met Josh Raffel, one of the firm’s employees and the man Kushner recently tapped to lead communications for his government-wide innovation project. The White House declined to comment for this story.

In late 2014, Kushner stopped working with Hiltzik and began working with Roxanne Donovan, a PR maven the Observer once described as a “younger, sexier Howard Rubenstein.” Kushner also hired Harriet Weintraub, who has a specialty PR company for real estate and luxury brands, before hiring Risa Heller, a former press aide to notoriously media-savvy Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), in November 2015.

Heller represented Kushner personally until this January, when he took an official role in the White House. She still represents his family company, where Jared has resigned his role in the family business and divested his ownership in some of the company’s businesses. Donovan, Hiltzik and Weintraub declined to comment for this story; Heller declined to comment beyond statements offered as a spokesperson for Kushner Companies.

Kushner now faces his greatest PR struggle yet, as the son-in-law and a senior adviser to a historically unpopular president whose flagship issues so far have included attempting to strip health care from millions of Americans and impose a constitutionally dubious immigration ban. Donald Trump has given Kushner a comically large set of responsibilities ― from setting American foreign policy in the Middle East to ending the opioid epidemic to revolutionizing the operations of the entire U.S. government.

While Trump dictates policy by Twitter and spends most of his time making impossible promises, Kushner is rarely quoted on the record. His few public statements consist of bland generalities and unwavering support for his father-in-law. Kushner rarely speaks on camera, a point “Saturday Night Live” recently mocked by having Jimmy Fallon play him for an entire sketch with no lines. A source close to Kushner said it’s simply part of his personality to let his actions speak for him.

The few existing videos of Kushner speaking on camera suggest a possible reason he doesn’t do it more: He’s not very good at it. Two brief videos from 2014 ― one from a real estate conference and one for the Jehovah’s Witnesses talking about his $700 million purchase of the group’s former Brooklyn headquarters ― show Kushner in his familiar uniform of a gray suit and dark tie, speaking blandly and without much conviction. With his soft voice and Tri-State Area accent, he sounds remarkably like his brother-in-law Eric Trump.

“I don’t talk to the press,” he told Forbes in December. But someone is clearly shaping his image in the media as a beacon of moderation, the man working to pull Trump toward consensus-minded policies and socially liberal politics.

Kushner and Ivanka “helped kill a proposed executive order that would have scrapped Obama-era L.G.B.T. protections,” The New York Times reported in February, based on “people familiar with the issue.” They also “intervened to strike language about the climate deal from an earlier draft of the executive order,” The Wall Street Journal reported a few weeks later, “according to multiple people familiar with the move.” Ivanka was in favor of bombing Syria, her brother Eric said, and Kushner supported the strike as well, according to unnamed sources.

The exact same nuggets that seem engineered to elicit sympathy for Kushner and his wife from one group ― the public writ large ― are why other White House insiders reportedly mock them as “globalists” who are Democrats in all but name. (That moniker is also supposedly bestowed on Goldman Sachs alums Gary Cohn, Trump’s National Economic Council director, and Dina Powell, who ran Goldman’s charitable activity and now serves as a deputy adviser on the National Security Council. The term “globalist” is widely understood to have anti-Semitic connotations, and Kushner, Ivanka and Cohn are Jewish.)

What the press anecdotes from unnamed sources don’t do ― the ones in this story included ― is explain Jared’s political beliefs. He keeps his views so hidden that it’s not clear whether he actually has any at all.

- The Guide To Becoming Jared Kushner, HuffingtonPost.com, April 25, 2017.

本文仅代表作者本人观点,与本网立场无关。欢迎大家讨论学术问题,尊重他人,禁止人身攻击和发布一切违反国家现行法律法规的内容。

About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


 

 

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