Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Spin Doctors

I have been collecting these for a while now. It seems the same patterns come up over and over. The specifics change, of course. And it isn't just politicians, you can find anyone using these from middle management to military dictators. There's probably a spin-doctor handbook somewhere that has the complete set with detailed instructions.

The report is out of date

This is when some report or finding appears condemning something they are responsible for. The response is to effectively claim they already fixed the problem, which might be true, or might not.

We're still in discussions

When a proposal comes to light that people are unhappy about. Often the people they are in discussions with are some large business who stands to gain heaps, but sometimes they are just talking to other politicians. This implication here is that we should not take this too seriously because it all might change and they are just playing with ideas. This is never the case, of course. If we stop yelling about it they will do the thing we fear. They might anyway. After this phase you often hear:

It's a done deal, we can't change it now

They don't say it like this, of course. They say it is a great deal that they have achieved by being such good leaders etc, but the deal is done. The documents have been signed and backing out of the deal would now cost an enormous amount of money to recompense other parties for broken promises.

There's been a cost blowout

Yes, even though they said the deal was done and we couldn't change it, we find that other parties involved can change what it costs. That means they can make us pay more (for this deal we never wanted in the first place). There is a variation on this one where they have to pay heaps (of our money) to sack some highly placed official because they are breaking a contract. The official is being dismissed for incompetence or worse, but we still have to pay a golden handshake for some reason.

I'm sorry you took offence

This is when they screwed up and can't quite wriggle out of something that looks like an apology. It isn't actually an apology, though. It just seems like one. To be fair I have heard at least one politician apologise properly saying something like "I screwed up. No, I can't blame anyone else, it was me and I'm sorry." But this is astonishingly rare. And that one I recall was preceded by an attempt to squirm out of it.

I will sue you for defamation

Sometimes they mean it, sometimes they don't. They seem to say it more than mean it though. And we have to wonder, when they don't follow through, if the defaming statement were true. There are other reasons not to sue (too busy, too expensive etc) but threatening it in the first place and not following through is the mistake.

I am absolutely and completely in support of motherhood and apple pie

Of course they are, we all are. But the question was: why are you cutting support for solo parents trying to feed their children? The trick here is switching or simplifying the argument so that the real point is obscured. We are supposed to nod in agreement because they've picked something we all support, so we agree with them, don't we? That's all fine then. There are endless variations of this. A recent local example was a politician who was responding to the suggestion someone had organised a discounted hotel stay for him (which could be construed as a bribe). He vehemently responded that he had paid for the hotel himself and it was on his credit card. Of course it was, we knew it would be. But that was not the accusation. It was, indeed, on his credit card and the rate was indeed discounted.
We can't afford it
No, we can't afford to do this as well as the other stuff we'd rather you didn't spend our money on. We probably can afford to do this if we stop doing something else.


Roger Parkinson said...

Here's another:

This issue is a distraction

It just means they don't want to talk about it. If it is not important (and clearly the people raising it think it is important) then it should be dismissed with some cogent argument. The obvious recent example of dealing to distracting issues properly is the argument about Obama's birthplace. He produced the birth certificate. Why are we still talking? But when they don't do this, when they tell you it is just a distraction, that is when they are just trying to shut you up.

The other way this one is used is to exit with some semblance of grace. "I did not do anything wrong, but this issue is a distraction, so I will resign and allow my colleagues room to get the real job done." Sure.

Roger Parkinson said...

And another... I'll call this the 'bait and switch'. This is when they have a very unpopular policy they want to implement, but they know we'll shout it down. So they announce a worse policy which gets us really annoyed, then they back down (they say they listened to us, see?) and bring in the thing they really wanted while we're all feeling we dodged a bullet.

Roger Parkinson said...

A variation on the bait-and-switch is used to create a distraction. I have a specific example in mind because it is happening right now.

They have a colossal screw up that they've basically been caught out on and it is seriously embarrassing. In this case it is the announcement that they want to increase class sizes in schools. Somehow this will improve standards (go figure). The response has been predictably bad, and their saying 'well we didn't actually mean that...' isn't working too well because they can't say what they meant instead.

What do they do? They announce a policy to prevent problem parents from having children, setting off all the eugenics alarm bells. By 'problem' we do mean parents convinced of horrific abuse and/or murder of children. The relevant minister has ruled out compulsory sterilisation which kind of leaves the option of the state removing the child, possibly at birth. Okay, this already happens.

But guess what? No one is talking about class sizes any more. Ka-zing!