Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The Problem With Spin

With just a few days to go to the June 4th elections all the parties are putting every last bit of effort into saving or gaining seats. As a result sometimes judgement becomes impaired, especially when individuals start to see well-planned political careers going awry. At that point otherwise reasonable people seem to adopt a "win at all costs" approach where the end justifies the means.

It would be too easy to fall into the trap and start to list examples of statements published in campaign leaflets distributed by the other parties (we Greens of course are saints and would never do such a thing - well, I might, but there are wiser heads running the campaign). Suffice to say, that there are a number of examples of statements in the leaflets that have recently been pushed through letter boxes on their way to the recycling bin that are economical with the actualite - they spin past events to provide a more pleasing (to the spinner) version of history.

The problem with this approach of course, is that once you accept that a little bit of revisionism, a touch of plagiarism, and a dash of a white lie, mixed together with an unhealthy amount of cynicism, can produce something that can be acceptably served up for public consumption, you begin to remove the ethical barriers separating you from the next level of deceit.

If you are willing to be deceitful about implying that you wrote a paragraph of personal outrage rather than copied it from a colleague, it probably doesn't seem so bad pretending that a leading question you asked was your own rather than copied from the notes of a lobbyist for a commercial interest.

If you are willing to imply that you live in the ward you are standing in, when in fact you don't even live in the city, what is so wrong about flipping your first home to your second home?

If you are happy to misrepresent the reasons for the actions of a colleague to the public - what so wrong about misrepresenting the reasons for starting an illegal war to the public?

And on it goes.......and the local councillor moves up the career ladder to Westminster and suddenly we see their name in the paper and former colleagues in local government all say; "that wouldn't happen here, we only become councillors to serve the local population, we're not like them". Oh, but you are........you are just at the end of the slippery slope where the opportunities to deceive are more infrequent.

One particularly negative campaign leaflet did include one positive statement that should be foremost in the minds of all current and prospective councillors - "local people deserve better" - indeed they do, but somehow I can't see them getting treated better anytime soon.


  1. "we're not like them". Oh, but you are"

    Aren't most people like them? That's how we've evolved, to grab for ourselves and survive as best we can.

    Once there was a graffiti that said "kill leaders not people" how dumb is that? Apart from anything else, if you get rid of one set of leaders, you'll just get another lot. Probably much the same. Human, that's for sure. Unless you're going to put the Little Green Men in charge. And they might not feel much fellow feeling for humans, and screw us over.

    Is there a way of re-engineering the structures such that leaders become harmlessly redundant?

  2. We need leadership Dorothea, whatever the structures in place. Its a matter of what
    kind(s) of leadership and what structures should they operate within.

  3. It's leadership that has got humanity into the mess we're in today, Glenn. Political and cultural leaders led us into imperialism and colonialism, then into World War One. World War One led into World War Two, after which our leaders led us into even further industrial intensification, population explosion growth and concomitant environmental destruction. All very, very profitable for the elite, who graciously allowed some crumbs to trickle down, mostly only to European and American populations - to prevent revolutions.

    It's leadership from the Catholic Church and from the mosques that stops women from getting contraception and forces women into constantly bearing children they don't want and can't afford.

    Even where leadesrhip isn't going in completely the wrong direction (which it usually is!) it's corrupt and managerialist, working for its own short-term interests and exploiting the rest of us and, of course, the biosphere.

    If anything, we need structures that will protect us from leadership, and instead allow and encourage each person to take responsibility for ourselves and our impacts on the world around us.