5 May 2008
Empty Words Do Not Substantial Policy Make.
According to Don Watson, an Australian commentator, once words like outcomes, events, accountability and transparency become commonly used in “pol-speak” the audience will come to realise that “most events are managed and those that aren’t possibly should be and, of course, the management will be transparent so that it can reach the agreed outcomes that will meet the requirements of responsible accountability.” So it is no wonder that whenever one is exposed to a John Key soundbite one immediately thinks that he, as an event, is being managd in a “transparently accountable manner” by his political adviser cum manager- Bill English. After all any afternoon spent sitting in the House, watching the debate, one is treated to the sight of the erstwhile pretender to government smirking to the gallery while his deputy stands and fires the bullets during question time and throughout the debates. (At least he doesn’t quite continue the stunned possum approach his predecessor cultivated.)
Of course one should expose the pronouncements of the leader to some sort of analysis for logic and style if one is to be fair to the man but I haven’t heard either Bill or John say anything as profound as:
“The principal function of Government must be to ensure social and economic justice for all families, to protect their physical security and well being in such a way as to assist parents to achieve independent, secure and happy family life. All social reforms must be judged by the standard of whether they assist the family or not. If they assist the family they are good; if they handicap the family they are bad.”
“The Welfare State does not imprison people - it sets them free. It does not compel a dreary uniformity - it opens the door to a wide range of richly varied opportunities. It does not sap self reliance - it strengthens confidence by removing fear and insecurity. It is the wide spectrum of education, housing, better cities, economic development, planning; of better house and secure, healthier families. It exists to ensure social justice for all.”
These statements are from a politician who had a strong political and philosophic belief that he could articulate clearly and in an inspirational manner to his audience - an audience that was present and visible to him and with whom he could and did interact. A far cry from the artificial, stage managed and isolated presentations that produce the eight second media massaged sound bites we hear from those who pretend to be aspirational leaders after attempting to don the clothes of greater men.
The problem for the National Party and those who follow the politics of the right is that the last thing they want is a clearly articulated policy and philosophy getting in the way of logic or profundity, or, for that matter getting any where near a living, breathing audience that might dare to interact with their chosen speakers.
The spin doctors will insist that John Key never utter a profound, clearly articulated statement in the quest to present him in the clothes of the ordinary man. ( The disguise he adopted at Waitangi Day with his folky tee shirt, politically sensitive design, and designer (but not too smart ) jeans is an example of spin doctor advice. ) His advisers will tell him that a man who speaks the language of the ordinary man will embody their wisdom, their aspirations. This is an assumption driven by the polls, the focus groups and collective wisdom of campaign bag-men and then accepted by commentators hired by the media who then tell everyone that the speaker is sincere and obviously has much deeper motivations than he really sounds like. These commentators will, instead of asking John Key what his words mean, will tell us what they want the words to mean on his behalf. As a result they take the most inarticulate and vacillating response at face value and elevate it to more than it really is.
The pol-speak of the media managers, the script writers of the Engkeylish sound bites, provide an impoverished language that reflects impoverished thought. Speech that could not reach the heights of that quoted earlier in this blog. For Engkeylish demands that they speak as inarticulately as the vox pop comments that on the spot TV interviewers grab from people emerging from the noise of a blockbuster movie. So it behoves us to constantly scrutinise the statements coming from the pretenders to government and ask: “Yes - BUT what do you really mean? Where is the real policy behind the repetitive mantras and offers of immediate nostrums and panaceas to all the social, economic and poltical isues their poll driven policy programme gives them. The scrutiny will, as the cartoon demonstrates, reveal that the pretender has neither substantial policy or true fitting political clothes.
(the source of the aspirational quotes about the purpose of Government and the function of Social Welfare? Norman Eric Kirk. Labour Prime Minister.)