World of India!: CurrentAffairs : When push comes to shove - Spin! e

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CurrentAffairs : When push comes to shove - Spin!

Its always amusing to observe how people are couching their communication when interacting with the media, officially. Depending on how important the communication is, there are anywhere from a few hundred to a few million and sometimes billions of people listening to your communication and so saying the right things and most importantly NOT saying the wrong things is extremely important (Congress spokesperson Manu Singhvi says that he considers the latter far more important than the former.) For example, Ex-Fed Chairman Allan Greenspans speeches were dissected so finely, that much was made of even the commas and hyphens in his speeches and comments, since that could potentially change the whole meaning of what he wanted to say. And fortunes could be made or lost on what Greenspan wished to say on Fed Monetary policy. The present Fed chairman is more boring from that perspective and he has made it clear that he doesn't believe too much in such guessing games and wants more transparent communication. Oh well, I can almost see all those unemployed Greenspan watchers eating their nails in frustration.

I brought this up after reading that the Australian Cricket Captain Ricky Ponting has "offered" an apology. This became necessary, since he and his team behaved obnoxiously with the BCCI president Sharad Pawar when the latter was handing them the ICC champions trophy. But Ponting has merely "offered" to apologize, not apologized and has shifted the onus of "seeking" the apology to Sharad Pawar and the BCCI ! How clever? I would love to slap Ponting and then "offer" to apologize should he choose to seek one. While being so magnanimous, Ponting has not forgotten to attack the media and point out that it is they who are making a mountain out of a molehill. This is the most novel way of apologizing (sorry , 'offering' an apology) and so very Australian too! They are even apologizing by being on the offensive!

Bill Clinton (that guy!what a lovable bastard he is) of course was the past master in this art. He famously said once that he "smoked" marijuana but did not "inhale" it. In Bill's eyes that made all the difference.

Newt Gingrich, once the U.S congressional leader was has also been acknowledged as a guru of spin. To understand how seriously he and U.S politicians take spin read what John J. Pitney, Jr. says-"Newt Gingrich may have left the Republican congressional leader-ship, but his spirit survives--on the Democratic side. To understand the link, think back to 1990. At the time, Gingrich was the House Republican whip and general chairman of GOPAC, a committee for the training of Republican candidates. As the midterm congressional campaign got under way, GOPAC issued "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control," a linguistic guide for those who pleaded, "I wish I could speak like Newt."

The guide consisted of two lists, both of which grew out of focus group research. "Optimistic Positive Governing Words" such as opportunity, challenge, and commitment would help Republicans define their own vision. "Contrasting Words" such as crisis, threaten, hypocrisy [sic], and ideological would help them define their opponents.

After Democrats attacked the guide as cynical and demeaning, Gingrich quickly disowned it as an aide's mistake. But in spite of their public indignation, the Democrats adopted its central idea: that language is indeed a mechanism for shaping the way people think about politics. Sometimes they openly acknowledged their intel-lectual debt to Gin-grich. At a 1995 political retreat, Democratic senators and staff received an information packet that included the GOPAC document....One reason the Democrats have done so well lately is that they have mastered both lists. These days, any speech by a Democratic politician will contain long stretches of "optimistic positive governing words," along with a few verbs and prepositions that give the illusion of thought. A typical passage sounds like this: "We have a precious opportunity to preserve our commitment to our families and protect the dreams of our children." Thanks to the list, speechwriters do not have to worry about order and logic. String the words together in another sequence, and they sound just as good: "Our families have precious dreams for our children, so we must preserve and protect our commitment to opportunity.

While these fuzzwords are dulling the listeners' capacity for critical thinking, the "contrasting" words are calling forth demonic images. Again, the Democrats have relied heavily on Gingrich's list, making adept use of such standards as greed, selfish, and intolerant. They've also made some additions, including mean-spirited and, of course, extremist. In the 1998 campaign, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) got away with applying the "extremist" label to GOP challenger Matt Fong, who is about as wild-eyed as Mr. Rogers. And in nearly every race, Democrats linked the Republican candidate to the king of the "extremists," Gingrich himself. As George C. Scott said in Patton: "Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!"

As I write this I hear that 'Cricket Australia' has said that they "regret" the incident where Pawar was pushed around. Not an apology remember, but a plain vanilla 'regret'.

Newt Gingrich would have approved.

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November 10, 2006 2:59 AM

This is a really well written article, and I love your arguments. But, as I understood it, Ponting wanted to talk to Sharad Pawar and understand if he was hurt by what he did before apologizing. That was what I understood as the rationale behind his "offer to apologize". From what I see here, this is a cultural difference happening here. What Ponting thought was okay to do was not okay with us. This does not, as a captain of a world renowned team, give him authority to behave in what we consider obnoxious. If he cannot respect other cultures, maybe he doesnt deserve to be what he is. But, I don't agree with the argument that the onus is on Sharad Pawar to seek an apology.

I love your comparison with Gingrich and the explanations...It is always a pleasure to read from such a well read blogger.    

November 10, 2006 7:54 AM

Here, here. Such diplomatic nonsense has no place on simple issue such as this. At least Martyn has openly apologised for his role. Ponting is an arrogant coward. Nothing more, nothing less. Idiot.    

November 10, 2006 7:55 AM

I dear say, Newt Gingrich may be advising CA. :P    

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