Dissident Spin Doctor: A season of outrageousness
by Emma King (@EmmainSA) Oh, it’s election season. Wonderful. A period in time when surely the most-ugly sides of man-(and woman) kind are exposed. In a desperate attempt to get Jo Public passionate and on-side, we can expect to see the political PR machines cranking into action, each competing to see who can produce the most outrageous, obnoxious and downright awful attempts to gain column inches.
Strap your seat belts on, folks, we’re in for a bumpy ride.
Political comms strat
I’ve often reflected upon the strategy of political communications. Years of experience in the PR trenches teach us to err towards the side of moderation. To wordsmith our words and responses to the least controversial and least offensive ones possible. We tiptoe around politically correct ways to refer to things and people, and make sure that we are never seen to be too much for or against anything (a great get-out clause, by the way, is always to begin with, “Well, let me start by saying I am a great fan of…” before slating it). Heaven help us that we should offend or upset anyone.
Political PR people, however, seem to have been briefed by some other guidebook.
Why tread carefully when one may outright offend people and call for them to be burnt in their own homes (ala Bongani Mkongi responding to the #ZumaMustFall banner)? Why not stir anger and racial abuse against a sitting president (whatever your opinion of him, the downright horrible, patronising, racist and hate-stirring stuff I have seen on social media isn’t acceptable).
Overstepping the boundaries
Why not overstep the boundaries of free speech into hate-speech territory in order to polarise and galvanise people into supporting your cause? Why, indeed?
It’s not hard to see why. Offending people, and making them angry, and making them scared, makes people feel something. Makes them have an opinion. And makes them take sides.
Just take wafty-haired, US presidential candidate, Donald Trump. I think he is writing a new rulebook for how outright offensive and revolting someone can be, merely to see how far he can push it. The problem is that he keeps pushing it, and people are lapping it up, so we are, by implication, allowing him to push it even further.
Anyway, it’s going to get crazier before it gets better. Prepare for more outlandish statements, more offensive views, and more obnoxious behaviour, while some lowly press officer somewhere desperately tries to clean up the spills.
Free and critical media
Just be glad that if you are able to access this information; it means we have a free and critical media. And that you, more than many in this country, have the access to a range of information that will allow you to make your own mind up about the craziness that our political PR machines will be feeding us over the next few months.
Emma King (@EmmainSA) is the owner and MD of The Friday Street Club (@TheFridayStClub). She is allergic to bad grammar and ampersands, but likes working her way through piles of novels and travelling the globe. She contributes the monthly “Dissident Spin Doctor” column on PR and communication issues to MarkLives.com.
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