So here’s Lord Freud confronted with the public on BBC Radio 5. (Wouldn’t it be nice if rather than the QR code, the BBC Web site offered an embed?) Jesus, what a pathetic mess.
If I were a big political party’s spin doctor, here’s something I would do. Rather than send second-division pols on Today or Question Time or whatever, I’d start building up a roster of party members. There are a lot of normal human beings who talk sense and appear like normal human beings, which is what they are. Some of them even contribute to your blog. You’ll need to work handsomely on those ones, because comments threads draw nutters, but you’re looking for people who care and who have memorised the facts, and you’ll find both there.
If you really wanted, I suppose you could put them through a media training course, but if it was up to me I wouldn’t bother. The look-and-feel that results is the same one that looked a bit weird in 2002 and that the Tories adopted with cargo cult fervour. It is dated, and everyone knows how it could be funny.
The satirical possibilities of anything obey the general rules of innovation diffusion, as worked out by Everett Rogers and many others. It takes a Chris Morris to see it to begin with. Then it takes a weird cult like the people who created his fanbase. Only after quite some time do the masses learn how you laugh at it.
We’re well past this point, and the coalition is lousy with people who smile-and-nod and repeat their talking points. The prime minister is exhibit A – in his comfort zone, he beats most people for smiling, nodding, and repeating. Under criticism, he goes puce, pompous, and yells insults. Even Gordon Brown couldn’t really hack the public, and Tony Blair always looked like a twat faced with them. The fix for this is to either take the matter away in private, or convert it to a public meeting – i.e, one where the public isn’t the point. My countergame option is to introduce the public into the big-megaphone settings.
(Oh yes: if you want a shorter, try this: Fuck sincerity, if you can fake authenticity everyone will want to be you.)