Around the end of August I was despairing of political accountability on the grounds that the effectiveness of what is generally called spin, the practice of tactical political publicity, seemed to have improved significantly since about 2005.
What really worried me about it is that if it’s a technology, it can be improved, and as political competition literally takes place within it, investing in this technology would probably always have a better competitive payoff than anything else. The danger here would be a red queen’s race, with more and more resources going into a zero-sum competition precisely because it’s a zero-sum competition. Obviously this doesn’t seem quite as good a call now as it did then, what with Biden’s successful campaign to end malarkey and the Tories finally falling under the allegedly unbreakable 40% mark, but who knows.
What I want to know, really, is what actually makes up the package. One of the most informative journalistic or academic projects on China and the CCP was the one that tested daily which words were being censored on the Chinese Internet. This provided a direct observation of what subset of daily Chinese discourse the CCP objected to. Importantly, it gauged which of the CCP’s concerns it cared enough about to act on, providing an understanding of its behaviour based on its actions, free from preconceptions.
In a similar way I would like to see a catalogue – a dictionary – of public relations. A dictionary might be the right idea as I like the idea of seeing it as a language. What are the verbs? I think this might be much better than observing for the nth time that BBC executives are examples of the Establishment, that it’s all about metanarratives, or that Rupert Murdoch is bad.