Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing-Wax

The last few days, dearest blog snorkellers mine, have been ridden with issues of communication. So, in a quite surprising (and possibly unexpected) return to form, this is a post mostly about communication.

Where to start then? I think with the Evening Standard and an absolute triumph of the communicator’s art. As we all know by now, Great Britain is shagged, thanks to the workings of the overpaid bankers and the bogeyman of double-dip has been stalking us all for some time. And now, it appears, the bogeyman is looking in through the country’s kitchen window. Yes, in the last reported quarter, the economy declined by 0.5%.

The government claims that it’s down to the weather – the snow stopped people buying, leading inevitably to a fall in retail sales. Others claim that the economy was failing way before that. Be that as it may, our Chancellor – the wholly unprepossessing George Osborne – took the opportunity to put his view on the weather being to blame through the pages of the Evening Standard. What his comms advisors had neglected to consider was the possibility of the Standard’s business editor putting the opposing viewpoint, on the same day, in the same pages. And, let’s face it, if you’re a consumer of media, who do you believe? The politician, or the ‘independent’ journalist? Exactly.

But, lest those of you of a left-leaning tendency be feeling all a tad smug right now, I’d draw your attention to a piece in the same issue of the Standard, carrying the byline of one Mrs Yvette Balls. She seems like a nice lady, but whether I was was just tired, or whether it was simply impenetrable nonsense, I couldn’t really tell what she was trying to say. Again, where were her advisors – can no-one in the government’s comms office write in simple terms for simple people (like me)?

Our politicians, and the raft of issues they currently face, need good comms counsellors. I would suggest, however, that choosing the ex-editor of the News of the World doesn’t necessarily fall into the category of selecting a good comms counsellor. Yes, I know Tony Blair did it (hired a tabloid journalist), but I’d venture the opinion that Alistair Campbell – love him or loathe him – was one of a kind and extremely good at what he did.

From experience, I’ve found that ex-journalists tend to think like journalists, whereas professional communicators think completely differently. If I can simplify and generalise – the former are all about the story first and the consequences later, the latter about having an eye on the consequences first and therefore playing it safe. I don’t think either is right, but for our political parties, right now – I’d take the communicator every time.

So farewell then, Andy Coulson, who, in his own words, became the story. Which segues nicely into two other names who became stories, rather than just commenting on them, and suffered a similar fate – yes – please welcome Richard Keys and Andy Gray, ex-footballing pundits of this parish. These guys are, to my mind, boorish and objectionable, sexist and of limited intellect. Their comments about the lady linesperson and about Karen Brady (vice-chairperson, West ‘am) were puerile and offensive. 

So what? They were comments made between themselves, off the air. They weren’t in any way illegal, defamatory or of a nature that might incite racial or religious hatred. They were simply the sort of comments that one would expect of footballing buffoons. I long since decided that I did not want to be a part of the horrific culture that surrounds the game, and made a conscious decision not to watch it, or anything to do with it. Thus, had it not been for the media-instigated witch-hunt that surrounded these poor cretins’ cheap jibes, I – and millions of others – simply would not be aware of them. Time was when one could switch off and enjoy some privacy – now we must learn to deal with a society where we are always on parade – where the rules of good, sensible communication are never relaxed.

Here’s some sense.

Two further communications things, then, audience mine.  The King’s Speech is a film of some renown, having been showered with Oscar nominations. It is, you could say, about communication – which is why I feel justified in including it here. I have one thing, really, to impart and that is – avoid it like the plague for it is f-f-f-f-f-f-f…..f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f……..bloody dreadful. Even my wife said it needed a few more explosions. Presumably the Queen Mother going off like a tank after three bottles of gin. Anyway, rubbish – do leave it alone, there’s a dear bunch of blog trotters.

Finally – a little bit of social, because I know how much you like a bit of social. It appears that Facebook has now accorded itself the power to decide what your name is and who, therefore, you are. In the UK, a young lady has been bumped off Facebook because she is called Kate Middleton. Having the same name as the cheery slapper that’s about to become Queen-in-Waiting (ah – my Andy Gray moment) is apparently an irresistible open invitation for the other Kate (the one who’s not marrying the chinless, inbred throne-heirerer) to cause trouble. Thus, that monarchist of renown, Zuckerberg, has decided to ban her. Good for him. He is, however, (that’s Zuckerberg), apparently, quite happy that the other Kate’s boyfriend, one Jonathan Ross, is no threat whatever.

Oh – and TV presenter Dermot O’Leary was bumped off of Facebook because – as far as I could see – he probably wasn’t himself at all, but some sad impostor pretending to be him.

I’ll leave you to read into this what you will and draw your own disturbing conclusions.

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