Monday, August 31, 2009

[the making of myths] the devil's in the details

The spin and the lies of Nu-Labour are not just a strategy, there're a time-worn system and we'll judge the Tories against this when next May comes.

Many people have written on how no one accepts responsibility in politics and even in society anymore. There are no Nu-Labour scandals, in Nu-Labour eyes, simply because Brown doesn't accept that there can be guilt in relation to his administration.

Therefore, spin replaces what used to be calls for a Minister's resignation. The Profumo affair today would result in some guff about how the media is biased and how the current global economic crisis, caused by factors outside our control, has impinged on a fine Minister whose private life is his own, by the way.

Or something like that.

Integrity and decency have been devalued. They're talked about but they don't exist at Westminster to any great extent and genuine MPs get swamped by the others, the whole package being labelled shopsoiled. Is it the curate's egg, good in parts or is all rotten right through?

The real nature of human interaction

In any interface between human beings and between humans and pets, there is a struggle - a struggle for preeminence, the taking of the high moral ground, the acceptance of the projected image, the need to be seen as right, baggage from previous interactions, the carving out of a living space within which we're comfortable, the setting up of defensive mechanisms to protect what we've carved out and so on.

In even the most benign relationships, especially where love is in the equation, there is a power struggle going on and the interaction which works best is where each knows his or her place and doesn't buck the system. I'm not arguing for this but it is the actuality. Phillip McGraw, in his Lifelaw N8, said that there is no reality, only perception.

I think that there are some immutable realities. If someone says he was doing x and it is explained with backup, then it is likely that his intention was x, as stated. Another person's inability to accept that is his/her own problem. Through these sorts of things comes all the conflict in the world and the bottom line is, the reason why anyone carries on like this is - to get one's own way.

That's all it is and all it's ever been - you want it your way, I want it mine.

The trouble is:

1. not everyone recognizes this;
2. some like to alter the equation by imparting spin to the intereaction.

The art of spin

One of the commenters at this site quoted Adams - they care, we don't, they win.

A party dedicated to spin, to constructions placed on the public record, to obfuscation and sleight of hand is always going to initially defeat a victim whose focus is elsewhere.

In a relationship I fell into some years back, I learnt what spin really was and how dishonesty gets a toehold and then grows. In any relationship, one is the active partner, concerned with the fine detail and the analysis and the other is usually focussed on something else, for example the workplace, the current project, the bit on the side or the hobby e.g. the car restoration or whatever.

This latter person is naive because he or she [and I'll refer to it as "he" for convenience only] is being shafted and doesn't know it. There is a type of person, a spin-doctor who always has to be right, never wrong. One never hears of his mistakes, only of his triumphs. Any error which, in the light of his current circumstances, is too glaring to deny, is passed off lightly, heavily laden with spin.

Rule N1 - no one likes to admit guilt or error;

Rule N2 - if confronted with this, everyone has his way of acknowledging/moving on;

Rule N3 - any attempt by the victor to look away with a triumphant smile or insist the other acknowledge the error verbally will be met with anger on the part of the admittee and both become intransigent.

Rule N4 - never admit a wrong if you are not wrong, simply on the grounds of:

a. being outmanoeuvred;
b. being weak willed;
c. for the sake of peace;
d. because it is a storm in a teacup and you don't care anyway.

This last point, d, is the crucial one. From bitter experience in the workplace and at home, I've learnt that the moment you allow them or her to do a slide where a certain incident is seen in a certain erroneous way, that erroneous interpretation then:

1. goes down on the record uncontested;

2. contains only the spin of the other party;

3. is reintroduced later in conversation with third parties as a given fact, a given truth, when it is anything but;

4. is spun to others in a way which accords with other people's general perceptions of the one spoken of and though it is wrong, those hearing it are not sufficiently analytical nor care enough to delve into this truth or not and therefore nod on in agreement with the oh so plausible teller of the untruth and pass it on in the form of rumour, out of earshot of the accused.

This is the true evil of the slide and the actions of the person who likes to employ it. It's employed in marriages and relationships to gain the high moral ground, to exonerate the actions of the party of real guilt and to pyschologically defend that person from any taint of being seen to be in error.

Often it's one way.

When both do it, then there is a volatile relationship which cannot last.

Where one employs it and the other refuses to play along, then there is also the end of the relationship.

This was so with someone I was once in a relationship with, some years back. The difference was that forewarned is forearmed and my antennae, honed by blocking a former spin-doctor I'd known prior to that, now picked it up straight away and blocked the spin.

It was a very minor point - that I had not supported her sufficiently in an argument she was having with a friend. If I had said nothing because it was uninteresting to me and it was uninteresting, truly, then the assumption, very subtly put: "You don't support me sufficiently [general rule]," had had its first piece of uncontested evidence placed next to it.

It was now a fait accompli and next time this distortion was used, the gameplayer could point to the previous evidence of the "the type of thing you do".

Stratagems and spoils

If you are awake to these sorts of people, you are still not out of the woods because then you get this:

1. The same spin is reintroduced patiently at a later time, often carefully reworded and usually timed to perfection, when you are either incapable, through illness or about to do something or when your mind is focussed on something else. The whole aim is to get the tacit acceptance established - and lack of fighting from your corner is tantamount, in this person's mind, to admission. It will do for now.

2. If the assertion is blocked this time, then the asserter drops it for now and plans to reintroduce it later. It's part of the gameplan that the admission must be made. This is Irish Lisbon 2 in a nutshell. Wrong result, try again and again and again until you wear them down.

3. If the untruth is blocked at every attempt by you, then the gameplayer has a problem. The next strategy he uses is to assert the exact opposite of the truth, in such a plausible "we're men of the world" manner that the Lie, [for that's what it amounts to], finally attaches itself and once attached, it can't be erased.

4. There is a whole panoply of strategies and this person is now so far down the line into stratagems and spoils that actually having a life does not occur to him and being focussed on something healthy is so far in the past that this Gollum can't go back [although Gollum did re-emerge as Smeagol for a time].

5. The penultimate stratagem is, if all the aforementioned fails to attach the Lie to the teflon accusee, to press others into the service of the Lie, to "Jim Jones" a bunch of women or men and weave the web of charm to the point where they'll go off and do the dirty work for him, often with scant knowledge of the truth but with assertions of long time acquaintance and therefore knowledge of the truth. It's pure propaganda.

6. The final stratagem, if the Lie still fails to stick and in 99% of cases, it does attach itself, through sheer persistence and through other's weariness with the whole issue so that they throw up their hands and say, "Whatever you want," then there is only one option left - destroy!

They go back, patiently, through everything that person has said or written, comb it for possibly negative connotations which can be placed on an out-of-context quote or whatever and slowly construct a snow job on that person, being careful to only suggest that which most are willing to believe, that belief emerging from their careful, subtle email or phone campaign of drip, drip, drip of poison over the months and years, until something is now accepted as lore which, in fact, had no original basis at all.

In summary, you are dealing here with a psychopath, a person who might not even know his spin is spin but probably really believes it is the truth, just as a method actor does because to believe it is the truth is the only possible hope of plausibly persuading others.

What an honest person would do

The premium you, yourself, place on the truth has nothing to do with how good you are at methods of propaganda or how plausible you come across as and it often can't stand up against good spin.

Any salesman can be plausible.

If there is a difference of opinion, if both sides are honest, then each puts his point of view, hears the reply, corrects the errors as far as he sees them, has his errors corrected in turn and the process goes on for a week, a month, after which it is over. Both perceptions sit on the record and people can then make their own mind up by reading one then the other.

The honest person, even if he drags it up months later at a gettogether, says something like, "John's not going to agree with me here but ..." That's the honest way because it acknowledges that there is another point of view.

When there actually is only one truth

Sometimes though, one side is simply not honest and why this is particularly dangerous is because most people believe that there have to be two sides to every story, that where there's smoke there's fire and that everyone conceals something.

When something comes along which actually is one-sided, it is not not accepted as possible.

If you, yourself, are meticulous with the truth, if your method is to assert, be attacked, go back and review what you said, retest the links, assert again, be attacked, repeat the process, always on the basis that you might have made an error [because everyone does and noone's infallible], then when you come up agaisnt a truth-slider such as described above, it is well-nigh impossible to have your attitude of integrity and his attitude of non-integrity seen for what it is.

Everyone will want to balance up the two sides by saying you might be in error a bit and the asserter may just have something there, when it is really not so. The self-actualizing process in most people's minds, especially those hearing something and not really engaged with the issue, is to balance both sides more or less evenly. Anything which hits buzz word triggers reinforces in people's minds that what the speaker is saying "rings true", when in fact, it might not be so.

Goebbel's vilification of the Jews followed just such a pattern.

What to do

Unjust as it may seem, the only real option is to get out of that situation with those people but to carry on with your own life and your own responsibilities.

The forces arrayed against you are so far down the track that no one is going to either be interested in the truth, if it doesn't relate personally to them or they're not going to think it out with any clarity. Most people just haven't he time.

This is what the gameplayer and spin-doctor is banking on.

If your side of the issue is on paper and his side is on paper, then that's the best you can hope for, in terms of the actuality. Your own psychological state now comes into it, your own mental health.

Staying sane

You have responsibilities, maybe to your family, maybe to your department or to your firm. You have to be in good condition to face that each day and getting dragged down into slanging matches, slurs and spin is the ultimate destroyer. You have to say, if necessary over and over, "I've had my say, it's on the record, take it or leave it."

You have to protect your life and your health in the end. Phillip McGraw's Lifelaw N9:

Lifelaw 9 - There is power in forgiveness.

If someone hurts us, either that person never knows he’s hurt us or else he just goes away and leaves us to suffer.

Where once we were going along happily, now someone has made us angry, depressed and seeking revenge. This then makes us bitter.

Does this person pay for his crime against us? No way. Do we pay for his crime? Yes, every time, through loss of balance, loss of mood and loss of health. In the end, he wins and we lose.

Only we should choose how we feel. Forgiveness is the way to say:

"Nobody is going to hurt me and control my feelings, even in his absence. I make the choice whether to be hurt or not. In the end, he is the unfortunate one, not me."

By rethinking the meaning of forgiveness, we can become emotionally freer, calmer and generally a more pleasant person. Power over oneself is the key to a calmer, more balanced life.

One aspect of this power over oneself is to block any attempt to slip a piece of spin over you, no matter how seemingly innocuous, no matter how much you care for that person, no matter how unimportant it might seem.

To fail to do that right form the start is to teach the other what works and what doesn't work. It's the road to destruction, the thin edge of the wedge, whatever metaphor you care to employ. We must not allow the Nu-Labour spin to stand as the actuality, we must patiently show, in our blogs, the way it really is. Then, anyone form outside who comes in can read your side and the spin-doctors' side and make his or her own decision.

Here endeth the sermon.



That all seems like too much trouble and drama. Myself, I think it best to move away from people like this and if people want to be duped that's their problem.

James Higham said...