Wednesday, 13 June 2007

That Tony Blair speech

"A problem is "a crisis". A setback is a policy "in tatters". A criticism, "a savage attack".

So says Tony in a quite remarkable speech about the media.

This episode illustrates rather nicely behaviour within conflict. Take a look at The Independent's response. We see articles setting out counter-allegations of blame, and direct attacks on the original protagonist - "Mr Blair - if you were braver..." in attempts not to engage the discourse but to attack the speaker as so reduce their standing within the discussion. We can come back to that in the future. There will be almost daily examples.

But the point I want to highlight here is the one of the power of language to create, or call into being.

A "Crisis" is a news event whereas a problem would not be. A policy "In tatters" has so much drama to it that a setback would not. Criticism, an entirely valid discourse in itself is inflamed so that it becomes a savage attack.

How in our own debates and discussions do we use language that calls the other party, or their actions, into a specific role that they may or may not welcome?

The complaint against the media's tendency for hyperbole is that such exaggerated language makes it very difficult to have a moderate, progressive conversation. The topic or issue of the dialogue is lost or side tracked as the original protagonist is now forced to respond to the language itself that is being used as opposed to the subject matter the language is trying to convey. How can that promote effective communication?

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