Anatomy of a spin: #2

An Occasional Column devoted to examining the opinion management industry in Jersey.

Teamwork! – “it’s the real thing”.

Today we will take a brief look at the smear – the insult – as mode of spin-doctoring.

In yesterday’s post I wrote briefly about the acts of corporate stupidity engaged in by the States of Jersey and the Council of Ministers, and just how easy it is to spot Groupthink in action.

It is not uncommon for those involved in a Groupthink episode – or those who stand to benefit from the various decision ‘crash and burns’ which follow – to want to actively maintain the Groupthink paradigm. It’s comforting – it’s mutually reassuring for a group of individuals who are basically weak and frightened people – it makes them feel part of “The Team” – and enables them to avoid facing up to the fact that they have little control over, or understanding of the near chaos which forms their responsibilities.

Maintaining Groupthink has another advantage too. It has a binding effect in the group’s ability to confer approval or disapproval upon individuals – its ability to marginalise and ostracise anyone who breaks or threatens “group cohesion” by questioning its precepts and orthodoxies – anyone who suggests that – actually – these grandiose notions of the group might – err – well, be wrong, you know.

A time-honoured and remarkably prescient examination of Groupthink is to be found in the fairy story The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Now, you know this isn’t aimed at anyone specific, OK?

But imagine a leader, possessed of immense arrogance, vanity and wealth – a person very much used to being surrounded by fawning sycophants – ambitious social climbers and those who wish to touch the hem of power; a leader who – beneath the plausible and polished exterior – is actually a weak, vacuous and ignorant little man.

In the story – such is the degree of sycophancy, of grovelling, the fear of upsetting the emperor by telling the truth, the burning need of those he confers power upon to keep his approbation – that no one rescues him from the vanity & stupidity which sees him marching around naked – but convinced he is wearing the very finest clothes ever made.

Of course – it’s an “out-grouper” – a little boy – who shatters the “group cohesion” – the Groupthink – by shouting out that the glorious leader is naked.

But what were all those courtiers, those family members, those advisors who wrought this folly engaging in?


That little boy?

“Dear oh dear. No good; not a “Team Player””.

There is a stock collection of insults and denigrations which can be selected and used in a political environment. The running down of people, the slurs behind their back, gossip, the attacks upon them in debate or through the media – all are key instruments in the spin doctor’s toolbox.

To give an example, in the “New Labour” government of the UK – Groupthink led them to commit the worst British foreign policy disaster since the Somme. It was quite obvious to anyone but a complete cretin that the invasion of Iraq was going to be a catastrophe – hell – even the States of Jersey voted to send a message of protest against the invasion to Blair & Co. That should tell you all you need to know concerning just how off-the-wall the whole Iraq misadventure was.

During the build-up to the war crime, Alistair Campbell – Blair’s Spin-Doctor-in-Chief – and the rest of the New Labour “in-groupers” were very fond of briefing against anyone who opposed them with the dismissive insult that they were not “serious people”. That they were somehow ignorant, lightweight, self-indulgent, individuals who could be safely disregarded as irrelevant – because “they’re not serious people”.

Only “serious people” understood “serious” issues – such as the supposed need to go to war. People who failed to agree – well, they just weren’t “serious people”.

Such is the tragi-comic foundation for apocalyptic bloodshed, generations of hatred and massed-murder.

In the more mundane world of Jersey politics, the commonly uses stock insult is that “he isn’t a team-player”.

Anyone who fails to join in with, and bind themselves to the “consensus-trance”, the unquestioning and irrational cult devotion needed to manifest Groupthink – just isn’t a “team player”.

This would-be insult is trawled around the political-journo environment – and accepted in best Groupthink fashion. “Deputy X or Constable Y? – well they’re just not “team players””. And this is invariably greeted with much ‘sagacious’ nodding of heads and another round of gin & tonics and funny handshakes.

So – do you think “Team Work” – Groupthink – has served Jersey well over the years?

Sorry – have to go now. Big Fat Sydney the cat is marching over my key-board. Come on Syd – your just not being a “Team Player”.

Stuart Syvret

This post’s Book:

Social Psychology, 3rd Ed, by Michael Hogg and Graham Vaughan

This post’s Joke:

Q: What’s the definition of “team work”?

A: Never having to take all the blame yourself.

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