Monday, 27 September 2010

Spin Unspun

Spin is no longer our conscious attempt to doctor reality, but has become the prism through which we observe it. It’s no longer enough to sum it up as "Don't worry if we cock it up now: we can always spin it up later".

It's worse. We now so far conflate substance and message that we often give scant attention to getting things right in the first place. Ironically, spin has become so normalised that we are becoming oblivious to how we present things. Far from conning others, we're starting to con ourselves.

It’s a bit like editing a mail-order catalogue: you spend so much time checking and rechecking the tiny details that you miss the fact that this year’s edition is still dated ‘2008’. (And my goodness: now that I'm looking - so was last year’s!)

Here are some examples. Both the county councils I’ve worked for – and they aren’t alone - have an 'Anti-Social Behaviour Coordinator'. The one I’m with at the moment not only "offers support for domestic abuse" but will soon appoint a 'Drugs and Alcohol Champion'. And only today I saw a notice strapped to a lamp post: Caution: Police Crime Operation in Progress. (I'll ignore the use of “in progress” as this is tackled with brutal finality in my post of 29th August.)

You’ll immediately have spotted what links these examples. Just in case you haven’t, it’s this: the forms of words used are ridiculous, but weren’t picked up by those best qualified to do so, namely the organisations themselves.

To take the first: at the simplest level, what should we expect an 'Anti-Social Behaviour Coordinator' to do? Of course (it’s in the job title, stoopid!): coordinate anti-social behaviour. How? Here’s an example.

In my village there is a small gang of pensioners who terrorise local youths at the bus-stop opposite our new branch of Sunset Retirement Homes. I know this, by the way, because there is a road sign just before you get there. It reads Danger: Old People. Oh yes it does.

At the other end of town is a loose collection of former nuns who dropped out of The Good Shepherd Convent last year and have recently discovered the pleasures of cider, only to have been barred from The Good Shepherd public house on account of it. They accost passers-by for money, leave empty bottles in the park and sometimes urinate into open-top sports cars, but because they are drunk most of the time they rarely leave the area, which has become something of a home to them.

The two groups – the pensioners and the ex-nuns - never mix.

I telephone the Anti-Social Behaviour Coordinator. He (sorry, but we need a He in this tough, demanding role) is soon On The Case. Above all, he is concerned that there is no contact - let alone coordination - between the two groups, their members going about their daily predations upon the society that sustains them as if the others didn’t even exist.

We must coordinate their activities! Our man is no slouch. He promptly organises a meeting between them, rounding up for good measure a number of people who sleep rough in the woods and never make contact with anyone unless it is to direct wolf-like and other eerie noises at primary school children on their way home in the afternoons.

Alone these people are mere nuisances; but together, under the stern but benevolent eye of our Anti-Social Behaviour Coordinator, they have at least the chance to become a formidable drain upon the resources and will of a whole community. And we thought social solidarity was dead!

But serious questions remain: there are no signs either that the pensioners drink to excess or that the nuns have yet developed a crack cocaine habit that might induce them to assault and rob those from whom they currently merely solicit money. And the sleepers in the woods are, so far as we can tell, ‘clean’.

So, because he really takes his job seriously and does not want simply to tick his own boxes, the Anti-Social Behaviour Coordinator networks for partners.

Who is first on his list? Why of course, the Drugs and Alcohol Champion!

(As for the Police Crime Operation, well at least they’re up front about it these days, whether or not it is yet in progress.)

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