There is nothing more disheartening than watching party hacks on some tv question time programme, throw in an embarrassingly easy question for ‘their man’ or make rehearsed counterpoints cribbed directly from a party prompt sheet. Why do they do it? Possibly because it works. Anoraks may know it’s a party ploy, but the broadcast audience likely do not. It has an equivalent online too. Liz Maguire notes that the basis for John Kerry’s flip flop reputation was based on partisan presentation of his speaking record, which robbed of its original context was ruthless used on the net and in the mainstream, to taint him politically. World by Storm a few days ago, notes that as the Republic’s election approaches the infestation of political fora by spinning party hacks is well underway:
Or what of this about Joanne Spain which discourteously and entirely inaccurately alleges she is economical with the truth. More to the point the original posters in each instance when shown how incorrect such allegations are don’t bother to make any sort of an apology (incidentally the person who posted the Spain allegations is a secondary school student, but youth, like stupidity, is no defence).
Closely related to that is the allegation that a Minister, or indeed a member of the opposition front bench has been kept away from the public gaze for fear of upsetting the electorate. or Jim O’Keefe of FG lambasted for being replaced by Brian Hayes on Primetime.
Here the real problem is the lack of insight into the freewheeling nature of campaigns, particularly where they interact with the media and how this can pull anyone off course. Which makes one wonder just how much these ‘insiders’ actually know.
Could it be that they too are…you know…lying?
These all emerged at Politics.ie, currently the cockpit of online discussion around the Republic’s General Election. We get the same kind of spinning here at Slugger too. It’s particularly intense at election times, but it continues, admittedly at lower levels, at all times in between. On TV, if you are at all familiar with the local political scene, you can spot the party hacks in the audience. Online, they almost all use pseudonyms leaving them scope for spin, prefabricated bias and on occasion the kind of dishonesty WBS notes above.
Maguire’s suggested antidote: “Do not perpetuate bad information. Letting other people know the results of your research helps everyone”.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty