Ruth Laugesen’s got a piece in the SST today entitled “How National’s spin doctors operate“. She points out that Crosby/Textor’s methods, contrary to the opinion of many other journalists here, do differ from what are considered standard focus group and polling methodologies.
Auckland University political studies senior lecturer Jennifer Lees-Marshment suggests that C/T are different specifically because “[t]hey use a technique called insights marketing, where communication is developed in response to understanding people’s deepest values and fears”. If Granny Herald is looking for a real attack on democracy here it is. Hager made the point forcefully in his book and Laugeson’s article reiterates it:
…[this kind of political] advertising can be so simple, and so powerful, that it can stir up fears without offering any solutions. Do too much of that, [Lees-Marshment] says, and you are well on the way to stirring up political disillusionment and disengagement.
And it gets worse. As if this weren’t enough, Crosby/Textor are experts at what’s called “message discipline”. From Laugerson’s article, “They emphasise restricting messages from the party to a few key lines repeated with monotonous regularity”. Sound familiar?
While it’s true that to some extent all parties do this – in a competitive media environment some repetition is required in order to get a point across – taken to extremes simplifying a political platform down to a handful of bullet points, repeated ad nauseum, dumbs down democracy. The electorate has the right to demand a comprehensive policy manifesto from each of the parties. A couple of A4 pages doesn’t cut it. It’s an insult. No doubt we’ll see a few more ‘big ticket’ policy announcements from the Nats before the election but my money’s on “short, sweet, and favouring style over substance”. The second coming of The Hollow Men. No wonder Hager’s still on the case – nothing’s changed.
It’s a shame that publications like The Herald have for months foisted the tired line that the EFA is the end of democracy here while turning a blind eye to the true threat – the continuing influence of Crosby/Textor-style politics.