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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

It's political spin « Previous | |Next »
September 22, 2003

The link to this article by Josh Marshall about the selling of public policy is courtesy of Rodger A Payne. It also describes the political spin of the Howard Government.

Marshall argues that the Bush imperial presidency in the US has a pre-existing policy agenda, which is justified and supported with whatever arguments they deem to be useful to sell their case and shape public opinion in their direction they desire. Josh says:

"The president and his aides...speak untruths because ...their politics and policies demand it....Indeed, the aim of most of Bush's policies has been to overturn what FDR created three generations ago. On the domestic front, that has meant major tax cuts forcing sharp reductions in resources for future government activism, combined with privatization of as many government functions as possible. Abroad, Bush has pursued an expansive and militarized unilateralism aimed at cutting the U.S. free from entangling alliances and international treaty obligations so as to maximize freedom of maneuver for American power in a Hobbesian world.

Yet this is not an agenda that the bulk of the American electorate ever endorsed. Indeed, poll after poll suggest that Bush's policy agenda is not particularly popular. What the public wants is its problems solved: terrorists thwarted, jobs created, prescription drugs made affordable, the environment protected. Almost all of Bush's deceptions have been deployed when he has tried to pass off his preexisting agenda items as solutions to particular problems with which, for the most part, they have no real connection."

Josh shows this to great effect with tax cuts that are waved around like a magic wand to address all sorts of economic problems.

We can see this strategy with John Howard's war with Iraq. The decision to go to war was political and it flowed from the Government's position that the US alliance was absolutely paramount in shaping Australia's military strategy. The public reasons given for going to war (WMD, Iraq's links to al Qaeda, threat to Australia etc) were tacked on as justifications for a pre-exsiting policy. Hence the justifications could and did change (furthering democracy and freedom; the good consequences of a bad guy taken out).

Marshall Marshall then describes the effect of this stratgy. There is a lack of concern with evidence -- and a rejection of expert advice that disagrees with its ideology or pre-set agenda. These are seen as obstacles to be overcome through ignoring the evidence and discrediting experts. The effect created is a strong incentive to delegitimize the experts, who are seen as guardians of the status quo, who seek to block any and all change, no matter how necessary, and whose views are influenced and corrupted by the agendas and mindsets of their agencies.
A core issue in the Hutton Inquiry in the UK is the discrediting of experts (Dr. Kelly) by the Blair Government. Ministers and bureaucrats will then cover their tracks in the strategies used to delegitimize the experts.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:00 PM | | Comments (0)