15 Dec 2008, Comments (6)

Hollo’s Victory

Author: Helen

Here’s something which has been bothering me for quite a while now, a toxic dynamic between the media and other observers of the political process. I don’t want to seem as though I’m picking on Tim Hollo any more than any other commentator, and I’m definitely with him on this piece on Peter Garret and ANAM. I’d like to explain what does bother me about it, though.
Here’s a letter in the AGE which expressed what I’m talking about:

Please, commentators, don’t disparage this decision with phrases like “a climb-down” or an “about-face”. Rather, it is a triumph for the musical life of Melbourne (and beyond).
Ruth Boschen, Balwyn

Now look at language used on this thread. Just to reiterate, I’m not picking on Tim: everybody does it, both on the left and on the right. He says:

…It’s worth going through this story step by step to highlight the slow-motion backflip for what it is.

…This was the first step in the backflip.

…Step two in the backflip…

That’s not counting comments (“a slow mo backflip…”)

The problem is that if the tradition is to crow over every change of mind on the part of your opponents and compare it to foolish acrobatics, won’t it make them more likely to dig in their heels next time, regardless of the merits of your case? Doesn’t that style of language shame people for changing their mind on good evidence?

I’d suggest that changing policies to suit new and convincing evidence, or changing circumstances, is a smart thing to do.

People on the green spectrum of politics are reading, writing, thinking and presenting all kinds of information to policymakers on transport, energy, environment, education et al in order to try to effect a change to sustainable and fairer policies. If you want people to do something, jeering at them after they do it is giving negative feedback to a desired response. It’s a dumb thing to do.

How do you think you’re going to go next time we approach the same people- or people who might have read or seen you gloating- to try and effect the next bit of necessary change? Let’s chuck out the backdown / backflip / backflip-with-double-pike / climbdown imagery and start to applaud changes of heart and policy – where they deserve it. Or at least, don’t mock them.

In response to Mark’s comment about crossover, here’s a different Tim with some gorgeous Tognetti goodness. (Sigh)

Comments (6)

  • Caroline says:

    Julia Gillard was utterly merciless towards the opposition regarding one of their recent ‘backflips’. Which is not really the right word is it? If you backflip, you more or less end up in exactly the same position you started in, don’t you?

    And as with many I’d guess, I’m not in the least bit impressed with the Rudd Gov. and there aping of Howard’s mob by finishing every single statement with an attack on the Opposition. It is toxic and childish and churlish, and it belies a people with tiny little nasty minds who are not necessarily any better an alternative. It stinks and I am not endeared one bit by their sinking to a similarly low level.

  • jape says:

    The sadness of Peter Garrett’s position, seems to me, is that he was not able to stand up and say he made the wrong decision or got the wrong advice or whatever – but that a transparent little dance had to be done to suggest he’d had the end result in mind all along. But I agree with you – when minds are changed, we should be congratulating those flexible enough – or humble enough – to change them. I have always been fond of a quotation of the newly re-popular John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

  • Pavlov's Cat says:

    *clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap*

  • Fine says:

    Excellent point, Helen. We need to praise people who change their minds, even if they’re dragged kicking and screaming into that change. Bit like dog training isn’t it? Reward good behaviour.

  • Helen says:

    The analogy is correct, Fine, I don’t know whether comparing it to dog training would convince many people to change their ways. 🙂 Maybe lion taming? Thanks to Pav, Jape and Caroline – and Jape that quotation was lurking in the back of my mind, couldn’t quite put my finger on it, so thanks!

  • Fine says:

    Maybe lion taming, Helen. Working with any animal teaches many useful skills. Patience, humility and the ability to put oneself in the mindspace of a different species. The last is very useful for dealing with politicians, I think.

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