In July 2011, Ipsos, the French-based international polling and research organisation, interviewed Tony Blair for their publication, ‘The Power of Opinion’.
Their interview appears on pages 5 – 7 of the PDF. He speaks as a true politician or management consultant would. When I worked in management consulting, we had set phrases and words to use in every sales bid, client report and internal briefing. Blair uses a number of the same words in this interview: ‘governance’, ‘leadership’, ‘delivery’, ‘results’ and ‘vision’ among them.
The now-defunct Anxiety Culture site offers a number of worthwhile polemics and explanations about our 21st century world. A few of them discuss propagandistic language. One in particular provides helpful analysis before arriving at the Blairisms which follow (emphases in the original):
We list below several types of language “distortions” which are often used for hypnotic or propagandistic effect. These are divided into two categories: semantic and cognitive. (For short, we’ll lump them all together under the term “Cognitive-Semantic Distortions”, or “CSD”.) …
[P]ropaganda intentionally loads language with CSD to induce “hypnotic” effects. This normally works by the “map” so inadequately representing the “territory”, that the audience has to “fill in the gaps” in their own minds. This process of “going inside” one’s mind to fill in the gaps of the “map” corresponds to “hypnotic induction.”
… most political speech contains CSD due to an institutionalised habit (going back centuries) of minimising content likely to alienate voters or offend power interests. (This results in extremely banal communication, which nevertheless has propagandistic and hypnotic qualities.) The higher the level of political speech, the more likely that the speech-writers design the speech to have a propagandistic effect.
When Tony Blair says: “The extreme views of many of the anti-war campaigners”, most people probably fill in the gap by projecting their own interpretation of “extreme” onto their map of the campaigners. “Extreme”, to most people, undoubtedly means lunacy and/or destructive tendencies. We resist this simply by asking: “How, exactly, does Blair define ‘extreme’?”
Or, when Blair says: “The bombing is unfortunate, but it’s necessary”, most people probably fill in the gap by projecting their own understanding of what “necessary” means. Alternatively, we can resist this “hypnotism” by asking: “According to whose criteria is it necessary? By what standard is it necessary?” We’d then be attempting to obtain a more accurate map of the territory, rather than “lazily” falling back on our preconceived maps.
(Many people naively think that by disliking or disagreeing with someone like Blair, they are immune to his propaganda. But effective propaganda already takes “disagreement” into account. Better to “deconstruct” than disagree.) …
Now that we’ve had a propaganda primer, let’s move on to the Ipsos interview, which they have arranged in a standard Q&A format. For the sake of brevity, I have broken this down into topics with Blair’s words below. In case you think that I have taken these out of context, I have supplied page numbers below so you can analyse what Blair says or doesn’t say (emphases mine):
Globalisation and its economic effects:
Globalisation creates winners and losers. The point is there are many more winners than losers. (p. 5 of PDF, page 7 of text)
Africa’s future is a strategic interest for us. (p. 5 of PDF, page 7 of text)
The countries of the future will be those which are economically open, invest in innovation, whose public services are capable of meeting the needs of a changing population, which manage and harness diversity. (p. 5 of PDF, page 7 of text)
Governance and leadership:
the good news is that, with the right governance in place, there is enormous potential to be realised here: economic growth in Africa averaged 4.9% from 2000-2008 (p. 5 of PDF, page 7 of text)
Development policymakers are starting to recognise the need to support genuine country leadership. (p. 6 of PDF, page 8 of text)
above all, the rule of law and good governance really matters. (p. 6 of PDF, page 9 of text)
that’s what governance at its most basic is about: delivery of the services and goods that people need. (p. 6 of PDF, page 9 of text)
21st century government is less about battles of political ideology, and far more about delivering results for citizens. (p. 6 of PDF, page 8 of text)
People want a government that can deliver “consumer oriented” public services. They want an empowering state, not a controlling state, which can adapt to change and is open to it. (p. 6 of PDF, page 9 of text)
And effective governance has a read-across to these issues of transparency and accountability encompassed in the more traditional sense of ‘governance’. (p. 6 of PDF, page 9 of text)
politics can be about changing lives, not simply changing leaders. (p. 6 of PDF, page 9 of text)
The West really hasn’t yet absorbed the magnitude of the change that we will experience by the middle of the century as the economic power of the BRIC countries embeds itself and flows of power and wealth begin to change. (p. 5 of PDF, page 7 of text)
Education, education, education:
our youth need to be creative, religiously literate and at ease with cultural diversity (p. 5 of PDF, page 7 of text)
Using religion to ease people into the NWO:
The challenges of the 21st century make it imperative that religion does bring people together in shared action and in vibrant local communities. Because one way or another globalisation is going to bring them into ever closer contact. There are powerful forces pushing them into division and enmity. (p. 6 of PDF, page 8 of text)
Our work in schools and universities prepares young people to have dreams for themselves that do not involve excluding their fellow students of a different faith. (p. 6 of PDF, page 8 of text)
… there is only one counter to bad religion. And that is good religion. (p. 6 of PDF, page 8 of text)
So, what is Blair saying? Seems to me as if he is big on Fabian change and global transformation using education and religion as a mallet — enforced by shadowy NGOs and foundations about which we know nothing.
I don’t know what he means by the primary purpose of government being to deliver goods and services to citizens. To me, it’s about preserving sovereignty and self-defence, but to him it seems to be about a global government with perhaps regional governors of sorts.
Note that he doesn’t talk about people getting engaged with the political process or for free and fair elections. Nor does he talk about the importance of individual liberty or free enterprise.
Some of this makes for chilling reading, especially the excerpts about ‘change’. And, this one — about powerful, global foundations — is a bit creepy, too (last page of the interview):
I think it is that creative, risk-taking attitude to development, which partly comes of being able to bypass a lot of the bureaucracy that can hamper governments and the big multilateral agencies, that really distinguishes the work of the best NGOs and foundations. There is some great work going on in the development field at the moment by organisations like the Gates Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Institute and David Sainsbury’s Gatsby Foundation.
Foundations like these can act quickly where necessary – and are prepared to think anew – working with the private sector for example, to come up with cutting edge innovations. But they also have the scale to ensure that when they find practical solutions they can really have an impact on solving some difficult development questions.
Worrying. Worth revisiting now and then.
But some reading this interview quickly may very well say, ‘Gosh, what a nice fellow.’
And that is the purpose of propaganda.