“The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they’ve been in”

Dec 9, 2013 by

Using the media

I know I’m always talking about the media and its importance, but we can’t avoid addressing the issue of blame in the training that we offer at David Niven Associates. There seems to be a national obsession with all forms of the media focussing on blame rather than constructive criticism and how we can change for the better.

Politicians seem to look for virtually nothing else in opponents than blame so embarrassment, humiliation and discomfort are the political goals of so many. However we are a nation of blamers and even worse, we accept lies and half-truths as long as they are dramatic or titillating and feed our prejudices.

If you look at the news outlets, be they broadcast, written or social media, over the last week I’ve seen articles that blame teachers, solicitors, doctors, social workers, police officers, politicians and of course the media themselves when they try and swallow their own tail.

“Teachers can’t control the children in the classroom so they should be sacked”; “solicitors charging far too much and just milk everybody for their last penny in a cynical way”; “the health service is just a black hole that drains our money, operates filthy hospitals, doesn’t listen and employs thugs as care staff”; “social workers just snatch your children for no reason”; “the police hang around pretending they haven’t got enough people on the beat and just play with technology and high speed chases” and “the national tabloid media only care about salacious behaviour, nasty accidents, victims of crime and celebrities to humiliate”. As for politicians whichever newspaper or media outlet you read, those politicians whose party they don’t support live under rocks, are dedicated to ruining a country and caused every trouble that we have when they were in power.

Following newspaper reports that were obviously spun wildly Churchill famously said “once in a while you’ll stumble upon the truth, but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened”.

Occasionally, in between the blame there are some laughable nuggets that might just lift your spirits slightly. Some people it seems, desperate to join the extreme correctness bandwagon, come up with some wonderful examples. You’ve got to laugh if you go to a club in Edinburgh that instead of bouncers outside the door they now have “ejection technicians” and looking thorough books for children coming up (remember the release of Jane Evans’ How are you feeling today baby bear? book on domestic violence for young children in February) I found a renamed 3 little pigs now called “3 vertically challenged swine”.

I think that most things are just good sense, but what’s spoken or printed has got to be taken with a large pinch of salt. For all the people that David Niven Associates train to speak to and work with the media, we have to emphasise that whereas many in the world around us might not mean exactly what they say, when you speak to the media you’ll really stand out if you speak the unvarnished truth.

Finally, as Dennis Potter said, “the trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they’ve been in”.

Read more on my thoughts on the media and the involvement it has in social work and listen to my media episode in ‘Thoughts On The Social World’ podcast

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