Monday, March 27, 2023

Let me be very clear about this

There’s one immutable rule in politics: never trust a politician who prefaces a statement with the word “frankly”.

Actually, make that two rules. You should also never trust a politician who says, “Let me be very clear”.

Anyone who begins a statement with the word “frankly” is signalling that whatever he or she is about to say (it’s usually a he) is fearless or radical.

Alas, it never is. The speaker might desperately want people to think he/she is being fearless, radical or even simply outspoken, but no one is fooled.

Moreover, “frankly” is superfluous, since we’re entitled to assume that the person always speaks frankly – or in other words, honestly.

To put it another way, use of the word could be regarded as implying that everything else he/she says should be regarded as insincere. Which may be true.

“Let me be very clear” falls into a similar category. It too denotes boldness and decisiveness.

Someone who says “Let me be very clear” is not to be trifled with. Nothing will shift them from their principled position.

Again, alas, they are likely to have forgotten within days, if not hours, what it was that they were making themselves very clear about.

What prompted this reflection was a commentary by Tova O’Brien in which she referred to an interview she did last week on TodayFM (yes, it’s still on the air, though its audience is now possibly numbered in the hundreds) with Christopher Luxon.

The subject was Posie Parker. We won’t bother with O’Brien’s opinion of the British women's rights activist, other than to say it demonstrates that we shouldn’t assume someone who made her name as an aggressive political journalist is necessarily a sharp or original thinker.

The exchange with Luxon was, however, revealing. National's leader has provided a masterclass in equivocation on the rather important question of free speech and he wasn’t going to allow O’Brien to pin him down.

"Would you allow your MPs to attend Posie Parker’s rally?" O’Brien asked.

"I haven't had that conversation with them, I couldn't imagine there will be many that would be very interested in it," Luxon responded.

O’Brien persisted. "But are you going to be blocking your MPs from attending her speech?"

Luxon: "That's a decision they can make individually, frankly, but I can't see that there will be anyone that would be that interested.”

There it is – that “frankly” word. But what does it mean? Nothing. In fact worse than nothing. It implies he’s saying something meaningful when the exact reverse is true.

I don’t know whether Luxon has ever said “Let me be very clear”, but I’d put money on it.


Brendan McNeill said...

This is what happens when politicians have other people write their speeches for them. They lose their own voice and become incapable of speaking with personal conviction.

It’s a shame for Luxon that he has allowed himself to be manipulated like this, to become something less than the person I suspect he really is.

Is there time for him to change? Possibly, but I sense he is a manager who is accustomed to being managed.

Max Ritchie said...

You reckon that’s not the real Luxon? He’s saying that because someone wrote it for hm? Luxon is a classic all things to all men - persons - guy. Stands for nothing. Nats are too scared to stand for anything. Pathetic.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Max

I’m not saying someone wrote that response for him, what I’m saying is that he has delegated his prepared speeches to a ‘speech writer’ and that process has robbed him of his own voice. Consequently when he is interviewed and having to speak in an impromptu situation he lacks the confidence to speak from his heart.

In addition he is still suffering from the delusion that he can win over the media if he appears reasonable and engaging. This unfortunately demonstrates how deeply lost he is.

Instead he needs to find his own voice and speak with heart felt conviction. I hope that’s still possible. We do need an articulate and strong opposition to what is arguably the worst government this nation has had the misfortune to endure.

This should be easy for Luxon, but apparently it’s not.

rouppe said...

Another one is starting a sentence with "look".

As though what they're about to say is self evident.

It's usually a lie.

Eamon Sloan said...

The politician who used the term “frankly” in every second or third sentence was Richard Prebble. Does anyone remember, or want to remember Richard Prebble? The “As I said” tag line is another inane sentence filler. There is also “I’ll tell you what” per Judith Collins. Occasionally it was “You know what”.

Trev1 said...

I doubt very much Luxon has " his own voice". He is a corporate clone. Nevertheless the priority is to remove this vile Labour government which is tearing New Zealand apart.

Trevor Hughes