thumping the tub
Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. (from This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
This is from the BBC programme 'Yes, Prime Minister' and is the best guide I have seen. Print it off and then sit and watch a politician being interviewed. In almost any interview at least one of these ploys will be used and most often several of them will be used.

Eight Ways to Deal With Difficult Questions

1. Attack the Question. - 'That's a very silly question, how can you justify the use of the words "Above the Law"?'

2. Attack the Questioner. - 'How many years have you spent in government?'

3. Compliment the question. - 'that's a very good question. I'd like to thank you for asking me it. Let me reply by asking you one.'

4. Unloading the question. - Most questions are loaded. They are full of assumptions such as 'A lot of people have said that you consider yourself above the law'. There are two possible replies to such loaded questions:
a) Name Ten
b) Surely in a nation of 60 million people you can find a few people who will say anything no matter how irrelevant, misguided, or ill-informed.'

5. Make it all appear an act. - This approach only works for live TV interviews: 'you know, I've come to the conclusion that I don't agree with what you suggested I should answer when you asked me that question downstairs before the programme began. The real answer is...'

6. Use the time factor. - Most interviews are short of time, especially live 'on air' interviews. Reply: 'That's a very interesting question, and there are nine points I should like to make in answer to it.' The Interviewer will say: 'perhaps you could just make two of them, briefly.' You say: 'No its far too important a question to answer superficially, and if I can't answer it properly I'd rather not trivialise it.'

7. Invoke Secrecy. - 'There's a very full answer to that question, but it involves matters that are being discussed in confidence. I'm sure you wouldn't want me to break a confidence. So I'm afraid I can't answer for another week or two.'

8. Take refuge in a long pointless narrative. - If you can ramble on long enough no one will remember the question and therefore no one can tell if you have answered it or not.

All of these are good ways to deal with difficult questions. If you have nothing to say then say nothing. However, better yet is to have something to say and say it, no matter what they ask you. Pay no attention to the question, make your own statement. If they ask you the same question again, you just say 'that's not the question' or 'I think the more important question is this:' then make another statement of your own. Easy-peasy.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 1:00 pm  
  • At 2:30 pm, Blogger Brewski said…

    Michael. You are correct! I have given up entirely on listening to politicos and their 'interviews' or 'speeches'. You outline perfectly the doublespeak and evasion of modern 'politicians'. I despair, to be frank.

  • At 7:25 pm, Blogger mikevotes said…

    In the US, they often use another tactic. If you don't like the question, stall, complicate, pose your own question, and answer that.

    It appears that you're responsive when you're not.

    Rumsfeld is great at this rhetorical approach. An example.

    To answer the question, Are we defeating the insurgents in Iraq?

    Rumsfeld would respond, "Well, that's a very difficult questions. To answer that you really have to look at what metrics you use to measure that. Have arrests gone up? Certainly. How many insurgents have we killed in the last year? 2,000. Have we seized weapons caches? Yes, on an amazing scale.

    Next question."

    See, a series of great soundbites of him appearing to answer questions that weren't asked while not answering the one that was asked.

    Brilliant really.

  • At 9:53 pm, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…

    it is clever but it is galling to here people congratulated on their brilliant performances in parliament or on the tv when that brilliant performance consists of them not telling the people what they are up to

  • At 9:50 am, Blogger ~River~ said…

    HAHA! Useful list, I must say. Not very amusing, really...but (sometimes) one has to laugh!

    Blair with the Pinocchio nose is funny! :D

  • At 2:57 pm, Blogger JOS said…

    #8 seems to be the most common for Scott McClellan, Bush's mouthpiece.

    And the narrative always contains a descritpion of their mutated/perverted form of freedom.

    One of the favorite excuses our soldiers like to use for slaughtering innocents is "freedom isn't free." I fucking hate that line. Their kind of freedom costs a half a trillion dollars a year. Anyway, good post Michael.

  • At 5:02 pm, Blogger justin barker said…

    Very nice. Politicians, using these tools, have turned language into hindrance to communication. They must be stopped!

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Name: michael the tubthumper
Home: Glasgow, Scotland
About Me: Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant. 28 years old, I write and research for a couple of websites and also do my own stuff.
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I have made a few short movies. Here are links to free downloads for them all in the order that I made them (as far as I can remember). Please feel free to use, distribute, disagree with, shout at etc etc

  • Praise The Lord and Pass The Ammunition
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    A list of some other Scottish sites and blogs most of which, if not all, are pro-independence. I don't agree with content on all of them obviously. Some are Scots at home, others abroad.

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