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.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Running alongside the 'Politician Speak Translated' series (parts one, two, three and four) I present the opening installment of 'Party Political Behaviour Explained'. Some of these are specific UK examples but I am sure there will be parallels where you are from. These series are intended to supply a handy guide for anyone powerhungry, greedy or bloodthirsty enough to be considering a career in the mainstream parties at the moment. For the rest of us, I just hope it makes things a bit clearer.

Appointing A Czar/Task Force etc - appointing a czar is a handy way of deflecting bad publicity on a difficult issue. Drugs for example, have been a major problem for years. Appoint a czar and all these problems go away. It's easy - the case of Keith Halliwell is a case in point.

Halliwell was appointed as the UKs Drugs Czar and given a remit to be extremely tough on both users and dealers. For his trouble Halliwell got a more high profile job at higher wages than before and the government got several things. Firstly, any successes could be claimed as government successes as the results came out in police reports and therefore "the new crime policies are working." Secondly any failures can be attributed to the failure of the Czar himself and not the government. And finally, any police excesses, despite the fact that you have encouraged tough policies, can be targeted at individual police forces or crime units and therefore the government also looks liberal and humanitarian. It's a win-win situation. Power without responsibility, perfect!

For a US example see Michael Brown.

The intelligence services have a term for this - a 'kite'. You fly the person out there all alone and then if he gets too hard to hold on to you let him go.

Visiting The Troops - All those liberals and pacifists will hate the leaders anyway but the leaders can at least win some votes from people who don't already hate them. Visiting the troops is a way of looking like you care. Even if they have been sent them halfway across the world on a fools errand or to do something for economic rather than humanitarian gain they still look like they have the interests of everybody at heart if they turn and give the troops a thank you speech.

Official Visits - Official visits are a great chance to improve popularity. After all, it looks important when a couple of world leaders are up on stage together with the world's media in tow. A couple of banal sound bites are usually enough to pacify the media, as they will have some good pictures anyway. Most of the business at these meetings is conducted long beforehand by diplomats anyway. Think of these meetings like a press conference when a sports player is invited to sign his new contract in front of the media.

Attending State Funerals - they aren't really in mourning for whoever has died, state funerals just give leaders a chance to get nattering with other leaders in a time and place where they aren't expected to come home with a trade deal.

Setting Up A Royal Commission (OR PLEASE INSERT LOCAL EQUIVALENT HERE)- A Royal Commission, roughly defined, is a panel made up of 'experts' on a certain topic who study it in depth and then report their findings. It's a useful tool for several reasons.

1. By the time the think tank reports most of the press and public have forgotten about the issue in question anyway.
2. If they don't like them they are not obliged to follow any of the recommendations.
3. Most think tank members are so dull that most of the public automatically switch off when listening to them anyway

ALWAYS MENTIONING CHILDREN - There is a reason why politicians always say things like "For Our Children, And Our Childrens Children." It has also often paid for politicians to use children to get elected by kissing babies etc etc.

The reason for all this is not always understood. People think it is a form of crawling, an attempt to seem like the mother or father of the nation but that is not really it. If a politician suggests that not acceding to a particual policy will damage the future of the electorate's children then they will be hitting the public in the one area where they don't want to take chances and framing their political opponents as 'anti-children' (I know it is an absurd phrase but I have seen it used in the Daily Mail).

UPDATE - make a point of downloading and watching this little satire about some of what I am saying above. It is a UK thing but again, I think the same sort of points apply.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 1:47 pm  
  • At 6:15 pm, Blogger Quixotematic said…

    Actually, the baby-kissing thing has its roots deep in primate evolutionary psychology. Chimpanzee alpha-males do exactly the same thing to garner the all important goodwill of the troop's females before making a bid for the top spot.

    Another great example is hand kissing which can be clearly seen in both chimp documentaries and footage of people meeting the Pope.

  • At 6:34 pm, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…

    perhaps, but speech-making is different.

    it makes it very difficult for someone to argue against something when the 'if we don't do this our children will be harmed' line - even if it isn't true

  • At 7:03 pm, Blogger Chewy said…

    Politicians love to hind behind children, flags, and bibles.

    What else would they use to make them look good. A real agenda?

  • At 7:04 pm, Blogger Chewy said…

    Wait.... I meant to say: Aaaa guhaaaa aaaaa uhaa aar rrrrnnn uhnnnn nnn uhnhh. aaaaa aaaa aaaa aaaaarrn nnhhhh, hurrnhhhh. UUUHHHGGG-rrrr!

  • At 7:32 pm, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…

    fair point chewy.


  • At 3:12 am, Blogger Lew Scannon said…

    I like the part about the commissions. Over here they set and them up and tell them what they will find before they start, kind of making the whole commission a moot point before it even starts.

  • At 9:13 am, Blogger GraemeAnfinson said…

    What about pointing a thumb for emphasis? It really highlights a point.

  • At 10:25 am, Blogger Neil Shakespeare said…

    I've always been puzzled about the use of this 'Czar' term in this day and age. Didn't we get rid of 'Czars' years ago? 'Czar' is just short for 'Caesar', right? And that's a 'dicatatorship', right? And we're supposed to be a 'democracy', right? Now we have Czars for everything, above the law and responsible for nothing.

  • At 11:00 am, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…

    graeme, i prefer thumping a tub for emphasis

    lew - over here they set up them in such a way that they don't even need to tell them what to find. its called the honours system. you just give the job to the ones most wanting to be made a lord or 'sir' something or other and you have got it made.

    neil - terrible joke but yes, its bi-czar

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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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Thumping The Tub Video

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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
  • This was a REAL song from World War 2. I was so stunned by it I had to make a movie

  • How Far Is It From Here to Nuremberg
  • This is my attempt at a video for the excellent, if worrying, David Rovics (see links) song

  • What You Like
  • I believe the word for this is "splenetic". Only 20 seconds long.

  • Imperial Measures
  • What is going on in Iraq? Some things you knew, some you didn't. A couple of bits of info are out of date now.

  • Wish You Were Here
  • Wish You Were Here is a 6 minute film about the unprecendted rate of animal extinction we are currently experiencing

  • Gorillas and us
  • I don't like creationism, neither did Douglas Adams

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    some of the blogs I look at
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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.

  • The Scottish Patient
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