Thursday, August 14, 2014

Boombox politics

Politics is a game of possibilities. It's more about what someone might say or is likely to have said, than what they're actually saying. Even more so, it's about what people can say without losing face.

As the ancient saying goes: it is very possible to paint oneself into a corner.

This might all sound fancy and highbrow, but it works like this: a politician can't say that it would be a good idea to slaughter every existing baby seals and burn their baby fat in enormous bonfires. Somewhere between these bonfires and the statement that kittens are cute, there's a boundary between proper and improper. It's all about keeping oneself on the right side of this boundary.

Another limit to what one can say is what has been said before. If your position for a hundred years has been that lowered taxes are the best thing since politics was invented, it's a hard sell to suddenly propose higher taxes. There are expectations to fulfill. Being true to your (public) self is one of them.

Between what is proper to say and what is expected to be said, there's what's possible to say. You gotta be true to your public self, and you gotta avoid slaughtering baby seals.

This range of possibilities is rather limited. It is, to a certain extent, possible to predict what's going to be said, and it takes considerable time to widen the scope of possibilities. Which is good for voters (since they know, to a certain extent, what they can expect), and for the working environment of those doing the communicating (being creative at all times takes its toll, and that cheat sheet works wonders). Continuity is predictability.


This range of possibilities also contains things that one would rather prefer not to say. They conform to what has been said before, they are not about baby seals, but they are uncomfortable. Since they are things one very well might say, and are thus very hard to backpedal. (There's that famous corner again.)

The Yes Men are experts at exploiting these possibilities. They act as if they speak for organizations with reputations of being less than saintly in their actions, and say things that these organizations would never say on their own. But very well could say, and thus cannot easily backpedal from.

Such as when they pretended to be Dow Chemical (of Bhopal chemical spill fame), and proclaimed that the company would provide substantial aid to the hundreds of thousands of people afflicted by the accident. Which was cause for rejoice when the word got out, and cause for anger when the real Dow backpedaled by saying that they were, in fact, not going to provide any aid at all.

Politics is more about what's possible to say, than about what's actually said.

Which takes us to the real subject of this post. The latest, mostest and everest bid from the (Swedish) Moderate party. They pulled no punches and spared no efforts when it came to this one. They went all in, with a big


It's a stroke of genius. They have expanded their range of possibilities enormously. There's almost nothing they can't say after this. All they ever have to do is say


followed by whatever. Whatever the subject, wherever they are, whenever something needs to be said.

But they can't say everything. They will, for example, have a hard time time insisting that they are more fit to rule than the opposition, and that they are the Serious Alternative. Because boom. [The picture says: BOOM! Our opponents will actively seek to sabotage our defensive capabilities if they win. We rule.] And it's hard to backpedal from this, just like it was hard for Dow to backpedal with a rhetorical "eh, guys, we were just kidding."

But. Being a pirate, I cannot but offer to help them along. Thus, you are very likely watching this very large, very inspired picture, which was made possible only because of their boomboxing politics:

Originally published August 14, 2014

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