Quest for a new kind of leadership: Uncuffing the shackles of spin

Forget the slow food movement – if we really want to fix things in our world, it’s time to embrace the slow talk movement.

Across the country talented and dedicated people are working to build a better future for all Canadians. Whether they’re working to improve the growing income gap, climate change, youth unemployment, public transit expansion or aboriginal rights – their success requires government action.

The question is: Are substantive improvements possible in Canada’s spin driven political culture?

Today, Canada’s political system is dominated by those with a quest for power rather than a desire to serve. Faced with complex issues our political leaders employ diversion tactics, resorting to simplistic sound bites rather than developing and promoting the necessary complex solutions.

As less and less is done on the issues that matter most to Canadians, people are losing faith in the role of government.  Declining voter participation reinforces our current political culture, and the cycle continues, increasing the gap between the needs of our people and communities, and the focus of our governments.

So: What can we do about it?

It’s time for us to stop simply chasing the spin and lead the way to deeper conversations by questioning the sound bites.

As political spin and the art of the sound bite became more sophisticated over the past twenty years, those of us working in the world of social change honed our own skills to keep up. There’s no question it’s been necessary to prevent our issues from disappearing from public discourse altogether, but our success in achieving substantive improvements has been limited.  Sound bites work well if your goal is to discredit or distract – if you’re really good, they work to sell a simplified point of view to an over stretched and limitedly informed populous.

Responding to political spin with our own savvily crafted sound bite isn’t enough.  In fact it encourages the perception that if problems don’t have a simple solution they can’t be solved so it’s best to just not think about it.

If we’re going to succeed in building a better world with a government that is actually responsive to the needs of our people, a critical piece of our work must be to create a public appetite for deeper public policy discussions based in fact and not ideology.

This may seem like an insurmountable task, but really it starts by including a simple question when talking to the press or a gathering or even your friends and neighbours:

Does their simplistic spin really ring true with you?




Filed under Canadian Politics, Communications, Leadership, Social Change

2 responses to “Quest for a new kind of leadership: Uncuffing the shackles of spin

  1. anonymous

    ‘The Medium is the Massage’, as McLuhan said. The old broadcast media is dying and the new media of the internet is taking its place. While the corporation attempts to extend its legitimacy using the old media, its legitimacy is dying. Individuals, and groups of individuals, can now communicate face to face without a corporate or government intermediary (although they can monitor and interfere with communications if they choose to do so, since they control the infrastructure).

    But I think in the long run that the simplistic sound bites and spin of the broadcast media will soon be a thing of the past. Meaningful public policy discussions will take place using, mostly, the new media. These discussions are already happening. Or something like that 🙂

  2. I agree that this is important.
    I wish I could be as sanguine as anonymous about the prospects. Yes, these new discussions are already happening . . . on Twitter. Tommy Douglas save us all.

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