09 October 2008

sweet blindness*

I came home from work just thinking that I needed to write something, anything, and then Kevin-oh-seven and ten months pops up on 7.30 Report. I listened for about 30 seconds and then went off to do the dishes. I am so over politicians dodging the questions or responding with "Now Kerry, what I need to tell you.." and so on. According to today's Crikey (subscription only and -disclosure - I'm currently on a freebie) it's called conversational blindness:

Rating political performance. I have a new way of putting interest into those
essentially dull and boring presidential television debates since reading the work of two American academics called Conversational Blindness: Answering the Wrong Question the Right Way. What Todd Rogers and Michael I. Norton from Harvard set out to discover is how politicians get away with not answering questions when appearing on television. What happens, they wondered, when people try to "dodge" a question they would rather not answer by answering a different question? They conducted two experiments demonstrated this conversational
blindness - listeners' surprising failure to notice such dodges – and explored the interpersonal consequences of this phenomenon.

They found that listeners viewed successful question-dodgers as positively as speakers who actually answered the question they are asked, but were not blind to all efforts to dodge: They both noticed – and punished – particularly egregious attempts. More troublingly, listeners preferred speakers who answered the wrong question well over those who answered the right question poorly.

I think it is one of those research papers that everyone interested in politics
should read for it helps those of us who hate politicians dodging the hard
questions from getting angry. Instead you can marvel, like I did yesterday, at
the skill with which Barack Obama employs to take advantage of conversational
blindness. That man has to be one of the best ever at sounding great while
saying absolutely nothing.

Well it may pass other people by but it gets right up my throat. On the other hand I had by this time already remarked to Mrs VVB that Red Kez was giving Kevin a much harder time than John (spit) Howard ever got until the dying months of his reign, and maybe it was time for the ABC Board to be purged of its ultra-conservative stackees.

Then I came back from the kitchen sink to hear Kerry asking about housing affordability and whether house prices will come down and the PM got visibly hot under the collar. Now we never saw this in Howard until close to the end so I have to say it wasn't a good look, but on the other hand it accompanied some straighter responses, in more everyday language, than the PM usually seems capable of managing. Even had a "you betcha" in there, he's obviously been into the reporting about Sarah Palin.

He really needs to dumb down the language just a smidgin though, even on the ABC.

So does

Miz Pants's observation hold? Well, it came before Christmas - in fact it's been coming for a while - but I'm not scorned, just a bit disappointed. But not all out of hope.

And of course, you just have to keep remembering the alternative.

And while I'm here, I guess, a couple of observations on the global financial crisis, about to become a global real economy crisis.

First, and I don't think I ever mentioned it here, America's debt overhang with China has been possibly the major structural imbalance that could not be sustained, regardless of any other factors that have contributed to us beingf where we are ("us" being the world, in this case, ie a very broad us).

And second, regardless of coordinated or individual action taken by governments or up-until-very-recently 'independent' central/reserve banks, the actual action is still in the hands of 23 year old screen jockeys with a very narrow mandate for action and absolutely no understanding, or more importantly duty of care, about the wider societal implications of their actions. That is very wrong and that is why we need regulation.

And an end to neoclassical economic responses to absolutely any and every situation, btw :-)

But it's also why jokes like this are so good at this time:

"What's the difference between a Wall Street banker and a pigeon?"

"A pigeon can still leave a deposit on a BMW."

Boom boom. And no BMWs at this year's Sydney Motor Show, where I'll be next week for the annual three amigos reunion.

On a more domestic note, it's raining, Whacko!

(*) Someone called Laura Nyro, it seems.

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