• Congratulations! I understand you’ve decided to go into politics. It can be a lot of fun for your pension, but tedious for your brain and ego. Whereas in the outside world, the truth allows for shades of grey and humility, when you are a politician, you must pretend with every inflection of your tone that your way is always 100% the right way and that your opponents are not only wrong, but embarrassingly so.

    To achieve such focussed confidence in a world of nuance, you must think of yourself as a politician magician. When you see a question you don’t want to answer, your duty is to distract the audience with sleights of language, so that you can replace the question with one you do want to take on. This may sound daunting, but you will not be on stage alone: utilizing the following easy-to-learn techniques from many great prevaricators before you, you too can become your society’s Confuser in Chief.

    1. ELOCUTION, ELOCUTION, ELOCUTION:

    No matter what the question or quandary, never let them see you ponder. Instead, make your body language and tone tell your audience that you are self-assured and party-assured in every subject under your jurisdiction’s sun. Show us that there is no question too big for you by smiling, nodding thoughtfully during the interviewer’s question (use Mmm-hmms if you’re on the radio) as though you think it’s a great question, even if (especially if) you’re about to sidestep it. Stay calm. No matter how wildly you avoid a query, if you sound relaxed as you’re doing it, the less likely it is that your audience will think you’re doing it on purpose. At worst, those nit-wits will just think you misunderstood the question.

    2. NEVER ANSWER A QUESTION YOU DON’T LIKE:

    Now that you’ve got your tone in place, you’re ready to start waffling. The first thing to keep in mind is that the questions your interviewer attacks you with don’t always comport with your campaign slogans. The interviewers are trying to trick you into going off your key messages. Don’t let them manipulate you! Think of their questions as first drafts: your job is to edit their queries into something you’d prefer. For instances:

    A. THE TICKLE AND TANGENT:

    Start by complimenting or humorously acknowledging the question, and then zipping into your talking point. Try this:

    INTERVIEWER: What’s your position on Eco-1000-dusters?

    YOU: That’s a great question, which would have left my opponent in the dust! I, however, keep going back to how we need to provide the aesthetic infrastructure that will improve conditions in the dust fields. My plan…

    See how you’ve acknowledged the question by both complimenting it and showing how your opponent has no answer for it. That tickle was all you needed to prove that you could discuss the subject. No need to join those dusty depths yourself!

    B. THE FLIP AND QUIP:

    When asked a direct question about your plan that would prove daunting for you to handle, remember these simple words, “I’ll tell you what we will do…” of better yet, “I’ll you what we’re not going to do.” The directness of your words hides the indirectness of your answer. Watch this:

    INTERVIEWER: So does that mean you’ll be increasing the fine for tree-eating even though you once said that tree-eaters were getting a bad rap?

    YOU: I tell you what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on police services trying to catch tree eaters. However, the (evil) purple party will.

    or:

    YOU: I tell you what I am going to do. I’m going to plant 1000 more trees a year, especially in parks where children play.

    C. THE HYPOTHETICAL-ANTITHETICAL:

    Hypotheticals can be the best of questions, and they can be the worst of questions. But the neat thing is you only have to answer the ones you like because the “Hypothetical Convention of 1901” states that politicians can always have sanctuary from hypotheticals by simply pointing them out. So, when you hear an “If” or “Would you” contemplation that your party policy can easily handle, great: answer away. If the hypothetical question isn’t so digestible, though, then simply say, “I/we don’t answer hypotheticals” or “I/we don’t deal in hypotheticals.” You see, because the hypothetical convention was signed by all political parties (and hockey coaches, for that matter), it is considered bad form for the interviewer to try to press you on it. If they do, simply re-assert your right to plead the hypothetical convention, then apply the FLIP AND QUIP (see above).

    D. THE POLITICALLY CORRECT MISDIRECT:

    Regardless of what era in history you are reading this, there will always be particular groups that are seen as more in need of consideration than others, and so when you refer to them, you gain points for compassion. And the neat thing is it doesn’t matter whether what you’re doing for that group is actually helpful or ethical: once you have said something in celebration of that group, it’s hard for anyone to criticize you because you can immediately imply that they don’t care about said group if they do.

    So, when questions get tough, point out that your concern for X group (if in doubt, go with children) won’t allow your conscience to consider such a course of action, but… and now get to your talking point, or better yet tell a story about a child you met on the campaign trail who motivated you to do more on this particular issue. This is a segue that’s hard for interviewer to crack, because if they try re-direct you when you’re emotionally describing your concern for children, they can seem callous.

    HINT: To get extra credit for your interaction with such a citizen, include a location that will impress the voters, such as meeting the person on transit, at a firefighter-saving workshop, or a single mom convention.  For instance, “I remember talking to Cindy Lou, a single grandmother of eight, while on the bus to her subsidized housing complex. She doesn’t like my opponent either. She, like me, was concerned about the state of children in our society.”

    E. THE DISTRACTION-REACTION:

    If there is an issue that has on its poles two politically unpalatable positions, try to let your opponents hash out the unwieldy terrain. Be patient. Let them get some good shots in. Then, once they’ve wounded each other with hard-hitting criticisms, refer to their fight as a distraction from a much more important (i.e. less politically contentious) topic. In fact, now would be a good time for a Politically Correct Misdirect (see above). Give it a try:

    OPPONENT 1: We must invest in more arsenic-testing of our soft drinks to save lives.

    OPPONENT 2: Arsenic-poisoning is so rare, but the expense of such testing will cost the economy billions of dollars.

    OPPONENT 1: So you’re saying let people die?

    OPPONENT 2: No, I’m saying don’t let the economy die.

    YOU: This is all a big distraction from the fact that neither of you has a policy that will keep strychnine away baby kangaroos. Today, I met Gilda, a single mother of a baby kangaroo, and she told me that her daughter…

    F. THE COMPLEX AND FLEX:

    Before your interview, review your thesaurus and any complicated statistics that you happen to like. When you’re backed into a corner, bring out the big words and numbers. Most people won’t look them up; and most interviewers won’t want to admit if they don’t understand them, so, if you can confuse them, they will move onto the next question to avoid looking like they can’t keep up with you.

    HINT: If you’re worried the interviewer might be able to follow your train of distraction, combine several big words and numbers and roll them out as quickly as you can to keep even the fastest of minds from following you.

    G. THE RE-DIRECT DEFLECT:

    And, finally, sometimes you’ll be dealing with one of those mean interviewers who will point out that you haven’t answered their question. Do not panic; do not blink. Stay on your re-direct message, and re-assert your irrelevant answer. Most interviewers will move on after one re-try, but if not, then try saying, “I’ve already answered that,” (given that you’ve now been talking about the same question for a while now, most of your audience won’t remember whether you’ve answered it or not), and then help your interviewer escape the stumble in the conversation by segueing into a FLIP AND QUIP (see above).

    If you can master these techniques, you will be a politician, my friend. Remember, politics is not about who has the best plan for your society: it is about who can sound like they do.

    Posted by SethBlog @ 10:57 AM

  • 9 Responses

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    • Tamsen Says:

      nicely done seth! well thought-out points laid out in a humorous manner (and I liked all the rhyming and alliterations on the re-direct types).
      a great read 😀

    • SethBlog Says:

      Thanks Tamsen! I figure, if you can’t provide reason, at least provide rhyme to your communication methodology. 😉

    • Tarrin Says:

      Heh, I love the Distraction-Reaction one. Indeed, this is all a big distraction from the truly valuable work of keeping cyanide out of the nation’s daycare centres.

    • SethBlog Says:

      Thanks Tarrin. Although cyanide in daycare centres is just a distraction from the rampant puppy labour currently imbedded in our economy. 😉

    • Natalie Says:

      This cruelly true post made me think of the 2006 English-language federal election debate, which sticks in my mind as it was one of my first experiences voting in a federal election. During this particular debate, Jack Layton’s answer to almost every question was “This problem/question can be easily solved/answered by voting for your local NDP MP!” Full stop. ‘Nough said! I was watching it with my uni roommie, and we were in stitches and began to count how many times he said this blatant and vacuous sales statement. Had we been more conventional university students, we likely would have made it into a damn-good drinking game. What would you call this type of waffle? The “Used Car Salesman”? That’s what we compared Layton to at the time.

    • Meggles Says:

      Well said! And now the dilemma… can you vote for a politician who doesn’t use these tactics? Seems like if they can’t manage a decent “flip and quip” with ease you have to wonder what they’re really up to. lol

    • SethBlog Says:

      Thank you, Natalie and Meggles.

      Natalie, your story of your nearly-drinking game when watching the nearly-saying-something Jack Layton during that election is very funny (and sad) to me. I remember being shocked at how empty Layton’s public statements were, too. And I was even more shocked to learn that he had a PhD in political science. It’s likely that he was actually a smart guy, but we the electorate are too reticent to nuance to allow him to be the dreaded intellectual (and so he was usually “Jack,” and never “Dr. Layton.”). Thus I think his self dumbing down was both disappointing and understandable: remember what happened to Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff who were more openly academic. Similarly, I think these political tricks of language are reflections of we the electorate’s acceptance of them. Until our population demands more content-heavy arguments from our politicians, that’s what we’ll get.

      Well put, Meggles! Yes, a politician who doesn’t know their way around these ever-present tricks will probably seem suspect to us. Similarly, when a salesperson tells us what’s wrong with a product, I’m sure our eyebrows tend to rise up as we think: “What’s your angle?” 🙂

    • Robin Spano Says:

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. This is awesome.

    • SethBlog Says:

      Thanks Robin! I’ll take that as a compliment. 😉

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