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Professional communicators control elections

By Richard Stanton - posted Monday, 2 August 2010


Professional communicators control the present election campaign.

If you’re not paying a professional to set up your strategy, to create your email list, to come up with the promises that you make to your voters, then you’re way behind the curve.

Professional communicators do what American sociologist Leon Mayhew said they do - they exert enormous influence on the public, and the consequent political rationalisation erodes the social organisation of public opinion.

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No wonder Julia Gillard wants a citizens’ assembly to take charge; she must have read Mayhew’s work and knows that the promises she makes can’t possibly be kept.

Mayhew’s last work was his most important.

It was entitled The New Public: Professional Communication and the Means of Social Influence and it explains perfectly how and why professionals have come to control all aspects of the communication process, from politics and elections, to what goods we choose to buy from our supermarkets.

Mayhew reflected on the lost “centre” of society and the consequence that citizens are incapable of understanding its modern complexity due to the work of professional communicators in constantly shifting the ground.

Mayhew was concerned about the serious disconnection that’s developed between politicians, political candidates, and their citizen stakeholders.

He was deeply anxious that the public was unable to comprehend the degree to which it was being influenced and persuaded, but at the same time he wanted to believe that deep down, we knew precisely what was going on.

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The professional communicators most reviled by Mayhew are public relationists, advertisers, and marketers, all representing client-based political communication as consumable product, and seeking immunity from any “redemption of tokens” most often associated with solidarity between client and consumer.

Immunity from the redemption of tokens is a complex way of saying that politicians and candidates don’t have to act on the promises they make.

Mayhew wanted the redemption of rhetorical tokens by and for members of the public to include demands that politicians and candidates provide specific evidence about their promises.

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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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All articles by Richard Stanton

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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