Friday, 27 July 2012
The Offensive Politics of Deniability
You probably heard the shockingly racist statement earlier this week made by an adviser to Mitt Romney during a discussion with editors at The Telegraph in London:
”...one [adviser], [reports The Telegraph], suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.”
“'We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,' the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: 'The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have'”.
Certainly you understand how this works: Mr. Romney cannot say anything so blatantly racist without becoming the target of a crushing smackdown. But the campaign wants to reaffirm its bona fides with voters who hate having a black person as president.
So a campaign adviser (anonymous) is sent out to the press tasked with attributing the statement to his/her boss knowing in advance that later, another will deny the statement, as The Guardian then reported:
”Romney's press secretary, Andrea Saul, said they did not represent his views.
"'It's not true. If anyone said that, they weren't reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign,' she told CBS, which said Saul did not comment on what specifically was not true in the remarks.”
Everyone – advisor, press, spokesperson – played their parts perfectly (including Mr. Romney's apparent non-involvement) and it worked even better than usual for being well-timed: it took place offshore during the run-up to a world event so that the attack's shelf-life is shorter than it would be at another time at home without the Olympics hullabaloo sucking up broadcast time.
So, mission accomplished: The hate voters are reassured and it didn't even need to be in code or a dog whistle - just good, old-fashioned, explicit racism without Mr. Romney sullying his elite coattails.
Unless you know how deniability works out there in campaign-land.
I'm pretty sure anyone reading this blog didn't just fall off the turnip truck. But do you think voters of any age actually accept denials like this? That anyone believes a candidate's adviser “mis-spoke,” during a discussion with one of the major newspapers of the world, on something as offensive as racism? That Mr. Romney does not know about this tactic?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Knock Wood