Friday, April 9, 2010

Obama communications policy overlooks the bigger problem

This week Obama let it be known that he had actually drawn up a hit-list that includes an American citizen.  In the media the anouncement was met with yawns. Many Obama supporters -- including many former Bush opponents -- are not terribly concerned about this development.

Later in the week, Americans learned that their president was acting like a true liberal on the political correctness front:
The document that the Obama administration is consulting for drafting the new strategy — “A Guide for Counter-Terrorism Communication” — urges US officials to “avoid labeling everything ‘Muslim.’ It reinforces the ‘US vs. Islam’ framework that Al Qaeda promotes.” It reminds US officials that “a large percentage of the world’s population subscribes to this religion” and “unintentionally alienating them is not a judicious move.”
To some on the left, this will sound like the "change" they had been waiting for.  Right-wingers will vent.   Personally, I think updating any Bush era guidelines to reflect greater cultural sensitivity is basic common sense.   But in the scheme of things, within the context of events these past two weeks -- for example, word that a US civil rights group could be prosecuted for investigating torture, "drill baby, drill!" as Obama policy, the war crime video cover-up  -- it's important to put such an announcement in perspective.  And call it what it is, politically speaking.

This initiative hints at a more profound communications crisis.  It concerns an issue that the new guide will do absolutely nothing to address -- and just may exacerbate.  The summary to this mark-up of a synopsis of the new Obama communications policy -- though tongue and cheek -- makes the case succinctly:
...the government will retain ample linguistic latitude to frighten Americans, it's just that officials will no longer be quite so culturally insensitive in their choice of words.

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