Guest Blog: ‘to trumplicate’

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“I am inventing a verb, to trumplicate, from which the noun is trumplication and the adjective trumplicated.

The definition of trumplicate is to disguise untruth by complicating what is essentially straightforward, so that most people are misled; a practice frequently used to defend the indefensible without actually lying outright.

An example of trumplication is the excuse given by President Trump (the eponymous founder of the technique) for restricting access to the United States from seven countries who happen to have Muslim majority populations, in order to convince people that this is not a Muslim ban.

Here is what the Trumplicator said: ‘The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.’

So the intended trumplicity is to give an impression that the policy is soundly based on president set by the previous precedent. (Trumplifiers often confuse their words, as the Great Trumplicator has been known to do on twitter, for example inventing the apt mis-spelling ‘unpresidented’. Mr Trump’s actions are already way into ‘unpresidented’ territory.)

If it was OK for Obama, why are so many soggy liberals marching up and down? This is the underlying question, intended to confuse and create doubt.

The point of trumplication is not to persuade elites, like the bosses of Apple, Google and Coca-Cola, who are so distant from real people’s lives as to be critical of restrictions on the seven coincidentally Moslem-majority countries: the target is those real people.

It works. My wife came home from her pilates class saying that people there were saying – but didn’t Obama select these seven countries? I don’t suppose they went home and found a reliably old-fashioned media outlet for an accurate account.

Here is what AP Fact Check (Associated Press) says about the above quote from the Great Trumplicator:

‘That is misleading. The Republican-led Congress in 2015 voted to require visas and additional security checks for foreign citizens who normally wouldn’t need visas — such as those from Britain — if they had visited the seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. This was included in a large spending bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by Obama.

As the law was enacted, the Obama administration announced that journalists, aid workers and others who travelled to the listed countries for official work could apply for exemptions. There were no special U.S. travel restrictions on citizens of those seven countries.’

So there was no Obama ban on those seven countries, but only an extra layer of checks. This demonstrates how trumplication is not the same as lying – it is true that President Obama was party to a decision involving these countries, in a very specific and limited way, unlike the unspecific, unlimited way in which entire populations are now subject to blanket restrictions. A carefully calibrated measure of caution is not the same thing as wholesale and arbitrary actions. Trump campaigned on banning Muslims and is delivering: it’s as straightforward as that. A lie is easy to spot, but unravelling a trumplication needs a little effort (as in Jan Masaryk’s saying about the truth being a chore – see last blog)

This piece of trumplication has also had some effect on elites. The Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker, has instructed his reporters not to use the term Muslim-majority because it is ‘very loaded’. It is also very factual.”

From ‘Word for Word‘, by John Williams. Read more here.

John was director of communications and press secretary at the Foreign Office for six years. Working for Robin Cook, Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett, he was the chief media advisor to the Foreign Office on every major international event since the Kosovo conflict, and was heavily involved in the negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme. He was also political correspondent of the London Evening Standard, and political editor and columnist for the Daily Mirror, in a journalistic career that spanned 25 years.

John is also author of IndieBooks’ ‘Robin Cook: Power and Principles’ and ‘Williams on Public Diplomacy’.

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Guest Blog: John Williams

If current events have left you at a bit of a loss for words, we can recommend one of our own in-house political experts to help make sense of it all. John Williams, author of IndieBooks’ ‘Robin Cook: Power and Principles’ and ‘Williams on Public Diplomacy’, has started his own blog, and there are some tasters below.

John was director of communications and press secretary at the Foreign Office for six years. Working for Robin Cook, Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett, he was the chief media advisor to the Foreign Office on every major international event since the Kosovo conflict, and was heavily involved in the negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme. He was also political correspondent of the London Evening Standard, and political editor and columnist for the Daily Mirror, in a journalistic career that spanned 25 years.

President of the Parallel Universe

‘The reality is even more shocking than the expectation. Within days of becoming President, Donald Trump has made all predictions lame by comparison with the daily spectacle of leader and his spokespeople telling aggressive untruths.

Falsehoods have been re-branded ‘alternative facts’, by Kellyanne Conway, who glories in the title Counselor to the President, while defending the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, for insisting that the Inauguration had been the most well-attended ever.

This is a parallel universe in which the President is always right, the truth is whatever he says. [‘House Science Committee chairman: Americans should get news from Trump, not media‘]. This will be the strategy when things start to go wrong. The objective is to make all evidence suspect if it counters what the President tells his supporters to believe.

As George Orwell put it in describing the one-party state in his 1984: ‘The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command…’

I wish I were confident that the President and his spokespeople will fail, but there are millions of voters who see no alternative and hear no alternative, to the leader’s truth. This is a sinister political correctness – only the leader can be right.

I saw a quote somewhere this morning from Jan Masaryk, a great Czech opponent of tyranny: ‘The truth prevails, but it’s a chore’.’ Read more…

Fact and Fiction in the Post Trump era

‘Donald Trump has changed the rules of politics and challenged the whole basis of strategic communication, with his disregard for facts and evidence. Trump is not the first politician to succeed by getting away with some distortion, but he has put blatant falsehood at the centre of his strategy for capturing the most important democratic position in the world. So it is no longer possible to say that strategic communication – in politics – has to respect facts and reject knowing falsehood, or pay the price in defeat.

It is the speed of social media that has made the Trump technique possible, of instantly setting the agenda by bewildering opponents and reducing old-fashioned fact-based journalism to flat-footed irrelevance.

The paradox of social media is that its miraculous potential for free speech and open minds has given strength to narrow minds and hatefulness. Some social media outlets regard facts as whatever you want to believe. False or distorted news echoes round them, and the more people react, like them, post angry comments about them, the more their readers believe this is the truth because the volume the internet traffic gives falsehoods the credibility of quantity. The sheer quantity of this internet traffic seems to its consumers to be a validation of what they are reading.’ Read more…

 

Robin’s resignation & the Chilcot report

It’s hard to find media coverage of today’s publication of the Chilcot report that doesn’t reference Robin Cook’s memorable resignation in 2003, due to his opposition to military action in Iraq – reportedly the first speech to ever receive a standing ovation in the House of Commons.

The findings of the Chilcot Enquiry, today, 13 years on, vindicate his decision.

His speech forms the epilogue to “Robin Cook: Principles and Power”, by John Williams – who as Press Secretary was at Robin’s side during a turbulent three years as Foreign Secretary. John also reflects on what today’s politicians – and voters – can learn from Robin Cook: a man who understood the realities of power but also remained true to his principles.

 

 

Robin and the Referendum

Today’s guest blog comes from John Williams, author of ‘Robin Cook: Principles and Power’ and ‘Williams on Public Diplomacy’, and press secretary during Robin Cook’s three dramatic and turbulent years as Foreign Secretary.

Robin Cook’s early death robbed British politics of one of its most distinctive and principled stars and, ten years on, his struggle to reconcile those principles with the realities of power remains as relevant as ever. John reflects on what today’s politicians – and voters – can learn from Robin Cook: a man who believed that, despite everything, politics can still be a force for good.

The referendum would have gone the other way had the champions of Britain in Europe spoken with hope and confidence for their case, rather than with fear and no confidence in the public’s intelligence. Nobody has dared be positive about Europe for a very long time.

Imagine if the case for Europe had been put like this:

‘It is a delusion to imagine that Britain is stronger if it is isolated. The best way to project British values and British interests is by doing so in partnership with those who share our values: democracy, human rights, justice and freedom….’

Or:

‘We are at the same time patriotic and pro-European…..:The fact is that the national identities, cultures and traditions of the democratic nations of Europe are too strong to be subsumed. The EU is unique in world history. No other nations have done so much to pool their strength in the common interest while retaining the sovereignty and identity that make them distinct and diverse.’

Robin Cook used a narrative of British confidence in Europe to win an earlier argument about our place in the EU, when he was Foreign Secretary negotiating the entry of Eastern Europe into the Union in 2000. Then, as now, the debate was framed by the Eurosceptic mythology about a superstate. The difference was that then the anti-EU case was all about fear, the pro-EU case based on hope: a stronger Britain in a wider Europe. Now, in the 2016 referendum, the Remain campaign dared not put its faith in its own case. Remainers destroyed their credibility by scaremongering.

I doubt that any of them troubled to look up Robin’s speeches and articles to see how the argument can be won. George Osborne is an unlikely disciple. We can be sure that Jeremy Corbyn didn’t consult the Cook legacy.

The current Labour Party (is it post New Labour or pre-modern Labour?) is struggling to find a way of talking about immigration. How about this?

‘Legitimate immigration is the necessary and unavoidable result of economic success, which generates a demand for labour faster than can be met by the birth-rate of a modern developed country. Every country needs firm but fair immigration laws. There is no more evil business than trafficking in human beings and nothing corrodes social cohesion worse than a furtive underground of illegal migrants beyond legal protection against exploitation. But we must also create an open and inclusive society that welcomes incomers for their contribution to our growth and prosperity.’

That comes from a speech famous – at the time – for Robin describing chicken tikka masala as ‘a true British national dish’.

Open-minded, positive, internationalist, hopeful for Britain’s future, confident in our country… Not a bad strategy for our time, should Labour be looking for one.’

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Brilliant Review of Robin Cook in New Statesman

Robin CookThere’s a great review of Robin Cook: Principles and Power in the New Statesman, which is also the hook for some thoughtful and non-partisan reflections on the current state of Labour after Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. It’s by David Clark, who worked closely with Robin for many years. The title of the article (“Ten Years On, Labour Misses Robin Cook More than Ever”) feels spot on. You can read the full article here.

Robin Cook: Principles and Power now shipping

2015-07-25 08.56.41Although the formal publication date is next week, we’ve started shipping orders placed directly through the IndieBooks website.

We’ll be continuing our free postage promotion through August so you can order knowing we’re matching the cost of buying through a certain online shop we won’t mention.

( We also have a few signed copies so if you want one of those just add a note in the shipping section at the checkout and, if we still have any left, we’ll send you one at no extra cost. )

Robin Cook: Guest Blog by John Williams

John_Williams_140x140-2When I first sat in the House of Commons gallery as a reporter (in 1985 – appallingly long ago) I wondered, looking down, who among the hundreds of faces below might become the big figures. As it turned out, there were three future Prime Ministers below: John Major, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown. David Cameron was still at school. I won’t claim to have spotted any of them in a House dominated by Margaret Thatcher.

But being Prime Minister isn’t the only way to fill a career with purpose. Robin Cook was over the next few years to become the most feared and admired debater in the Commons. That would have been a career worth having, as a parliamentarian who symbolised the individual holding power to account through the brilliance of his critical mind and razor eloquence. If parliament had such a symbol now, politics might not be held in such low regard. Robin Cook at his finest reached an audience outside the political class, and gave some people a feeling that there was worth in the noise and ritual of the Commons.

_46154947_-12While writing Robin Cook: Principles and Power, I looked up and read his response to the Scott Inquiry into arms sales to Iraq in Hansard. Surprisingly, it was as good as I remembered when watching from the press gallery, as he dismantled the government’s defences.

But for about his time as Foreign Secretary, from 1998 to 2001, I didn’t need to rely on hindsight because I had my contemporary notes, written while working as Robin Cook’s press secretary. For example: ‘We acknowledged that Robin was toying with a course of action that could quickly finish him, but we both knew he was right on the edge.’

This was early 1999, when the Foreign Secretary’s promise – and promises – ran painfully into the reality of politics as a series of cock-ups compounded by misjudged responses: another complicated issue which went by the name of the Sandline controversy (arms to Sierra Leone, this time).

Or later that year: ‘When we spoke at 2pm or so on Saturday, he accepted that we were in a hole. He said that if he couldn’t talk Blair round, he didn’t know what he was going to do…. I think it might have to be a resignation issue.’

This one was a problem of arms to Indonesia.

At such moments, it seemed possible that Robin Cook’s career might be ending messily, and would be seen as a failure. But he had the skill and resilience to survive. Writing about that struggle, I have been at the same time re-living life forwards, through my contemporary notes; and understanding life backwards, seeing Robin’s difficulties as smaller than they seemed, because now I know that he came through.

There is a risk in understanding a life backwards of seeing it all as a path taken inevitably towards the known conclusion. Now that we know how high Robin Cook stands as one of the few politicians to resign from Cabinet on principle, there is a temptation to see all his difficulties as early rounds in a wrestling match with his political conscience, inevitably leading to resignation over Iraq in 2003. Some of those struggles were over nothing more than ‘squalid nuisances’ (Sandline) though some (Indonesia) might have been worthy of the principled resignation that – we didn’t know – lay in Robin’s future.

Robin Cook

Robin CookIt’s been an odd experience to be finalising ‘Robin Cook: Principles and Power’ against the backdrop of the Labour leadership election. Whether it’s Europe, or multiculturalism, or the situation in Syria, we keep thinking ‘what would Robin have said?’, or found passages in the text that resonated powerfully on these contemporary issues.

But we’ve avoided the temptation to speculate on who Robin, one of the great Labour leaders of the previous generation, would have supported this time round (or, had he lived, whether he might have become leader himself after Blair, or Brown – and whether history might then have been very different…).

Hopefully this hasn’t distracted our designers and proof-readers. We’re really pleased with the cover – when we came across this image we knew it was just right, and only needed a plain title (in Helvetica, with a hint of New Labour) to round it off.

Available for pre-order from 1 July, and published on 6 August.