Assertive Transparency

August 3, 2012

I think I have decided that my new pet hate is the word “clear”. It used to be a very useful word, but over the last year or two (longer ? have I been dozing ?) it has been hi-jacked by politicans as one of those devices for avoiding having to insert any actual meaning into a sentence.

“With respect Minister, is it A or is it B ?”

“Look, this is a very important issue, and I am absolutely clear”

“But is it A or …”

“You can’t keep interrupting, because I am clear, and the public recognises we are very clear”.

The blood is boiling because I just heard RBS supremo Stephen Hester doing it on the Today programme.  He was actually performing quite well, at least by the standards of banker bastards, but when it was suggested he could use plainer language, he suddenly up came with the good old defensive wall of clarity.

There are two striking things about this use of “clear”. The first is that it is usually a person – not a subject or a fact or an issue – that is clear. Not “it is clear” but “I am clear”. The second striking thing is that the clarity is not about anything – its just a kind of state of being. Not “It is clear to me that X” but just “I am clear”. The speaker simply asserts their transparency.

Its really an example of a whole class of emotional tricks. If you state your claim to the moral high ground with suitable passion nobody notices that you are not saying anything. Err.. but yes they do. Everybody hates this stuff. It never ceases to puzzle me how politicians are actually pretty hopeless at the snake charmer bit. Why do they not notice it is counter productive ? BTW, I think this is partly why so many people hate Tony Blair. He WAS good at that stuff – much cleverer. We believed him in 1997 and loved having a politician who could speak plainly. So when you eventually realise whats going on, you feel betrayed.

Well. Anyway. So. I hope thats clear.