Saturday, November 15, 2003

Ministry of Truth

This week, a series of strong assertions by British Ministers. These strong assertions can all be seen as exercises in the Politics of Truth.

1. British Health Minister John Reid asserts that sex selection will be permitted only on "compelling medical grounds"
see my notes on bioethics

2. British Home Secretary David Blunkett asserts that biometrics are 100% reliable as a method of identification.

see my notes on biometrics

3. British Minister for Children Margaret Hodge asserts that a certain individual associated with criticism of her performance in a previous role is "extremely disturbed". Many years previously he had been a victim of child abuse when living in a children's home for which she had had overall responsibility. (Life imitates art: the book in which Harry Potter was characterized as "extremely disturbed" by the spin doctors at the Ministry of Magic was published in June 2003.)

This appears to be an attempt to follow the "Prince Charles" method of News Management, when he denied some allegations that had been circulating on the Internet. If you had searched for either the Prince Charles story or the Margaret Hodge story, you would have been presented with a lot of news items reporting the denial and discrediting the source - before you got to the allegation itself. This creates a different context for the allegation, and many people will read the allegation differently as a result. See Google and Spin, Google and Spin 2.

But unlike the prince, Madame Fudge has since apologized [BBC News, 14th November 2003], thus undermining her clumsy attempt at News Management. Searches for the Margaret Hodge allegations are now dominated by right-wing criticism, of which the most moderate is probably Melanie Phillips calling her the Minister for Child Betrayal [Daily Mail, 12th November 2003].

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