Today, in the news, reports will be released stating that the July 7th attacks* were not preventable.
That in itself stirs up all sorts of thoughts and feelings, but I don’t want to write about those just now. What I want to talk about is the phrase there “will be released”. The habit people have of saying: “later, I’m going to tell you this”
When I say “people”, I don’t mean ordinary people, of course. It’s something I mostly notice politicians doing, but I presume they were poked into it by their PR people. I’m sure that companies also send out press releases saying “later, we’re going to tell you this“, but when ordinary companies do it it doesn’t make the news.
I’m sure there was a time when people listened with bated breath to, say, the keynote speech at a party conference, waiting together to hear it for the first time. Nowadays, though, it doesn’t happen – the synopsis, or at least the speech itself, is always released beforehand. Nothing is a surprise, because everyone watching already knows what the speaker is going to tell them – it was on that morning’s news. This is, I think, yet another reason why the ordinary public cares less and less about politics.** There’s no real reason to do it, given the speed of modern newsgathering. The only reason it’s done as standard, I suspect, is that most publically-visible politics*** now is just another branch of PR, and putting out a synoptic press release in advance is standard PR practice.
It’ll never happen, but I just wish that for once, a politician would get up on stage, in front of the autocue, and say: “This morning, all the news reports said I was going to tell you X, Y and Z. Well, I’m not. That’s all nonsense, in fact; I just wanted to make sure all the correspondants listen to my speeches properly in future. What I’m actually going to talk about is…” It may never happen, but it would be wonderful if it did.
* “attacks” is such a nice euphemism for “death and destruction caused by psychotically religious madmen”, don’t you think?
** The Budget is one of the last big speeches or reports not to be released to the press in advance – and that may be partly why it’s still the biggest political event of the year.
*** Most consultation and bill-writing goes on discreetly behind the scenes, after all.