Saturday, September 23, 2023

From spin to bullshit

That’s now two blog post headings with the word ‘bullshit’ in them (see other one)! I’m meaning the technical definition of bullshit which means a corporate rhetoric that creates a positive image regardless of the organisational reality. I think the point to emphasise is that the organisation doesn’t care about the real situation. Instead it has become more concerned with words and rituals which are actually empty. Management speak is supposed to give the impression of expertise, but actually avoids dealing with the real issues. Producing, distributing and consuming bullshit becomes a goal in itself. Rampant bureaucracy creates forms to be filled in, procedures to be followed and standards to be complied with. Managers feel compelled to deal with a problem by bullshitting.

Truthful, accurate and transparent communications are crucial to keeping people properly informed. How an organisation presents and promotes itself can be packaged, which has potentially problematic implications in a democracy. Communication has become a formidable industry in politics and business. Spin has always existed where there are people to be influenced. Something new developed, though, in British politics in the 1990s. "The media, industry, politics, the establishment and the arts conspired to bring us not their constituent parts, but a presentation of what they would like us to think they were" (see Demos article). Presentation seemed to become all and form overcame content. A lack of substance in what was being said and interpretation parading as facts meant that 'spin' eventually became a pejorative term. 

Even though there may have been signs that the spin culture had run its course as people disapproved of spin because it was lacking substance, I'm not convinced we have moved on to a culture in which there is an open and honest debate. Instead there is still too much bullshitting, which is actually worse than mere spin because it is an indication that the organisation doing the bullshitting does not care. I may well post further once I have read André Spicer's Business Bullshit.

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