Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dealing with Controversy: dodging the bullets, if there are any

We live in a culture of controversy, the media shout out at us: Obamacare, School Reform, Global Warming. But are they real controversies, or just ploys to keep us focussed on advertising?

Three things make for a controversy:
1. Those who control resources, powerholders, perceive what they take to be a threat;
2. The powerholders disagree what to do about it; and
3. Publicity
The obvious way to “handle” a controversy is to squelch the publicity, hush things up. This doesn’t handle the threat but it keeps those who “have nothing to contribute” from putting in their two cents.

It also prevents non-powerholders, who may also be threatened, from realizing it and getting involved. (After all, there is always TV for distraction!) This is why hushing things up – in this Home of the Brave and Land of the Free – is so common a practice. Just think of the fuss raised by WikiLeaks – Do you really believe that everything a government agency marks as “classified” deals with a threat to national security?

A second method for dealing with controversy is to convince power-holders that what they perceive as a threat, is not “really” a threat to them or their interests. This explains why many of our legislators show less interest in promoting legislation dealing with unemployment than opposing legislation raising taxes to extend unemployment benefits.

Then, of course, there is actually dealing with the threat. But this takes skill, time, energy and money. It upsets people. So many of them go back to alternative one and practice it on themselves: they hush up their own misgivings and hope for the best.

To examine these issues further, see Controversy Analysis Worksheet

--- EGR

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