Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Truth and Delusion 

Lest we forget what happens in totalitarian societies, Foreign Affairs has a long article examining the delusions of Saddam Hussein taken directly from interviews and documents found in Iraq after Hussein was toppled. It is clear Hussein had no idea what was happening in his own country, much less the world. No one would tell him the facts of anything because they didn't want to offend him. They knew offending him led to unpleasant outcomes. Hussein, in other words, was no different than any other dictator.

The idea of public relations was and is to circumvent that, to provide a channel to the outside of an organization through which news and facts, both pleasant and unpleasant, reach the leader. It turns out Hussein's top officers and spokespersons were duped themselves about the situation in their own country. They were like a king who resides in his castle and never crosses the moat to look at or listen to the peasants in the countryside just beyond the gates.

Most dictators eventually end in this self-imposed isolation. Only a few use their immense power to benefit others more than themselves.

Hussein had spokespersons. They were political "spinmeisters" for whom rhetorical victory was the measure of success. The Foreign Affairs article is a reminder of what it is that we are supposed to do in PR, and sadly, fail too often to get done.


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