Why I hate Communications

Not that anybody cares, of course, but for personal reasons I find myself in the need of explaining how comes I have now such a deep animosity towards the industry where I earned my living (quite generously, I must admit) for about 20 years, that is Communications.

We have become a culture that relies increasingly on the written word: the explosion of digital channels of communications has brought about countless improvements to the humane society, but it also the possibility of representations so detailed to be “almost as good” as the real thing.

This is only going to get worse, with the maturing of technologies which have been in the “almost ready” limbo for decades, such as Augmented / Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence.

We have perhaps come full circle back to the ancient times where he who names something, has power over it:

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. (Genesis 2:19)

We have two great examples right in front of us.

“Fake News”

Since when we decided to stop using the word “lie”? Since perhaps when the prominent users and distributors of lies decided that calling them “fake news” made them slightly less conspicuous. In every language of the world s/he who tells lies is identified by a short and unmistakable appellative:

  • liar
  • bugiardo
  • menteur
  • mentiroso
  • Lügner
  • лжец (lzhets)
  • (kadhaab) كذاب

in none of these languages, this term has a connotation other than 100% negative. But when you start calling them “fake news” for one thing you lose the substantive: how are you going to call a politician who spreads fake news? “Fakenewsman”? No, it’s so awkward that you simply stop using the substantive, with the result that the blame, the negativity moves from the liar to the lies, as if they had invented themselves, and the politician is merely guilty of not having checked more thoroughly.

“Technical recession”

A few days ago, the Italian Statistics Institute reported that the GDP for Italy had dropped for the second consecutive quarter. Not a big drop, mind you, but enough to trigger the technical definition of a recession.

No Government in the world likes for the economy it oversees to drop into recession, much less so when it bombastically predicted an economic boom days before, but there you go.

Now the media are going to report on it mercilessly using the dreaded R-word, so what do you do?

You steal the thunder, announcing it one day before it gets officially reported, but you use the term “technical recession”, apparently evoking the nature of the technical definition, but in reality to make it look less bad than it is. A technical recession is NOT a real recession, is it? Because if it was, why call it “technical” in the first place?

Execution

If you execute right, these strategies work only too well, and in fact in both cases the media went for them hook, line and sinker: the word “lie” disappeared from global headlines and the adjective “technical” is now inseparable from the word “recession”.

For now, the latter is in Italy only, but I am sure there are foreign economic journalists  who are scratching their heads over what the difference between a technical and a real recession might be.

What does it have to do with me?

Nothing.

It’s just that I have been in this game when it was relatively innocuous: I have called civilian casualties “collateral damages”; I have called deadly diseases “side effects”; I have called layoffs “restructurings”.

I have witnessed the good power of communications (for example when the Italian Communist Party in talking about Red Brigades terrorists switched from “comrades who went too far” to “enemies of the people”) but I also have witnessed and practiced the evil power of Communications and simply decided this is not for me.

Not anymore.

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