I understand that in his appearance on Let’s Talk Bermuda last night the Opposition Leader Marc Bean sought to clarify his description of the OBA as a ‘demonic Harry Potter One Bermuda Alliance’.
He also apparently expressed his surprise at the controversy that erupted from his choice of imagery in this description.
From what I’ve heard about his explanation, it largely gels with my own understanding of what he was trying to convey.
In general I understood him as questioning the nature of the OBA as an artificial ‘mechanical’ or manufactured nature of the OBA in contrast to the organic and ‘real’ nature of the PLP – as a political manifestation of a social movement against White supremacist based oligarchism, as an organic expression of the desire for social justice.
This goes to a question of the very legitimacy of the OBA as a ‘real’ political party in the organic sense, versus an artificially manufactured ‘thing’ created solely to trick the electorate and ‘win’ power.
There is a legitimate argument and concern here, one that questions the very legitimacy and long-term viability of the OBA.
I understand that.
Nonetheless, the imagery he chose to express those sentiments was a poor choice, and I hope that he (and by extension the PLP) can learn from this.
The imagery was bound to be controversial.
It was bound to be used to (try and) undermine Mr Bean and the PLP as a viable alternative to the OBA in the eyes of swing voters.
If the PLP wishes to be considered a viable alternative to the OBA – a ‘Government in waiting’ – then it needs to be a bit more careful in terms of crafting its message and understanding how words matter. Words can be misunderstood and ones message twisted until it no longer resembles what one set out to say.
It is true that this will happen no matter what one does, that the core supporters of both parties will always regard the language or argument of the other in the worst possible way, and will seek to distort this in such a way as to confuse the swing voters.
Nonetheless, some language is easier to distort than others, some are more emotionally charged or image-loaded. Sometimes these are required, they serve as ‘killer words’ that break through the defenses and ‘hit home’ when trying to win an argument or the ‘battle of ideas’ (and yes, I am deliberately highlighting some loaded words!).
But sometimes the words can be turned against their speaker.
Mr Bean chose poorly in the imagery he used in his speech. I reckon they were more of a throwaway comment and shorthand description, but they have become the central aspect of it in the collective memory of swing voters and the OBA core.
This was, quite frankly, an open goal. It could have been easily avoided, and the speech could have been a coup for Mr Bean. Instead it has become a source of ridicule and incredulity.
I hope that this will serve as a defining ‘learning moment’ for Mr Bean in particular, and the PLP in general. Too often the PLP has been victim to poor language choices – essentially foot-in-mouth-disease – and this wore away at their credibility and legitimacy over time.
If the PLP can take some more care and consideration in crafting their message, not just for their core audience, but also for the wider audience, and understanding the potential consequences and interpretations of what they say, then it would go a long way to helping rebuild the PLP’s image in the eyes of the wider electorate. They may even win some converts.