Language can be a lot like the Leaving Cert Geography lifecycle of a river. Words start out vibrant and energising; soon they’re meandering along corporate corridors and through bankers’ boardrooms only to slow to a crawl in the mouths of politicians.
Around 2006 the word granularity came into the military lexicon. General David Petraeus, while discussing the situation then in Iraq, told the Armed Services Committee that “it is hard at this distance…to get the real granularity of what’s going on”.
Two years later, as Irish Banks were preparing to close their doors, I was listening to a Chief Strategist explaining the “granularity of the crisis”.
Sometime around 2013, I saw a tweet from a Fine Gael TD in response to the (even back then) housing crisis saying those calling for immediate action “needed to familiarise themselves with the granularity of the situation”.
Granularity, like so many once militarily sexy words, had passed from the mouth of a 4 Star General to the tweet of a free market apologist.
Granularity used to mean the finer details, in political speak it was used as smug way of trying to sound clever. The granularity of the word had been ground away.
It is waffle like this that results in the Taoiseach appointing his own Strategic Communications Unit.
This “good news” department, as it has been dubbed, is to help the Taoiseach effectively communicate (dare I say propagandise) the workings and achievements of his government.
It is telling that the rank and file members of Fine Gael aren’t uncomfortable with this new development. No one is questioning the value of the unit, nor the cost to the state.
When members of Sinn Féin similarly stay on message they are routinely called a cult. When Fine Gael do it, crickets…
Nor does the language devolution stop with the politicians.
In his weekly address the Taoiseach, first patting himself on the back for “taking more people out of homelessness this year than any year in the past”, then said the problem was that “more people BECOME homeless every week”. It’s as if these people simply decided to get up, leave their homes and start camping in the Phoenix Park.
People don’t become homeless; they are MADE homeless.
Imagine my disappointment then when the media then went on to parrot the “people become homeless” line. Across the airwaves our inability to address this national shame was sanitised away with the lie of the ‘accidental’ inference of a simple word like BECOME.
There are 14,367 Buy to Let Mortgages in arrears of over 720 days, these homes contain rent paying tenants who risk losing their homes through no fault of their own. The vulture funds are closing in for the kill on these loans and these families will be MADE homeless.
I’m not sure how the “good news” unit will spin this, but one thing is for certain, another housing summit is not the answer.We’ll have had three emergency housing summits since 2014, one more and we get the 5th one for free.
The Taoiseach has said that he “believes communication is a virtue”. It is not. It is simply an exchange of information. Virtues are things like honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. There’s no virtue if the information you are exchanging is dishonest, unbelievable and untrustworthy.
The “good news” unit isn’t about virtues. It’s about putting a verbiage plaster on an open wound.
When you really get down to the finer details (the granularity), the purpose of the “good new” unit is to give the appearance of substance to plans made on foundations of sand and worn out words.
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld