Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Just a PR exercise?

It gets a lot of critisicm, particularly from the pro-war left, but I have to say that I think the Guardian's Comment Is Free really is a marvellous part of the Guardian website. Why? Because for all the ranty, angry arguments and semi-useless columns, if you stick with it you'll eventually find something remarkable there. Sometimes it's an absolutely brilliant article. Sometimes it's a thoughtful and articulate debate. Sometimes it's both, as is the case with the latest article by Daniel Davies.

He starts with a slightly off-putting premise, that what is needed to help inter-race relationships in the UK is a bit of spin. He even goes so far as to offer David Cameron a little faint praise. But from such inauspicious beginnings he spins out a really tremendous argument, which may not be a workable PR strategy or anything, but it's a beautiful illustration of how badly the government and their allies have got it wrong. He hardly puts a foot wrong, and even shows up regularly in the comments boxes, explaining himself, offering clarifications, making jokes and getting on with everyone. In turn, everyone is nice back, and pretty much everyone makes thought-provoking comments. Brilliant. Davies, meanwhile, is delightfully limpid.

"First, get our Muslim population feeling a lot more positive about Britain and its politics. And second, persuade our Muslim population to come out of their ghettoes and integrate more with the rest of British society, in the vague hope that the more they see of us, the more they'll like us.

Straight off, you can see that this is an uphill job. Among the features of this situation that push it into the "tough sell" category are:

a) We currently don't propose to stop killing Muslims overseas. This is a problem because Muslims here rather sympathise with Muslims elsewhere. You might think that they shouldn't but they do.

b) We're asking them to more or less do all the work; there is no practical proposition for encouraging white people to make an effort to integrate with the Muslims.

c) It was us that put them in those ghettoes in the first place.

d) We're asking them to make a number of fairly fundamental changes to the way they live their social and family life. In the long run, the benefits of liberal society ought to sell themselves, but promoting the switchover is bound to be difficult - look at how much time and trouble have gone into digital television, and this is a bigger change.

This is a tough sell. Luckily, we have our best men on the job. Oh sorry, we don't."
Sadly, this is true. We have John Reid.

Brilliant article.

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