Saturday, January 5, 2013

Nothing Wrong That a Little PR Can't Fix

When Sarkozy was president, PR was a regalian function. Not that it did him much good. The coup de comm' is a dangerous weapon: the more often it is wielded, the more tempting it becomes for commentators to read every act of governance as a symbolic strike in the war of communications. Everything solid melts into air. Political action must be deciphered as ironic narrative.

François Hollande has apparently decided that his PR operation needs shoring up, so he has brought in Claude Sérillon, a newsman who anchored a prime time broadcast in the '80s, to advise him on such matters. We'll see what changes this brings. The problem is that Hollande's initial coup de comm' was to characterize himself as a president who would favor substance over framing, the long game over winning the news cycle, and a vision of governance as a collective rather than an individual effort. Perhaps Sérillon can find a way to dramatize these values, but their appeal lies precisely in their being undramatic, even anti-dramatic, but ultimately more effective than cheap histrionics. No doubt Hollande is disappointed that what he takes to be his quiet virtues have not been sufficiently recognized, but can he enhance their appeal by selling them a little more vociferously?