You will be accountable, but we won’t.

By Alexander Corne

Accountability almost appears to have become a dirty word in both government and within the ballooning public servant ranks.

Witness that in Victoria, triggering a death toll three times that of the road toll doesn’t stimulate real apology, or even an acceptance of responsibility, by anyone.

Yet, we, the citizens, are constantly bombarded by ‘public safety’ messages from government, reminding us of our ‘responsibilities and the fact that we need to be constantly monitored to ensure compliance with many and various rules. Funnily enough, no such campaigns trumpet the need for political accountability.

Catching you before someone gets hurt,” the TAC billboard sternly threatens.

Seriously, how mind-bogglingly arrogant are these desk-driving wonks?

And why is the focus solely on road-related deaths?

Are the police and heroic emergency services personnel not also sick of scraping suicide victims off the roadway, or attending yet another distressing domestic violence scene.

Funny how you never see billboards accusing the populace in general of being inherently suicidal or intrinsically natured to beat the living daylights out of their family members. Although, in the latter case, some of the ‘public awareness’ campaigns have got perilously close to demonising all members of one gender.

Of course, it may have something to do with the measurability and predictability of vehicle-related offending.

Some bright spark created a notional maximum speed for each stretch of road and another sparkie ordered a speed measuring device, and, given that you need a driving license and are allowed a randomly determined 12 points leeway before being drummed off the road, it’s quite simple and profitable to allocate points and issue fines to those breaking the road rules.

It’s not so simple with more complex areas of personal and public behaviour.

For example, thus far, the protectors of the public haven’t tumbled to the concept of modifying the marriage license for regular Joes and Jolenes so that it comes with a built-in demerit system. But just imagine if they did …

Say you get another 12 points system. A few bitchy words in the morning would be worth a single demerit point and $50 fine. A slap is three points and $150, and so forth, right up to injury occasioning death being 12 points with an immediate loss of license and, deservedly, an extremely lengthy term of imprisonment.

This is not meant in any way to trivialise the scourge of domestic violence, which is abhorrent in all its forms, but to illustrate how problematic it is to apply broad brush, penalty driven ‘solutions’ to serious community issues.  The frightening bit is that in 2021, with the increase of data gathering and routine surveillance, it would not require too much of an extension of government intrusion into daily life to make such a ludicrous proposition a reality.

Remember the CovidSafe App? No. Me neither, but there’s already a SmartSafe+ app that helps victims of domestic violence, so with a bit of tweaking and integration with a smart watch…

Such punitive approaches are far easier to sell to the masses than the much more difficult and longer-term educational, and structural issues that need to be dealt with. After all, if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear. Right?

So, we citizens are expected to be responsible and held to account, even continually monitored, for fear we let our base nature loose.

Imagine if the populace were to hold politicians to a similar level of account?

When you arise to the lofty levels of government, perhaps you deserve a license along with a 12-point demerit system? Inappropriate contact with interns is worth a single demerit point and a reduction in your re-election budget, an on-going office affair earns three points, while actual sexual assault gets you six to 12 demerit points.

Naturally, being merely accused of some heinous sexual activity, many decades before, while a teenage pratt and under the influence of alcohol, is a 12-point hanging offence, leading immediately to a lifetime ban from civil society.

And if so, what of ‘forgetting’ or being ‘not aware’ of vital information that leads to catastrophic outcomes. What punishment awaits those who can’t recall who instituted policies that lead to the death of 800 innocents?

Oh yeah, that’s pointless.

Because the deaths of 800 persons, in one state, in the course of one year, three to four times the State’s road toll, is not worthy of any state government action. No TV campaigns. No billboards. No demerit points. No accountability required at all.

Funny that. Not.

Business does not enjoy such immunity. Have a quick look at Victoria’s new Industrial Manslaughter laws, which, as it happens, came into force on 1 July 2020 (timing is everything).

Perhaps if politicians applied the same standard they expect of businesses to themselves we might see a return to a greater sense of accountability of our ruling classes and, dare I say, see them leading by example. Maybe that could reduce the need for the constant behavioural lecturing of the populace? One should not hold one’s breath.

From a business standpoint the responsibility is all yours. What’s more, given the level of formal and informal monitoring of everything your business says and does, you had better believe you will be held accountable.  Being seen to be responsible and accountable is now an essential part of sustaining any business of even moderate size. Our political masters may shirk that responsibility, for now, but business can ill afford to.

RMK+A is experienced in developing and implementing actions that assist businesses in communicating their responsibility and accountability processes to key stakeholders and in managing issues emerging from events for which businesses may be held accountable.

An Impossible Standard to Meet – or – Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition

By John Kananghinis

OK, fair cop. I did it.

Forty some years ago I may have broken some road rules and possibly even made an occasional comment that would, today, be considered sexist. I may even have said that something one of my fellow teenagers said, or did, was ‘totally gay, dude’.

Lucky for me there was no Twitter, or Faceplant or whatever the latest online platform for the terminally immature and narcissistic is. No mobile phones, not even faxes. There was Telex (if you remember that, you too are old) but it wasn’t really anything one could consider social media. The only social media we had was the pen and paper, and perhaps the school magazine.

So, I probably did it, but there is no record. Therefore, all good.

Not so fast. Someone else, who never liked me all that much, remembers me doing it (whatever it was) and they even have a journal, purportedly from that far distant time, that, for some unknown reason, they have kept and have conveniently just found. Coincidently, just as I’m about to announce that I would like to be the Victorian Opposition leader – well, someone has to do it.

That’s the end of that, then. No public life for me. Far to compromised and clearly of poor character. Afterall, under 18s should always be held accountable for their actions in later life. They should be perfectly aware that what they do, or say, as adolescents, will determine the course of their lives and their suitability for any position, let alone high political office, forever.

Clearly that is a ridiculous proposition. Or is it?

Forget the ongoing issues in this country, character assassination based on the behaviour of children has surely reached its apogee when the newly appointed editor of Teen Vogue, a 27-year-old black woman, is drummed out of her position on the basis of allegedly homophobic and racist slurs she Tweeted when all of 17. Oh, and also because she turned up to a teen fancy-dress party in a Native American consume.

Despite, 3 years ago, having apologised for the (rather mild) comments, the staff of Teen Vogue and two of its advertisers could not stomach the thought of working with this racist white supremacist, no, wait, she’s black, remember?

Anyway, she’s toast, on the scrap heap, far too much for the snowflakes to bear.

With biblical teaching no longer in vouge (sorry could not help that one) it’s no surprise that certain basic rules conveyed by such writings no longer apply, such as ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…’

I feel for the youth of today. They have no private space in which to grow up. To make mistakes, learn from them and mature. If current trends continue, they will be paying for their obsession with online existence for the rest of their lives.  Can we cut the kids some slack and, for God’s sake, take the damn phones off them, for a while?

As they say in the classics, good luck with that.

RMK+A, sadly, has experience in addressing issues raised by employee’s past and present use of social media and can assist in navigating such perilous waters.

Silent but deadly – A commentary on the USA and COVID-19

By John Kananghinis

The unfolding catastrophe that is the USA response, or lack of, to the COVID-19 pandemic is both painful to watch and a clear indication that the world’s strongest and richest nation will not be brought to its knees by external forces but by its own inability to provide good government.

In one of his most ludicrous of his statements the outgoing occupant of the Whitehouse claimed to be the best president since Lincoln. Good to see that he’s developing some humility. Prior to that he claimed to be the best President – ever!

It was Lincoln who observed that; “America will not be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” He had some experience in such matters.

The echo chamber/social media/news with a propaganda agenda environment that drives the deep schisms that have brought Americans to the point of near equal division between ‘progressives’ and ‘conservatives’ is now crippling the nation’s ability to manage the pandemic.

Admittedly there are structural issues in the allocation of powers between States and the Federal Government, but even our somewhat disjointed response looks to be in lock-step when compared to the total chaos in the USA.

There is no direction from the Whitehouse and there never really was. There are powers that the President could have exercised and given that the most bizarrely recalcitrant Governors are universally Republican he could have lent on them to do more. As it stands he spent more time attacking Democrat Governors as part of his failed re-election strategy (and I use that word extremely loosely).

True the American people are far less likely to comply with harsh lockdown measures, but can the temporary inconvenience of wearing a mask and maintaining social distance really be a civil rights issue in a time of existential threat?

Stupid mistakes have been made all around. The highly lauded, by the left, New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo took the unfathomable decision, early on, to send ill patients back to aged care homes, resulting in an enormous death toll. The self-indulgence of the BLM and defund the police activists in holding mass protests, let alone attendant riots, was as idiotic as the staging of super-spreader Trump election rallies.

The paucity of the American health system, which along with gun control (or lack of) and the multi-headed hydra of their electoral system, is a seemingly intractable failure. One most of the rest of the developed world struggles to understand.

The power vacuum now created by the sulking looser denying the victor access to information to effect a transition is disaster upon disaster.

The upshot is that by the time Biden steps into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue more than 300,000 Americans will have succumbed to the virus. Yes, some would have died this year anyway, but really?

The new President faces an impossible task in gaining any control. He will have a Republican Senate and 27 Republican Governors, some of whom clearly see the pandemic as an ideological battle not a public health emergency.

The susceptibilities for bad COVID-19 outcomes – hospitalisation, intensive care and death – are known. Poor general health, obesity, old age and ordinary aged care. Who would have thought the USA would be a prime target for this virus?

Americans had better hope that the emerging vaccines are as successful as claimed and that some sort of cohesive policy to get them to almost everyone emerges. After all this is a nation where Congress had to mandate that health insurers cover the cost of COVID-19 tests and that free tests be provided to the uninsured. That did not mean that the uninsured got tests. Good luck spending all day, unpaid, lining up for a free test.

The central point is; America cannot, at present, be defeated in a war. Their massive military will see to that. But an invisible, silent enemy can tear them apart from the inside. An observation sure to have been made by existing and potential adversaries.

The rise of the echo chamber

By Alexander Corne

Social media and mobile devices provide unfettered access to a previously unfathomable array of views and information. Where our parents’ generation may have listened to one radio station and watched one of three or four TV channels, and typically had one newspaper delivered daily, our generation and that of our children’s is smothered by a proliferation of media choices.

Based in Melbourne I can read almost any newspaper in the free world, many of them for free (many of them translatable from tongues foreign to me at the touch of a button). With the right app on my phone I can listen to radio from across the world either live or as a curated podcast.

But with all this choice comes a headache. Where to look? What to listen to? What to believe?

Logically, media consumers gravitate towards what they believe to be true, what correlates with their political, ethical, moral or religious beliefs or pre-dispositions. Tune out what you don’t want to hear. You have choice, and the power to choose. So paradoxically while there is almost unlimited choice, the selection becomes narrower.

Where the newspaper of yesteryear would present a range of views, now you can select a media source that by-and-large reflects what you hold to be true. And that’s a problem. Because what if it isn’t true? But you just want or believe it to be true.

The next generation, deprived of this ability to assimilate a range of views is likely to become more polarised, more vociferously entrenched in their views, which is almost always not a good thing. If unexposed to competing views, how will they learn to distil information and rationalise it, to form an opinion based on facts rather than feelings?

At the granular individual level, millennials already routinely screen their incoming mobile calls. If they don’t recognise the number, they won’t answer. Fear of the unknown? Unable or unwilling to interact outside of their comfort zone or their digital friendship ‘tribe’? Incapable of communicating with a stranger? Ill-equipped to cognitively juggle unexpected ideas?

The incessant bombardment of the 20-minute news cycle is impossible to comprehend, parse or digest, so inevitably, the result is closing of the eyes and ears and pretending that everything that fails to fit a pre-determined tightly-controlled narrative is wrong or a threat.

With streaming services providing ad-free TV shows, uninterrupted by news or current affairs programmes, and what news that is consumed delivered by the now disgraced digital “platforms” – outed during the US elections as far more invasive and controlling of information than they had previously admitted – the route for a mix of balanced news to reach a broad populous is strangled.

The communications expert is charged with negotiating this information maze, cluttered with dead-ends and mis-directions that lead precisely nowhere, in order to deliver business messages that are vital to the ongoing health of the enterprise.

Comprehending the impact of a constantly moving media environment, uncovering the value and limiting the wastage is as much part of the role of today’s professional communicator as crafting the message. The fragmentation of the media has made that task challenging but the opportunity to connect with very specific audiences can offer significant rewards.

RMK+A constantly monitors the media environment and is skilled at connecting with target audiences to deliver business supportive messaging. The consultancy is also highly experienced at identifying and minimising wasted and counter productive communication.