The term “baby elephant” is likely to generate sheer anger among critical Austrians: With this childish symbol of maintaining distance in the worst pandemic ever, the Austrian government has ushered in an era of unprecedented infantilization of the population. , Instead of being treated like responsible citizens, people were treated like small children who had to follow the orders of the “father state” without criticism. In a recent broadcast, the GGI Initiative recalls abusive styles of crisis communication.
Infant distress communication: from baby elephant to tiny prick
Press Release of GGI Initiative on November 9, 2023
“Stories are told to help children sleep. Adults need to wake up.” Corona crisis communication was plagued with infantilism. A journey through time through communicable corona madness.
The golden rules of crisis communication include speed, transparency, and consistency. Baby language is not one of them. But these were often found in Corona crisis communications. “10 ways of (collective) manipulation” Explain this communication device in more detail according to Professor Noam Chomsky. Strategy number 5 describes the following phenomenon:
“If you go up to a person and talk to them as if they were 12 years old, that person will respond without judgment or respond as if they were actually 12 years old.”
The rule of thumb is that the more you want to deceive the recipient, the more childish your tone will be. This includes baby language and symbolism, but also a person’s first name. The purpose of this strategy is, on the one hand, to discourage critical inquiry and, on the other hand, to suggest or reinforce a relationship of authority. In short: You should stop thinking about people in power and trust them.
Talk like you talk to children
we remember: At the beginning of the Corona crisis, the baby elephant was presented as a symbol of one meter distance. Baby elephant was developed by the agency, which was also named Word of the Year 2020 Younger than Matt. While we were hesitant initially, campaigns quickly shifted to a first-name approach: stay home, wash your hands, keep your distance. But it is not enough. Singing Happy Birthday while washing hands, absurd greeting traditions instead of handshakes, such as the high five from the elbow or foot, which even the Federal President explained to us, and the “good” dance routines of hospital staff in between. Videos are always coming. And of course we were repeatedly put off by the Minister because “the next two weeks will be critical”.
Could there be more incompetence (or paternalism) than this?
Yes, because the important medical vaccination decision, with an only conditionally approved, poorly tested vaccine, became the President’s “little prick” and the Hofburg was turned into a vaccination palace. Such questionable labels had never before been used in post-marketing drug studies.
In between we were serenaded by the Easter Bunny, who advised “the kids” – which in this case obviously meant the entire population – to stay home and not go to Grandma and Grandpa.
Then came seven-year-old Clara, who explained to us about child vaccinations in the simplest language possible, but mostly without any concrete information. Communication strategists also came up with a Corona ABC for the Health Ministry, with explanations of Covid-19 like A, distance B, care B, or C. From time to time we were even threatened: If you don’t maintain distance, we will close the parks again.
Is this all a coincidence?
Some may still believe that this communications strategy was pure coincidence, but Chancellor Kurz’s highly paid PR staff is not known for its unprofessionalism – quite the contrary. and Chomsky is one of the standard literature in communication and media studies.
But what should crisis communications look like?
In a democracy, communication on an equal footing is essential in serious crises because, unlike autocratic regimes, the population is not the subject. In the chapter “Credibility and continuity” of the official crisis communication recommendations for the Corona crisis you can find: Informing the public honestly, factually and comprehensively and not spreading lies under any circumstances (“Vaccination protects against transmission”) or making false promises (“The pandemic is over for those who have been vaccinated.”, Giving recommendations so that you can behave wisely on your responsibility is the purpose of communication. This is the only way to keep the faith. But the government has gone miles away from that. Till date, he has not yet given any explanation for this. This type of crisis communication should also ultimately be thoroughly scrutinized.
(TagstoTranslate)Distancing rules(T)Alexander van der Bellen(T)Baby elephant(T)Corona measures(T)Easter bunny(T)Austria(T)Rudolf Anschober(T)Sebastian Kurz