Is David Cameron a twat?

by endlesspsych

I’m coming to post about this a great deal later then I intended to what with suffering the torments of the dreaded lurgy (man-flu not swine flu) and been in a Lemsip induced delirium for the past few days.  Hopefully this is still a topical topic worthy of a sceptical eye…

David Cameron kicked up some “controversy” recently by “swearing” on the absolute radio breakfast show. He has since apologised for this as you can see from the articles in the Torygraph, Daily Spam and um… Wales Online (again the rule of thumb is first googled first linked to…). However I think the text of these articles reveals a highly stage managed and calculated bit of media management.

From the Telegraph:-

The Conservative leader used the word “twat” to explain why he was not a convert to Twitter. He then compounded his difficulties by claiming that people were “pissed off” with politicians.

The interview on Absolute Radio was designed to show the informal quirky side of Mr Cameron’s character.

From the Daily Star:-

As far as I’m concerned, David Cameron was sworn in as prime minister the moment he uttered the words “pissed” and “tw*t”. I think it’s done him no harm whatever and will have upped his cool status among some.

“Tw*tgate” caused a storm of protest. But the story should really have been: “MP behaves like real person.”

To me these show up this “gaffe” for what it is. A transparent and lazy attempt to invoke one of Robert Cialdini’s weapons of influence – liking. To my mind someone is trying to spin Cameron as “a man of the people” someone who isn’t some upper class toff but just like you and me. I’m sure I’m not the first person to have noticed, or probably even to have blogged on it – but I might be the first to introduce a little bit of the psychology of persuasion into the equation…

According to Robert Cialdini there are seven weapons of influence that advertisers, sales persons and politicians use on us everyday to persuade us to part with our hard earned cash and votes. These are reciprocation (if we are given something we feel compelled to repay the favour), Commitment and consistency (once we commit to a decision we tend to follow it through sometimes in the face of overwhelming evidence that we shouldn’t (heavily related to the concept of cognitive dissonance), Social proof (well all those other people are doing it…), liking (which will be dealt with in more detail in the rest of this post), authority (we tend to defer to authority to an extent and advertisers take advantage of this)  and last but more often then not least – Scarcity (we tend to want things more if it’s a limited offer).

I would hold that Camerons “Too many twits make a twat” outburst (which is in fairness reasonably amusing)  is an attempt to invoke one of the principles underlying Cialdini’s liking weapon of influence.  Knowing that we are more likely to trust people we like, and therefore buy from them or vote for them, I believe the outburst was stage managed (although it’s also likely Cameron has a fair insight into human psychology and recognised the potential of his actions) in order to attempt to increase liking for Cameron by invoking the principle of similarity.

We tend to like people who are similar to us, it really is as simple as that.  Used car salesperson will use this to their advantage when trying to build a rapport – they will look for clues about the person they are trying to sell to and use these to make themselves seem “like” the customer. For example if the customer has a sticker in their old cars window bearing the legend “I’m a true Scot from Grampian” (imagine we are in Southern Scotland or somewhere that isn’t Grampian for the purposes of this example) the sale person will suddenly have taken holidays up there. If they see golf clubs they will bemoan their handicap, ditto other sports equipment. Really anything to build a rapport and make a connection all as part of making a sale…

Ergo I would hold Cameron is making an attempt to appear similar to the common man. Ok that’s a fairly glib point but it’s not as if it’s the first time a Tory leader has used the veneer of laddish normality to try and boost their public image… How many pints did William Hauge drink back i’t day? Fourteen wasn’t it? Although interestingly that was picked up by the press and he was roundly mocked for such an obvious attempt to manage his public image. Cameron seems to have avoided such criticism, despite the attempt being (to my mind) almost as obvious as Hauges? Why would that be? I suspect this means the next Prime minister of Great Britain will be someone who calls a twat a twat…

Cheers

Advertisements