Friday, September 25, 2009


Tone is a very important thing in communications. I like to say the music has to match the words. But just like in music, contrast can be a dramatic thing. Case in point: Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s unusually aggressive tone in slamming Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the United Nations – in advance of the address and of the Canadian delegation’s planned walkout on the speech over Ahmadeninejad’s oft-repeated denial of the Holocaust. Many have been critical of Harper for not going to speak at the U.N. himself, but that’s not the focus here. As widely reported in the media, Harper “set aside his normally staid demeanor and delivered an impassioned critique” of the Iranian president. "President Ahmadinejad has said things, particularly about the state of Israel, the Jewish people and the Holocaust that are absolutely repugnant," said Harper. "Canada does not want to be equivocal at all in terms of our view on that. We find it disgraceful, unacceptable and we are going to be absolutely clear on that." Strong words, delivered in an uncharacteristically strident tone. Now, I’m not suggesting that this was any kind of “performance” on the PM’s part, but the fact is, performance is an important part of skilled media engagement – and the dramatic departure from his less-than-scintillating norm was apparent to all, and earned him considerable media mileage as a result.

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