Sarkozy and the short workers, an example of spin doctoring

June 21, 2010 • Public Relations • by

Il Giornale, June 21st, 2010

Image is everything in the communication era, especially for politicians.

Everyone knows this. One small blunder can ruin a reputation. It is therefore only to be expected that politicians tend to protect their images down to minute details. Yet sometimes they can take things a bit too far, like Nicolas Sarkozy, whose recalcitrance over communication is often over the top. When he visits factories, for example. Last year reporters discovered that the workers of the Faurecia factory at Caligny were selected based on height and that, many of them being too tall, shorter workers were bussed in from other nearby factories. The Eliseo understandably denied the claim, yet the workers confirmed it.

It now seems that Sarkozy is about to do it again.

On the 22nd of June 2011, he is scheduled to inaugurate the new department of the Turbomeca factory in the Pyrenees. A big event in these hard times; something to celebrate in style.

Once again, a trick lies in wait. For several days now officials from the Eliseo have been on site, but it seems they’re present for more than checking safety measures. Like what went down last year at Caligny, it is said they’re using aesthetic criteria to select personnel, casting people as if for a soap opera. A director who stands 1.85 meters tall appears to have been rejected based on his height. Considering his high position in the factory’s hierarchy, he was readmitted, taking a few precautionary measures. Rather than accompany the president during the visit, it seems he’ll only make an appearance to illustrate the technical characteristics of a machine, with Sarko standing on a platform raised by fifteen providential centimetres. The crafty construction will allow the men to look the same height.

As before, there have been a number of denials from official sources, though eye-witnesses cited in local newspapers confirmed the story.

No one residing in the centre of power admits to spin doctoring, yet the truth manages to find its way out eventually. Ronald Reagan, for example, was told to wave from the top of airplane steps whenever he landed in a foreign capital. The airports were nearly deserted for obvious safety reasons, but television viewers were given the impression the president was waving to a cheering crowd. Barack Obama, a genius of communication, refuses to speak in public if he can’t read from a teleprompter. Former French president François Mitterrand had his photograph included in the opening credits of Antenne 2’s eight o’clock news programme. Viewers weren’t consciously aware but their eyes registered the image, subliminally influencing psyches. This particular technique is now banned.

Occasionally governments cooperate, managing to deceive public opinion with ease. After the war in Iraq, the then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice travelled to Paris to seal newfound affinity between the two countries after months of polemic. She took part in a meeting with the students of the Sorbonne which proceeded swimmingly under the banner of harmony. A few weeks later it came to light that the students had been carefully selected and that all the questions had been agreed on in advance.
Sarkozy has a terrible relationship with the press. He is allergic to criticism and can be vindictive. In 2006 he asked for and was given the head of the editor of Paris Match, who was guilty of publishing a scoop (which turned out to be true) regarding the split from his second wife Cécilia. He recently demanded – and once again obtained – the resignation of two journalists from the Journal du Dimanche, guilty of having published a blog with indiscretions about Carli Bruni’s  recent affair of the heart. A journalist from risks five years in prison for publishing an outtake on a website in which the president scolds a technician who refused to greet him.

These are troubling indications, and the French press seems to be intimidated. Has political power overstepped the limit?

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