“I don’t see any reason why I or my company should follow some arbitrary set of ethical values” – Thatcher PR guru signs for Belarus dictator Lukashenka
The moustache will have to go – and
let’s not even talk about the combover
In Belarus, according to Amnesty International’s report for the past year:
“Any form of public activity not sanctioned by the state, including religious worship, was liable to prosecution and rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly were disregarded. Opposition activists were given long prison sentences for the peaceful expression of their views, or activists were harassed and prosecuted under the administrative code for lesser offences and fined or detained for short periods.”
It may seem ironic that a dictator who routinely denies freedom of expression to his own people should now be given a helping hand buffing his image in the international media, but Lord Bell is untroubled. “Everybody is entitled to an advocate,” Bell is reported to have said – citing the PR industry’s classic piece of self-justifying spin, which seeks to equate the ‘right’ to expert help in manipulating the media with the right to adequate legal representation. Then, with surprising candidness: “I don’t see any reason why I or my company should follow some arbitrary set of ethical values about what it should or shouldn’t do.”
If the industry’s past form is anything to go by, we should now be on the look-out for navel-gazing op-ed pieces denouncing the ‘demonisation’ of the Belarus government, intimate magazine features showing the ‘softer side’ of Alexander Lukashenka, the Belarus ‘strongman’ (that most exquisite of Orwellian euphemisms), news reports quoting un-named ‘sources’ bigging up the Belarus regime (and smearing critics), and perhaps even a Channel 4 appearance from rent-a-pundit Shirin Akiner.
Alongside Margaret Thatcher (whose advice from Bell reputedly even covered details about hairstyle and clothing) and her son Mark, Bell-Pottinger is said to have worked with British Nuclear Fuels, Imperial Tobacco, BAE Systems, the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and, interestingly, the ubiquitous Thaksin Shinawatra.
In Don’t Get Fooled Again, I look at the arguments and methods used by the PR industry to rebrand and sanitise even the most insidious of governments and policies.