Give UK reg­u­la­tors a ‘Bells’!

Pretoria News Weekend - - OPINION -

NEWS that UK-based public re­la­tions firm Bell Pot­tinger has been found to have breached at least one of the Public Re­la­tions and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions As­so­ci­a­tion reg­u­la­tions should be a note to all in­volved in po­lit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions and not just those in­volved in public re­la­tions.

It was the late 19th and early 20th cen­tury gen­eral and mil­i­tary the­o­rist Carl Philipp von Clause­witz who fa­mously said: “War is the con­tin­u­a­tion of pol­i­tics by other means.” Over time, the phrase has had sev­eral mod­i­fi­ca­tions but all the trans­la­tions agree that pol­i­tics is, or should be, a less bloody way of set­tling con­flicts among com­pet­ing in­ter­ests in so­ci­ety and in the world.

It would ap­pear Bell Pot­tinger took at step fur­ther and be­lieved that all is fair in love and war. To them, the means to a po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tive are jus­ti­fied by the end. The firm will know at a high cost to its rep­u­ta­tion, and pos­si­bly its bot­tom line, that their at­ti­tude is un­ac­cept­able.

To re­cap, the Bri­tish firm known to be the pre­ferred agency by the rich, fa­mous and in­fa­mous, has been ac­cused of aid­ing the con­tro­ver­sial Gupta fam­ily cre­ate a nar­ra­tive with the po­ten­tial to ex­ac­er­bate racial di­vi­sions in South Africa.

The Public Re­la­tions and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions As­so­ci­a­tion has not said what the de­ci­sion on the case against the agency was, ex­cept that cer­tain pro­cesses had to be fol­lowed and that Bell Pot­tinger had the right to ap­peal against the fi­nal de­ci­sion, which would con­firm whether the agency was guilty of any of the charges against it, and which would be known in the week start­ing Septem­ber 4.

The mes­sage to po­lit­i­cal play­ers in South Africa and per­haps world­wide is that they had bet­ter be care­ful how they play their game. They must be care­ful that as they use catch­phrases to ex­cite the po­lit­i­cal space and per­haps win votes or fol­low­ers, they will be held re­spon­si­ble for what they say and the con­se­quences of their ut­ter­ances.

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