Go to Google or any search engine and do any search you wish to on the disputed general elections of last year. You will quickly note that the International media seems to be very ODM-friendly. I can assure you that that is no accident. Somebody worked very hard to make that happen.
Now let us not be naïve to start jumping to conclusions here. It is true that the December 2007 general elections were stolen. Ask most 3 or 4 year old Kenyan children and they will tell you so. We all saw it happening live on Television. However the International community didn’t, not really. Many of them were not really paying attention and at least one super power that has since done a 180 degree turn, assisted in that rigging exercise that horribly went wrong. Actually most of the world’s attention at that time was focused on Pakistan where former Prime Minister Mrs Bhutto had just been assassinated.
So when trouble broke out in Kenya, they wanted to know what really happened. The reality in this harsh media dominated world we live in today is that reality is not as important as perception (although the two are related as we shall see later in this post). So it is terribly important that your story is told. And that is the work of spin experts. I personally prefer to call them spin artistes.
The difference between reputable spin artists like ODM’s Salim Lone and a spin quack like Dr Alfred Mutua is one very simple thing. There are those who believe that they can spin anything and there are those who know that to be successful in the long term, it is important that you spin only the truth. You remember the famous president John F. Kennedy quote that ends with; you can’t fool all the people all the time? In fact fake spin doctors like Dr Mutua have always ended up being a liability to their employers.
The other difference is that reputable PR experts (if you prefer to call them that) are noble and will not hesitate to make personal sacrifices. Salim Lone’s life was threatened by somebody a few weeks ago and he would have given the world his story and attracted all the limelight and media attention to hismelf. But at what price? The attention would have effectively been shifted away from his client. So, because he was able to deal with the problem of his personal security, he was determined that the attention of the media remains focused on ODM at a very crucial time leading up to the signing of the historic peace deal last Thursday. It is this kind of character trait that wins the trust of journalists who are crucial allies in any spin effort. In sharp contrast police commissioner Maj Gen Hussein Ali is of the view that the best way to handle the “annoying” media is to talk down at journalists and lecture them while ridiculing as many of their questions as you possible.
You may want to be quick to downplay the achievements of Lone and the ODM spin machine. But there are numerous examples of how things can go dreadfully wrong even for somebody who is justified in what they are trying to do. As you read this, the mention of the name Robert Mugabe brings immediate images of some dictator that has hung onto power for too long. Yet if you do some serious research on the Zimbabwe situation and what led to Mr Mugabe’s controversial land policies you will be shocked. Actually it was all triggered by the UK going back on their word to Mugabe. Or shall we say their failure to honor an MOU they had with Mugabe concerning the land issue. So while Mugabe over-reacted, his side of the story will probably never be told and anyway at this juncture nobody is interested in listening to it. That is the harsh and sad reality of perception.
In other words in the case of Lone, Kenyans owe this man a deep debt for keeping the Kenyan crisis in the right perspective in the eyes of the very influential international media. If that had not happened, the International community would have helped PNU clamp down on dissent and history would have taken a totally different turn.
Fascinatingly the official word from ODM last week was that Salim Lone had left (a Nation article pouring cold water on my exclusive here about Lone’s personal security issues referred to Lone as the former ODM media director). But his replacement, Tony Gacoka has not issued a single press release to the media to date and yesterday Lone was spotted at Orange House doing his old job.
Actually whispers that I had heard last week were to the effect that Lone still retained his client, ODM but was carrying out his duties from New York where he was said to be busy working on the next crucial phase of the ODM spin. Just observe the international support that will pour into Kenya channeled through the office of the Prime minister.
As for Dr Mutua, he’s really just wasting tax payers funds being retained as government spokesman because he is a laughing stock among the media and most Kenyans. I am afraid that usually that means that his clients/employers draw the same sentiments from the public.