A few days ago, in the pre-release screening of Vice in Spain organized by the journalism forum Conversaciones con, Pablo Pardo, correspondent of the newspaper El Mundo in the United States, characterized the almighty Vice President Dick Cheney´s relationship with the press, noting how “Cheney decided to elude the press, did not talk to the media, spent years without giving interviews and was proud of it.”
In this magnificent biopic directed by Adam McKay, one of the favorites to win in the race for the Oscars, this ignorance of the politician towards the media is quite well portrayed. It´s a contempt that’s also well explained on film. When one wants to accumulate power, more specifically grow powerful in the shadows, the means to achieve it clearly become a serious problem. If you can´t handle them (sometimes quite apparently so) it´s better to avoid them. Cheney’s strategy, in essence, was none other than flying under the radar.
However, it is interesting to see how in a few years, circumventing the media has become mission impossible for politicians. Perhaps it is still viable to avoid the interest of some important media, to look the other way when journalists ask at a press conference, to turn to the four rules of the corporate manual -the bad sort- in an intervention (“I’ve come to talk about my book and don´t ask me about anything else “) or even pull a television press conference just to be present … without being so at all. But what is not feasible is to pull the strings and accumulate power unnoticed by the magnifying glass of public opinion. Public opinion previously blew its horn on bedheads, through television networks or radio stations, now boasting millions of speakers tweeting and posting on social networks. Information has ceased to be a coveted and rare treasure in the hands of the powerful, instead becoming a whirlwind of news where the broadcaster and receiver share roles and where many times the true role of the journalist is to separate the news from the fake.
Some people think that in companies, institutions, and therefore in politics, transparency is a decision. You can bet on being so or not. You can talk to the media or decide not to. You can generate discourse on the networks or simply not exist. The trend, however, leads many to consider transparency as non-negotiable. In fact, even politicians as reluctant to face the media as Donald Trump have had to surrender to the evidence that what you do in the shadows ends up coming to light, sooner or later. More and more, much sooner than later. For that reason, even those who reject the media have ended up turning to them, even if only to sow misinformation.
Today Dick Cheney´s position would be imposible. In fact most probably, the vice president will go down in history for – among other things – being the last politician who could operate with his back to the spotlight. Politics in the shadows is already history.
Ana Sánchez de la Nieta
Editor of Conversaciones con