Do supposed factual statements convey all they at first seem to?


I have been reading some of the post referendum analysis and for what it’s worth thought I would contribute the following:

Obviously very few of us have access to all the facts on any subject and we will therefore look for the facts that most align to our initial thoughts and experiences. Facts and any interpretation of them is going to be at best arbitrary. Clichés abound and two sides will often argue / discuss on this basis. What is more everyone feels compelled to have an opinion – why wouldn’t they and with 24hr news channels and social media there is no reason not to be informed and as the saying goes “Knowledge is power”. However, has the time come where we all need to be more circumspect when we read things which at first appear straightforward and unambiguous?

To give some examples from my own work as a Roof Thatcher. . . I could ask which of the following fact based statements would you assume to be true or accurate or which would you think are false? On the surface they are fairly benign and straight forward.

“Thatching is a dying art.”

“Thatchers work mainly in the summer when the weather is better.”

“Thatch Roofs are usually old.”

“Thatch roofs attract a lot of spiders.”

“England has more thatch roofs than any other European Country.”

One of the statements is definitely false and the other 4 are not necessarily true. The Netherlands has more thatch roofs than England so that’s the false one . . . sorry Wikipedia you are wrong on that one. . .

To say that Thatching is a dying art we need to have accurate figures over a given period of time. I and no one has these, although we know there are fewer thatch roofs than there were 200 and 100 years ago. To know if this is still the case especially as so many roofs are now listed or protected is much harder to say. For thatching to be a dying art more roofs would have to be lost than new properties being thatched. Also does the question mean there are fewer Thatchers than in the past and so does the question refer to the craft itself. I can’t definitively answer any of these questions.

To say thatch roofs are usually old, I would first have to know what the definition of old is. Thatch roofs will at best only last 50 – 60 years before they have to be re-thatched so are we talking about the roofs or the properties that have thatch roofs? Also if thatch roofs have many layers are we referring to the older layers?

Full time Thatchers are just that – they work 12 months of the year and certainly when the weather is good we can be more productive although we can often get better weather in the spring or autumn than the summer and very hot weather is not great if you are on a roof with no shade.

As for spiders – who’s counting and comparing – has someone done a survey?


Communication

I watched Mr Trumps news conference (I’m not a fan by the way) when he was opening his golf course and hotel in Scotland. Lots of questions were asked. He got onto the subject of if he became president he would spend money on Americas infrastructure. He used as an example someone he knew who had a large trucking or road haulage business and who said his new trucks which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars were in the workshop after only a very short time on the road because of damage sustained as a result of potholes.

I thought this was a very good way of straight away connecting with every car driver in the US who would relate to the story. He could have gone on about spending this much more on roads or x billion more or a percentage more than at present but the message would not have come across as well as it did with that one small story.

The referendum was about peoples’ personal experiences. It was about one vote and the side with the most votes won – this simplicity was in stark contrast to a general election. You can’t take away someone sitting in a doctors’ surgery and hearing other patients talking in a foreign tongue. You can’t take away someone whose children are in a big class at school and 10 of 35 children don’t have English as a first language. You can’t take away the appalling case of a citizen from another EU country and having a criminal record beating up a retired person in their own home even if it this sort of thing has happened before by English born thugs.

It’s how the media and others use these experiences that is key. Choice of language and communication is important. When John Major said that we would be the grave diggers of Britain’s tomorrow he chose the language because it would be memorable – but the message was not. If he had said – if we vote to come out of the EU the pound will fall again people would say so what. If he had said – if we come out of the EU the pound will fall so when you have your holiday in Spain this year instead of being able to have a main course and a desert like you did last year you will now only be able to get the main course because you won’t have the same money for the desert then ALL people will relate to that.


Use of Language

We have all become used to using language in obscure ways – except it’s not all people. The older generation and many poorer working class communities don’t. When I put my guys on a basic scaffolding course it as sold to me because “I had a Duty of care to my employees”. Try explaining that phrase to someone who is in their 70’s or a 16-year-old.

If you had said look this scaffolding certificate is needed so I don’t get sued by my employees if they have an accident and I’m also concerned with their welfare because if they fall of the roof it will hurt them and they won’t be earning me or themselves money, everybody will understand.

The problem with companies & organisations is they speak a language that they understand but a lot of others don’t. I would even go so far to say that instead of categorising people as we don’t have working and middle class people, we need to say social and IT savvy or not.

I have a foot in both camps.

I have never bothered learning how to buy things on line, book flights and barely know my way around Facebook – my office manager will post this.


So basically the remain side lost because they were unable to interpret facts fully and counter peoples’ experiences. They were unable connect to all the people because they used generalities of language (as did the leave campaign) and because of this they were unable to communicate to many ordinary voters.