This blog entry was directed at politicians, but is well worth a read when it comes to any government-agency blogging effort. Of course, with regard to law enforcement blogging, it creates another layer of self-analysis.
At issue is Nancy Pelosi‘s declaration, in her disagreement with Congressman Bill Young over what to do with the Guantanamo detainees once that facility closed, that she considered him a “great member of Congress” and that she had a “great deal of respect for his opinion.” Blogger Brad Hart felt her words were a cheap shot, that she missed a valuable opportunity to take a stand on her party’s platform for democracy.
Stick to the issues…
As he pointed out, her statement should have read more like: “Bill Young obviously doesn’t understand the current condition of Alcatraz or what it would take to return it to operational status. Furthermore, we shouldn’t be looking at new places to simply house these detainees, we should be looking at either trying them in accordance with international laws and affording them the same inalienable rights we say all men are given by their creator or releasing them.”
Most readers of this blog have no love for Nancy Pelosi, and from what I’ve seen of law enforcement opinion regarding terrorists, would wholeheartedly agree with Bill Young that Alcatraz, with its crumbling walls and violent history, is exactly the right place for them. I chose to use this example, however, for a reason.
A good government blog gets beyond the emotion and looks instead at the issues. Had Pelosi’s statement read more like the example above, you might reserve the right to disagree with the Democrats’ position still; but the focus would be on that position itself, not on insults disguised as backhanded compliments.
… and use plain English to do it
On a blog, what that means is not only that you command respect rather than undermining your own position and authority; you also set the stage for comments you get from constituents. You may vehemently disagree with local or county politicians, media, or organizations that do not understand your point of view. But if the purpose of an agency blog is to promote that point of view, to even the playing field, then the citizens deserve clear language. As Hart concludes:
“I could get behind a politician who said they were a person who had real feelings and weren’t opposed to telling us exactly what they thought. Alas we are stuck with meek mouth witless automatons that lack any public passion, no matter how much they actually think…. Just maybe if they learn to say what they are honestly thinking or feeling we might actually get a glimmer of the truth when they speak about policy.”
The public holds its law enforcement leaders to a higher standard than politicians. Clear language convinces people, if not to vote in your favor, then to trust your leadership, to listen, and at least to consider whether to vote in your favor rather than give a kneejerk “no” at the polls.