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Stateside with Rosalea: The V-word

Stateside with Rosalea

The V-word

The thunder of little cloven hooves racing for the hills, accompanied by loud bleats of ''Shrek save us!'' was heard near Phoenix, Arizona, this week. The sheep in question weren't concerned for their fleeces so much as their entrails -- the annual convention of the American Association of Public Opinion Research was in town.

You know me. I never met a pollster I didn't didn't like. I mean to say, a "science" whose method of inquiry is to have a hostess invite people into a room where they'll be filmed from behind a two-way mirror has to be suspect at some level, don't you think? But that's the method that is used for the focus groups that come up with the keywords you'll hear ad nauseum in the news.

According to a pollster I heard speak recently, the latest buzz word in people persuasion is "values". Blow me down if I didn't stick my toe in the TV news water on Thursday morning just in time to see a live feed of Rumsfeld speaking to troops in Iraq and these are the very words coming out of his mouth:

"In recent days there's been a focus on a few who've betrayed our values and sullied the reputation of our country."

Don't be surprised if you hear the V-word a lot in the context of this year's elections. Sadly, the result of using "values" as a hot-button issue is that it leads to the drawing of powerful battle lines and a rise in the level of rancour and meanness in public discourse and relationships.

Of course, if you're hellbent on driving the world to just that level -- so that people get angry with each other about issues that cannot be resolved one way or the other without alienating and angering the folks holding a different set of values -- then you undermine completely the complexity that is the mark of a healthy society.


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