What's in a name?

I had a slightly outside-the-box thought in the car this morning.
Thought I’d run it up the flag pole and see what people think.

For politicians as individuals, their name is their brand.
Recognition is all about having as many people as possible see their name.
To a remarkable extent, the context of its mention does not matter; just that it is mentioned.
Their fans will excuse them for the bad things, or more likely think things like “something must be done, my guy is doing something … Yay!”.
Their opposition will assume SNAFU.
The fence sitters just see the name.
But everyone gets a reinforcement of their name brand recognition.
So why is it that when we object to their actions, we reference them by name more than ever.
We tweet, we Facebook, we blog and we rage, and every mention adds to their brand recognition.
Even big media that are pissed off about new laws that threaten press freedoms continue to mention the name of the attorney general.
What would happen if we all just stopped using these guys names?
What if we just referred to their positions and the acts that they performed in those roles?

"Today, the attorney general introduced new laws that threaten freedom of the press."

Now it’s a scary anonymous role that did the deed.
The news is still reported and anybody that needs to know who it is, can easily find out, but the politicians most precious commodity is lost.

What would happen if this practice spread widely?
Would it be better or worse for the smaller parties like us? (who’s names hardly ever get mentioned anyway).

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Would it be better or worse for the smaller parties like us? (who’s names hardly ever get mentioned anyway).

Well, referring to politicians exclusively by their role really only works for Government and Opposition. When discussing anyone from a minor party one still needs to mention the name of their party, just to provide adequate identification. (Thank you, Captain Obvious).

So if anyone is planning on winning a seat on personal vote, it’d be worse, but for the party as a whole it’s fairly even IMHO.

Knowing a name seems to me like an aspect of transparency and a way to avoid seeing politics degrade completely into dumbed-down supermarket-style “brands” (it’s near enough to that as it is). I wish more people knew the names of their politicians, at least that way they might get more letters and a sense that they’re actually being observed and can’t hide in a crowd.

If politics became even more party- and brand-centric we’d probably benefit on account of having a cool name. Whether the nation would benefit is more vexed…

I’m going to agree with Mark on this one. I actually don’t ever want to see the day where names aren’t used. If a politician could hide behind their title, I’m not sure how they could ever be accountable. If, for example, Brandis could safely sit behind ‘the Attorney General’ he morphs into a kind of thing rather than being a human being. Do we want ‘things’ responsible for laws that are an assault on our civil liberties? It’s at that point that politics would truly become a machine, and the concept of open government redundant.


It can however be used contextually as a redirection device.

For example, if you’re trying to direct people at our policy based on the overreach of the Attorney-General, the issue is the power of the AG, and not the specific AG at hand.

A very good example is the data retention issue. It has been raised since McClelland, who was replaced by Roxon, who was replaced by Dreyfus, who has now been replaced by Brandis. The policy hasn’t changed, but the face has. It is the faceless machine that is the problem, it does exist, and it is what we should be attacking: the faceless unaccountable power behind the name—the title.


Except it’s not the title or the position behind policies like that and a whole host of bad legislation being inflicted on us right now. It’s those with lesser, but more permanent titles within that department and their power-hungry factions within law enforcement and the surveillance agencies (I think we should, at least, stop referring to them as the intelligence agencies; let’s call them what they are).

Ben: did you notice what you did there?
You ended by complaining about the name we use to reference an organisation.
It’s the power in the names that I an pointing at.

Mel: These people are elected. They don’t get to hide behind position titles. They need to get elected, but if we stop talking about them by name, then we stop giving them publicity. The names can only get just sooo… scary, then they are replaced by another elected person and we hope that maybe, things get better. The discontinuity allows hope which does not eventuate. I wondering if maybe we focus on the position and build our expectations around that. The when is looks awful, the latest new face does not generate false hope. Instead, we rage against our poorly met expectations of the position until someone comes along and makes it better. Maybe you?

Oh yes, I know precisely what I did. I think avoiding naming a particular politician is essentially pointless, though I do see the argument for trying to reduce their brand recognition. I think that would take far greater influence than we have. My barbed comment, however, is somewhat different in that the target is a faceless entity with which we will be saddled no matter who gets elected, one which is out of control frankly and needs to be reigned in.

Referring to ASIO, ASIS, DSD/ASD and their counterparts abroad as surveillance agencies reminds people quite firmly of what it is they really do and has the very great potential for memetic engineering, it most certainly could get picked up by certain groups and spread virally. It might even go some way towards equalling the jargon and in jokes of the agencies themselves (e.g. referring to places like Canberra, Washington, New Orleans and certain other places as ghost towns … because they’re full of spooks).

“What’s in a Name” ? Not much, according to Machiavelli,( right? ) He seems to lump all regimes under the umbrella of republics or monarchies

And back then that was pretty much the case. He did, after all, leave office a little over five centuries ago (1513, IIRC) and then set to his major writing; primarily the Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy, albeit with a digression in the middle to write what became The Prince.