Thursday, March 24, 2005

Off-label dog-whistles

Richard’s blog on off-label trust rings lots of bells for me. None though, until I read it, rang in the context in which it is presented (my prescribed product of choice being Bushmills). In a pharmaceutical context, Richard writes, Off-Label refers to uses of drugs that are not approved by the regulators and cannot therefore be printed on the product label or officially promoted by the drug company.

In view of the current state of political play in pre-election Britain, paraphrasing that opening rings quite a revealing bell: In a political context, Dog-whistle refers to uses of issues that are not approved of in terms of civilized politics and cannot therefore be printed in the manifesto or officially promoted by a serious party.

This is powerful medicine in every sense. Within the trust space, the informal, in both cases, takes precedence over the formal, the implied over the expressed and the unknown over the known. It is ‘trust me’ trust of a pretty abusive strain.

In the US electoral context, the political hygiene that got Mr Bush a second term, stemmed directly from successfully manipulating just such off-label trust. Unsurprising then that it should be being copied here.

Unlike politics, hygiene, it needs to be said, may not be the best description of outcomes in the pharmaceutical context.