Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair knows a thing or two about spinning the killing of civilians. So should it be a surprise that in his new role as political consultant he is helping other government officials obfuscate their grizzly deeds?
One of Blair’s clients is Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev is a hold over from the Soviet era who has stayed in power through a series of questionable elections. A laws was passed that allowed Nazarbayev, and only Nazarbayev, to run for president as many times as he wants – subsequent presidents will be term limited. Despite public pledges by Nazarbayev to tackle corruption it has been estimated that he and his family have moved over $1 billion to private accounts and much of the lucrative energy sector is controlled by the Nazarbayev family and cronies.
Not surprisingly, to maintain his kleptocratic autocracy Nazarbayev often has to utilize brutal methods which includes killing 14 protesters in December 2011. Enter Tony Blair who sold Nazarbayev advice on how to spin some of the negative press coverage from the massacre.
In the letter, sent on note-paper headed Office of Tony Blair, Mr Blair wrote: “Dear Mr President, here is a suggestion for a paragraph to include in the Cambridge speech. I think it best to meet head on the Zhanaozen issue. The fact is you have made changes following it; but in any event these events, tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made. Dealing with it [the massacre] in the way I suggest, is the best way for the western media. It will also serve as a quote that can be used in the future setting out the basic case for Kazakhstan.” In his own handwriting, Mr Blair added at the bottom of the letter: “With very best wishes. I look forward to seeing you in London! Yours ever Tony Blair.”
Mr Blair enclosed with the letter two lengthy paragraphs of about 500 words for Mr Nazarbayev to add to his speech. The words written by Mr Blair but spoken by Mr Nazarbayev with some changes, were widely picked up at the time. They were used to portray Mr Nazarbayev as a visionary leader who had improved living standards in his homeland.
Rather than address the problems causing the bad press Blair gave Nazarbayev a third way – simply spin the media to make the status quo appear more acceptable. It is hard to say what is more pathetic, Tony Blair’s mercenary ethics or a mainstream media so easily beguiled by Blair’s saccharine talking points.
With the US re-entering Iraq it’s good to see that the hacks from the previous adventure are making millions from their expertise.
Photo from World Economic Forum under Creative Commons license.