Politicians make light of dark dealings
Sometimes I yearn for the days when "transparent" meant
what it is supposed to mean - see-through or allowing light to pass.
Unfortunately in the Eighties it was adopted by managerial-speak
and turned into a cliche. Politicians and their advisers quickly
embraced it and it has become a word that effortlessly trips off
their tongues. In an era of sleaze and scandal it is important to
convey the idea that everything is as it seems.
But as we now know, frequent repetition of the term transmits the
signal that it ain't so. Jack Straw boasts that his government made
party donations transparent by insisting that they should be publicly
declared. Which is why New Labour has asked its backers for loans
rather than donations. Loans do not have to be declared so they
are transparent, if a little dodgy.
Little light is allowed to pass and little is clarified by such
usage. This is a word that has no substantive content. That is why
transparent is often used as an add-on idiom that reinforces an
equally feeble companion word, accountable. Appending transparent
to accountable does not clarify meaning. It merely indicates that
the speaker really means business.
The frequency with which public figures acclaim their belief in
anything that is transparent and accountable is a testimony to the
victory of rhetoric over content. The use of expressions such as
"open and transparent", "transparent and precise"
or "fair and transparent" indicates that there is a steady
demand for rhetoric that can pass as meaningful statements of values.
In reality transparency possesses no special virtues. When you
look beneath the bombast it turns into another word for an optical
published on The First Post, 23 March 2006