Think. And don’t do a Ken/Lars

Kenneth Clarke, genial, knowingly rumpled Conservative minister. Lars von Trier, revered, slightly nutty Danish film director. In any given week they wouldn’t have anything in common.

This week is different. They’ve both been in trouble for saying the wrong thing.

In a radio interview, Ken suggested there were serious and less serious kinds of rape. Cue the infamous exchange:

Victoria Derbyshire: ‘Rape is rape’.

Ken: ‘No it is not’.

He could perhaps have dodged the bullet altogether if he’d said there were serious and more serious kinds of rape.

In a Cannes press conference, Lars took that surprisingly well worn path to career suicide that involves publicly sympathising with Hitler. Shortly afterwards, digging the hole even deeper, he said: ‘OK – I am a Nazi’.

He should perhaps have stayed in bed, or not turned up in Cannes at all.

Both men’s advisors have no doubt sat them down in a quiet corner and said, ‘Ken, old chap/Lars, darling. Think before you speak’.

Great advice for writers too.

Every day, we write words that we hope will change people’s minds, make them like us or get them to do what we want. The more we think before we lay a finger on the keyboard, the better those words will turn out. And the more effective they’ll be. Our internal editor needs to be sure what we want to say and what order to say it in. Then they need to be an ultra-harsh critic of every phrase and argument.

Unlike Ken and Lars, we have the luxury of being able to cross things out and start again. But once our words are out there, on people’s desks and in their inboxes, we can’t hastily correct ourselves or go on Question Time to say sorry for being confusing or accidentally offensive.

We may not be going out live to millions, but we can still do a Ken/Lars.

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