I wrote about the Prime Minister’s hidden manipulative tactics, based on his persuasive Egrant press conference. What would I find if I analysed the Leader of the Opposition? ?
If you haven’t seen my previous article – Ways the Prime Minister brainwashed you – I wrote about the manipulative signals the Prime Minister used in his Egrant press conference. His body language, and the way he presented himself was planned to brainwash you.
Don’t think this wasn’t intentional.
Today, I want to use the same tactics with the leader of the opposition in Malta, Dr Adrian Delia.
My first question was: which of his public performances should I analyse?
This is trickier than I expected because the Nationalist Party (PN) isn’t as media-savvy as the government is.
- The video quality is sometimes not good at all and looks like rubbish. Visuals matter. If you can’t put a good quality video online, don’t put anything online.
- As part of the same point, the PN’s video editing is at times erratic.
- I didn’t want to choose the kind of setting where it would be harder to focus on what Dr Delia is doing. The PN has plenty of those videos on their Facebook page.
In the end I chose the press conference Dr Delia gave in reaction to Prime Minister Muscat’s. It struck me as appropriate that I use a press conference on the same topic because it gives me the opportunity to compare and contrast.
In my points below, I include links to the relevant parts of the video if you want to fast-forward to those bits.
Before you continue reading, how do you think he fared?
Visuals matter. We pick up many cues from what we see and how things are presented.
It’s why advertising works.
It’s why packaging works.
As I said last week, if you think visuals don’t matter leave a comment below explaining why you always date ugly people.
- In Dr Muscat’s video, we have the Prime Minister with his entire parliamentary group behind him, literally and figuratively. In this press conference, Dr Delia only has 1 person on either side of him. The initial impression is weaker when compared to Dr Muscat.
- Dr Delia sits, while Dr Muscat stood at his podium. Standing will automatically raise you above the rest of the audience. It makes you “stand out”. It shows you are “taking a stand.” Those phrases are no coincidence. Standing gives a greater visual impression.
- The video is recorded in poor quality. At the beginning, I thought he was wearing a black suit and wondered whose funeral he attended. I realised he wore a blue suit because the camera angle changed. You don’t want to be associated with the phrase ‘poor quality’.
- Dr Delia reads more of his speech than Dr Muscat did. On balance, they both seem to spend the same amount of time reading. It’s more noticeable in Dr Delia’s case because he looks up for split-seconds at a time. It’s as if he’s ignoring us because we see his eyelids more than his eyes.
- At the end of his prepared speech, he leans back and relaxes. This is the point where he shows he was tense throughout his speech. We only see it because he relaxes. It’s possible the microphone is badly placed and he had to lean for journalists to hear him. I can’t rule this out.
- When asking the reporters for questions, both Dr Delia and Mr Puli (on his left) indicate who should ask questions. Only one of them should be managing the audience. In this case, Dr Delia’s choices will always be respected since he’s the party leader. So why is Mr Puli bothering? Why didn’t they agree on who will do what? It comes across as uncoordinated and disorganised.
This doesn’t sound like it’s going well. What about his body language?
Body language is how our subconscious communicates with the outside world. This is what makes it all the more interesting.
- Just before Dr Delia asks his predecessor to resign, he gesticulates a little with his left hand. The left hand is controlled by the right-hand side of the brain which controls emotions. The whole point about the resignation is an emotional one, not a rational one. As a leader of a political party, if you’re taking a rational decision you’d be using logic. Dr Delia suggests this is an emotional one. As other commentators have suggested, this was a chance for Dr Delia to get his revenge. Notice when he gesticulates using his left hand at later points.
- Dr Delia is seated with one leg hooked behind the other at the ankles. This is like having a closed sign on the door. He doesn’t want anyone questioning him or talking to him about anything.
There’s not much else to tell about body language because this press conference was shorter than the Prime Minister’s.
Let’s pay attention to the content then.
Does Dr Delia really want to be associated with the phrase ‘poor quality’?
The content of what you say always frames how your audience understands it.
In this case, now that the press conference is 2 weeks old, some of what I say here is already in the public domain. I’ll repeat for completeness’ sake.
- Dr Delia repeats his stance that he wants the report published, accepts the result of report despite not having seen it, and then claims to only accept facts and truth. So which is it? These three points contradict one another. I won’t comment further on Dr Delia’s claims about the report. He hadn’t seen it at this stage so anything he said was not factual.
- Dr Delia talks about his “firm belief in facts”. It’s a statement he’s used on numerous occasions. If you have facts, you don’t need to believe anything. They’re facts. They’re knowledge. You only need to believe something if you don’t have the facts.
- Dr Delia talks about how the party needs to have “a single message which speaks the truth.” Which implies the party currently does not speak the truth. Did he realise what he was saying?
What’s the overall verdict?
I’m being negative about Dr Delia’s performance. It’s as if I’m criticising him. Those of you who read my previous article analysing the Prime Minister know that I’m just reporting on how I interpreted things.
With the Prime Minister, I showed how viewers were being manipulated into accepting his message.
With Dr Delia, I have just shown how he persuades us to ignore him because everything he did or said pushed us further away.
A lot of life is binary because our brains prefer categorising things that way. Good vs evil. Rich vs poor. Old vs young. Faced with a binary choice at the next general election, most Maltese will think of Dr Muscat vs Dr Delia.
Would you choose someone who is persuading you to ignore him? If you answered no to that question, you’d vote for the Labour Party.
And people wonder why they’re polling so high.
Share this with someone who thinks Dr Delia needs no lessons in public speaking.
- Sitting or Standing: Which Makes for More Effective Presentations?; Gary Genard; The Genard Method; 2012-10-24
- How to Use Body Language to Create a Dynamite First Impression; Brett and Kate McKay; Art of Manliness; 2018-08-02
All references were valid and correct when this article was published. Changes to referenced websites or web pages may render some references invalid. If this is the case, please leave a comment below.
Written by: Antoine P Borg
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