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cui bono

(19,926 posts)
1. "worries about the public perception of a decision more than the substance of the decision itself."
Sun May 31, 2015, 02:55 PM
May 2015

I get your point, but not sure that 'appearances' is any better, as optics is about how things appear, with no regard for how they actually are. The word 'optics' in politics is used for strategizing or attacking without regard to the content/substance/factors of what is actually going on.

If people want to be honest about a situation they won't conflate the optics of it with the content/substance/intent/meaning of it among other things.

If writers refer to 'the optics of a situation' they are talking about the way a situation is perceived by the general public; how an event, course of action, etc. 'looks' to others. This trendy new metaphor's journey into popular use has been kick-started by the current conflict in Libya, as for example illustrated by this recent quote from Canada's Toronto Star: 'U.S. President Barack Obama temporized for weeks, worrying about the optics of waging war in another Arab state after the Iraq fiasco.' (19th March 2011). In other words, Obama was concerned about how a decision to become involved in the Libyan conflict would be perceived by the man on the street, especially in the wake of the country's arguably misguided involvement in the 2004 invasion of Iraq.

Though military debate has brought optics into the spotlight, figurative use of the word is not confined to this domain, as the first citation at the beginning of this article shows. Politics is however, predictably, the most common context of use (after all, who could be more worried about 'how things look' than a politician). The word is becoming a popular euphemism for referring to the 'impression' that a particular decision or course of action gives to the people who, in an ideal world, you would prefer to 'keep on your side'. In a nutshell, the use of optics characterizes a situation in which a person or organization worries about the public perception of a decision more than the substance of the decision itself.


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