On Friday, the Globe and Mail published a video* of reporter Hannah Sung interviewing Diane Craig, a body language expert and “executive trainer with Corporate Class Inc,” to discuss how Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s body language conveys what is going on in his personal and professional life right now. It was an illuminating discussion that somehow managed to fall short even of the low, low bar set by the description “interview with a body language expert.”
First things first: most of the video does not even address “body language” as such. Craig focuses on Ford’s decision to wear a football jersey, a move she astutely claims was intended to “enhance his likability.” While that was probably true, attire is not body language, and frankly, that’s pretty bush-league stuff. “Politician in trouble runs for universally appealing symbols in bid to maintain popularity, nation shocked to learn.” (The nation was not shocked to learn this.)
Next, Craig either misunderstands or willfully mischaracterizes city council’s actions to suit her needs. As Ford addressed city council, most if not all councillors turned away from him, many of them openly checking their phones. This is not so much “body language,” which we can analyze with the help of experts in order to suss people’s inner motivations, as it is “political theatre” fully intended for public understanding and consumption.
The third strike for Craig is when Sung finally manages to get her to explain what, exactly, she has seen in Ford’s body language to indicate his loss of power. The body language Craig has seen is “loss of self-control.” Now, there are certainly many physical actions one can make due to a loss of self-control, and Ford is definitely a good example of someone lacking self-control, but “loss of self-control” is more a motivation than an action. It’s a motivation that a body language expert might assess by looking at a person’s physical movements. It is not those movements themselves.
Please remember how terrible body language “experts” are next time one is trotted out on cable news to fill up a couple minutes blathering about the latest scandal, because it will happen again and it will not be worthwhile.
*We would love to embed the video here for you, but the Globe has that locked down pretty well. … Sorry.