ZDNet Australia is proud to bring you a serialised version of Phil Dobbie's novel The Incumbent. A new chapter will be published here as part of his blog each week on Tuesday. You can also buy the entire book by clicking here.
Jimi Jones was a little disoriented by his experience in front of the VastTel board. These were the most elite businessmen he had ever met but, rather than being intimidating, the experience had unearthed a colossal oratory capacity from within. He had a rare ability to spout complete crap, yet entrance an audience and make them determined to better themselves. He was destined for a career in senior management. Or politics. Or public speaking. Wherever bullshit was in demand.
She had been a TV journalist for a couple of years after puberty, now she trained people on how to play journalists at their own game.
It was an art form that Adam Willis had perfected for his daily breakfast show on Radio 2IQ, and his audience lapped it up. A lot of the time they didn't really understand what he was going on about, but they mistook his inane ramblings as the workings of a great mind sharing prodigious thoughts that would ultimately change the world. To them, it was as if a wise philosopher like Plato or Socrates had been given a breakfast shift; assuming they had known who either of them were. All they knew of the great philosophers was that they were foreign and, therefore, not to be trusted.
Willis wasn't expecting any great philosophical discussion from the debate between Damien Woodburner and Sydney Musson. It was set to be an electrifying piece of radio and Willis knew his listeners would be absorbed by it, especially if Musson carried through his murderous intent, provided no one used any big words.
In preparation, Woodburner's PR team had been training him extensively in the art of media technique, so he didn't fall foul of the common tricks used to back guests into a corner, but it hadn't been going well.
'This company has an atrocious record and the board is largely to blame,' the media coach had said, taking on the role of interviewer.
'F**k off. Do you think you can do any better?' Woodburner had replied, clenching his fists and drawing his arm back in a threatening manner.
'No, not the right answer,' the coach snapped. 'Do not take the bait.' She explained how he should respond briefly to the question and then turn the interview in another direction, so he could take more control.
'For example,' she said, 'I'm sorry you feel that way Adam, but let's look at a few facts.' Then she pointed Woodburner to a crib sheet full of impressive statistics that could be peppered through the interview at the appropriate time.
'Now, let's try again.'
The coach knew the tricks. She had been a TV journalist for a couple of years after puberty, now she trained people on how to play journalists at their own game.
'The company has lost money for the last 13 years. That's far from an impressive record. How can we have any trust in the board or management of your company?' she asked.
'Look,' Woodburner replied sharply, turning to his crib sheet, but not feeling inclined to pull out any of the carefully selected messages chosen for him, 'you are starting to get on my nerves. Just shut the f**k up!'
The media trainer dropped her head into her hands. It was incredible that the son of a media tycoon knew so little about how journalists worked. Of course, the Woodburner family didn't care how their own hacks operated, so long as they reported stories exactly as they were told.
'I'm warning you, I'm not a man you want to get on the wrong side of,' Woodburner continued. 'I come from a very powerful family and we have a way of silencing our enemies.'
The trainer interrupted him. 'Don't make threats on live radio. Someone might be recording you.'
They both paused for a moment before agreeing that the approach wasn't working. Woodburner wasn't enjoying it, he was sure it was making him look like an idiot. He reacted the only way he could, an almost instinctive response, he sacked everyone in the room.