It's no longer what you say that counts. It's how you say it.
Politicians have known that for some time.
But it appears they've finally managed to convince the rest of us.
The presidential debates south of the border are a fine example.
It didn't matter what President Barack Obama said in the first of the three debates. He didn't "look" as interested in being there as Governor Mitt Romney, and so whatever he had to say was worthless.
In the second debate, Obama' came back to massacre Romney on facts and policy details.
But the facts and policies didn't matter, it was his demean-or that "won" the debate. He came out swinging, the way a president is expected to come out swinging.
But Romney occasionally swung back, and so the outcome was "close," despite the fact that Romney still didn't answer specific questions about policy or how he might credibly approach accomplishing his promised tax cuts etc. if he was elected president.
It wasn't what either of them said, it was how they said it.
It reminds me of the old joke: "It's how you hold your mouth."
In fact, a prominent news commentator actually said that the best way to determine who wins and who loses a debate is to watch it with the sound turned off.
That was from someone who, of all people, should understand the importance of facts (and incidentally, facts are NOT negotiable positions on the state of reality).
It's a debate!
It's about discussing and arguing points.
It's not just the way you Ask a secondary school debating team member, if you don't understand the concept.
It's pretty basic.
Saying it with exactly the right kind of smile doesn't turn fiction into fact.
It doesn't matter how confident you look, or whether you're wearing the right suit.
Even the odd joke or cleverly turned phrase, while it might help engage your audience, doesn't change facts - the bottom-line currency in the debate exchange.
And promulgating nonsense while as few people as possible are listening, or waiting until the underlying reality has been forgotten by most ordinary folks, or saying it over and over and over and over - all favoured bafflegab approaches regularly employed by politicians and the captains of industry - doesn't make it true.
Or at least, I should say, it shouldn't make it true.
The unfortunate reality that truth really has become a negotiable commodity.
Listen carefully to the Gateway Pipeline folks when they talk about safety. They don't come straight out and say that the pipeline will be safe. They merely point out that it is in their best interests to make it as safe as possible.
The provincial government has been trumpeting its "jobs plan" as a creator of 57,000 new jobs.
An NDP press release correctly - and cleverly - notes that more than half of those jobs were created before the government's special program was kicked off.
And glosses over the fact that, nevertheless, those jobs have been created.
Government sources are declaring victory in management of the 7.7 magnitude earthquake over the weekend - after all, no one was hurt.
Naysayers point out that there were very few people in the vicinity to get hurt, and suggest that communications were poor and sparse.
Always, both sides are playing the same game from the opposite ends of the field.
And here we all are, caught in the middle.