Electioneering and Truth

by Peter Rose 9 months ago in politics

Is any election speech honest?

Electioneering and Truth

Electioneering and truth.

Can any election speech be truthful?

Accepting the lies and fake news from your own side while condemning it from opponents will just perpetuate and encourage politicians (and their professional speech writers, spin doctors and financiers) to continue to try and drench any election in a mist of half truths, lies, disconnected personal insults, etc.

When any election campaign gets to the dirty tricks stage, and all modern elections are managed by professionals who are paid to win, how they do it is not their concern, nor is the political philosophy of the party they are paid by; we get exposé stories about opponents but do the sexual exploits of a person alter their innate abilities to manage? We are continually requested to accept various gender definitions and accept all as worthy humans. So why do some people stop being so open and inclusive when it comes to politicians standing for an opposing party?

An example of the nonsense we get fed during elections, especially on social media: It is claimed that 14 million people in Britain live in poverty. Reported on 1 November 2019

Dictionary definition of poverty—the condition of being without adequate food money etc.

Notice it does NOT include not being able to afford the very latest smart phone or £100 trainers.

If 65 million people live in Britain, then 14 million is 23%, so almost every fourth person we see is living in poverty—not what most eyes see. We see supermarkets busy, we see cars being used, we see well-clothed people and the fast food restaurants and betting shops full. This is just the sort of empty soundbites we should ALL challenge; it does not matter which side of the political spectrum you favor.

It is a well-known quote that there are three levels of lies. Lies, damn lies and statistics.

Most people are not statisticians; that is, they have not made an academic study of how statistics are arrived at or what they really mean. Most people see media reports about statistical reports. If they saw the original study and if this study was scientifically made and presented, it would include notice about percentage of acceptable variance in the figures. So if the press say X party has a 3% lead over Y party, they are not telling the public that there is a probable + or – 2% accepted variation, in the core figures. If the headlines say X may be 3% in the lead or Y may be 1% in the lead, this changes the impression given to the public.

Statistics publicized by the parties can be even more misleading. The spin doctors are very skilled at selective accountancy and they not only apply this to costings for the policy proposals suggested by their employers, but also to popularity indicators. Leaving out the “Don't know” number or apportioning it to their own party is not unknown. For example, if an actual poll showed 30% will vote for X with 35% who will vote for Y and 35% say don't know. In the public, this can become 58% will vote for Y (58% of those who expressed an opinion). When providing figures for policy expenditure, the election speeches will wish to minimize the cost to the taxpayers—if the voters they are targeting are taxpayers. Almost the same speech can be given to voters who are not taxpayers but with subtle changes to the figures, this group of voters have no interest in keeping tax costs down; in fact, many will actually want taxation to be increased if it is to pay for their own demands. This selective accountancy can be done very easily. When estimating the cost of a policy proposal, leave out inflation, leave out the cost of bureaucracy, leave out the possible effects of increased demand (caused by the proposal) for a limited component. (Land for example) They never show the “cost” of not pursuing an alternative policy.

Modern election campaigns, which involve millions of voters, do not focus on policy or realistic effects of policies. They focus on image and perceived personality. There are various reasons for this, one is the very large number of voters who do not bother to study policy and give even less consideration to probable outcomes of those policies. One other reason is that such things are subjective, they do not need hard, verifiable evidence to support them. (Subjective being defined as—existing only as perceived and not as a thing in itself.) This means anything short of provable libel or actual slander can be “got away with.” So we get headlines X weak or Y changes mind, these do not have to even have a small bit of truth but they create impressions and unfortunately many votes are cast based on impressions rather than study of policy proposals. Another common trick is to declare the opponents have an unpopular policy. When this is denied (since it never was a policy proposal), the claim is, they have abandoned it because it was exposed.

One of the changes to election campaigns has been caused by the pace of change in society; not only technology changes, but the pace at which things change. For example, 200 years ago it could be reasonably assumed that the population would only grow at the existing rate. Or that inflation would continue at the average for the last five years. In the minds of the majority of voters, their lives and the lives of their children would not change very much over the course of the next 10 years. A person in employment could expect to stay doing this same work for the rest of their life time. Now we see much faster changes, much more volatility in things which affect our day to day lives. Currency fluctuation, employment opportunities, business stability; these are now short term considerations, not long term. This affects, may be subconsciously, how people vote. Stability is not expected, so what is being offered during election campaigns matters less since things will all be changed tomorrow.

In a strange way, lies and deceit are now expected. They have become an accepted normality and this cancels out their effect. Nothing said in an election campaign is expected to be a lasting truth. This may not be true for ardent believers in any particular political dogma, or to those with limited experience of electoral campaigns, but the majority just dismiss all that is said by all sides and vote according to their own intuitive feeling or according to an existing family tradition.

Peter Rose
Peter Rose
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