“Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interest.”
I'm looking today at two examples of how politicians avoid criticism by playing a kind of verbal jiu-jitsu, turning their opponents criticisms back on themselves.
Attacking people for "scaremongering" is a great diversionary tactic for politicans who want to avoid replying to protestors. It is a political version of the "ad hominem" fallacy, where you avoid answering arguments by casting aspersions on those making criticisms.
Scaremongering Spin – Part 1
Senator Alan Maclean said protests and petitions made it harder to get firms to sign a lease. A petition against the development by the Jersey Development Company currently has about 1,000 signatures.
The minister said: "It is bad enough seeing front page articles talking about protests against the finance centre with thousands of people. "That gets picked up internationally. What sort of impression does that give of this island as a whole? It does no good for any of us.
If you fail to take the people with you, if you suddenly change your mind and “clarify” that Senator Ozouf made a mistake, having failed to notice it until 9 months after the last election, then you must expect protests. It is rather an insult to the intelligence of the voter.
I think "clarify" should join "economic with the truth" in the pantheon of political doubletalk. It’s obviously a word that Senator Maclean is very fond of.
At "The Nation" website Katrina vanden Heuvel proposed a new dictionary to debunk the "veritable Orwellian Code of encrypted language" deployed by modern Republicans. She posted several definitions, many in the spirit of Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary. One is exceptionally pertinent:
CLARIFY, v. Repeating the same lie over and over again.
It is remarkable how in the States yesterday, Senator Gorst, while saying that Senator Ozouf made a "mistake" over pre-lets, also picked up on Senator Maclean making a mistake over total office space that has been let to UBS. The remarkable thing is that he was able to pick up on one mistake almost immediately, but it took over a year to see that the other one was a mistake!
Any historian worth their salt will see the sequence of events, and note that the realisation that the pre-let promise was a "mistake" only came about after UBS had signed, and not before, when the States of Jersey Development Company were trying to get UBS to sign. It is obvious that the signing prompted what Deputy Tadier called "moving the goalposts".
Protesting is the life blood of democracy. It is called “freedom of speech”. There are countries where people cannot protest without being locked up, carted off to Gulags, and the like, but in a free society, people can protest.
Suppression of stories is also something which goes on in those other countries where there is no free press. “Pravda” gives the truth that the Russian rulers want the people to hear; dissent is not mentioned.
One has to wonder what kind of society Alan Maclean really wants.
As far as damage to Jersey's international reputation goes, signing up a bank that only last month was ordered to pay $545m to US authorities over forex and Libor scandals is perhaps not something to brag about, and as might be expected, Senator Maclean was silent about that in his fulsome praise for UBS.
And notice the spin – “protests against the finance industry”. The protests are, for the most part, not against the finance industry. They are against the State getting involved in what could be done as well with less risk by the private sector.
Indeed, if one were to see the hand of capitalism anywhere, it would be in that protest. It is State communism which wants State control, and excludes the private sector. It is State communism which would silence dissent, rather than accept it as part of the price of a free society.
What message is sent out by the protests is this: democracy is alive in Jersey, despite the efforts of governments to bury it. People have a right to protest peacefully and it has a vital place in a healthy democracy.
It may not always succeed, but that does not make it any less precious.
Scaremongering Spin – Part 2
Senator Lyndon Farnham said that “ill-informed", "inaccurate" and "scaremongering" comments about Condor Liberation are causing "untold damage to the company, and tourism in Jersey".
As my correspondent Adam Gardiner notes:
“Condor Liberation has frequently cancelled due to weather (today again) and has been out of service for other reasons for an ongoing 2 months. Of the days available to them they have now not sailed on 16 of them and of the remaining have not been on schedule once. That alone is damaging to tourism and peoples confidence in the boat - and Condor as a company.”
“With such a poor record it is more than reasonable that people are asking in questions. It is however the fact that we are not getting straight answers and why speculation and negative comment continues.”
And I’ve also been digging out reports on how much testing it has had. Here’s one probably not seen much in the Australian press:
“Information on the ship outlines that it has the ability to maintain higher speeds in waves and operate in higher wave heights.”
And yet we now are told that this is untested.
‘We had hoped to bring Condor Liberation into service able to sail in greater than 3.5m. wave heights. However, given that it took us a little longer than hoped in preparing the ship, we were not able to complete the necessary trials to secure the higher wave height,’ said executive commercial director Alicia Andrews.
‘To get approval for a higher wave height, we have to have bad enough weather to take the ship out to test it in those conditions. We can’t forecast when we are going to get the right type of weather.
‘The other final point, is that in discussion with the Maritime and Coastguard Association, they advised us that they would like to see the ship in operation with the 3.5m. wave height for a little longer. We are looking for opportunities later in the year to conduct those trials.’
We don’t need attempt to divert attention by use of the “scaremongering” tactic, we need some hard facts, and the lack of those will continue to prompt questions about how suitable the ship is for our waters.