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Why let facts get in the way of spin

“Post-truth: Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”

— Oxford Living Dictionaries

I have never been a fan of political parties, and over the past 25 years, I've been given more than enough reason to distrust politicians. To be fair, some political parties have been far worse than others. But the heart of the matter is that politicians are human and therefore can say and do some of the most reprehensible things. I have witnessed this first hand, and I know of many others who have similar experiences that have gone unreported.

Given the high potential for politicians of any political party to be unscrupulous, being an independent voter is the only way to be. Party loyalty be damned. I am quite happy to support any politician or political party working in Bermuda's best interests. Alternatively, it is my civic responsibility to speak out and vote against politicians who take my vote for granted.

The phrase “post-truth politics” was coined during the 2016 United States presidential campaign, and it speaks directly to the issue of politicians taking voters for granted. It simply refers to circumstances where a politician's first priority is to manipulate a voter's feelings instead of being ethical or factual. This requires voters to put their absolute trust in a politician regardless of any factual information that contradicts the politician's claims.

Perhaps this is why I found the Progressive Labour Party's good governance press conference from last week so painful to watch. Opposition leader David Burt made one statement, in particular, that smacks of post-truth politics:

“Finally, when the PLP wins the next election we will implement campaign finance reform to create greater openness and transparency surrounding financial contributions to political parties and the expenditures of political parties.”

In terms of political strategy, my guess is that Burt's statement about the PLP winning the next election is meant to convey great confidence. But under the circumstances, I find such a statement to be arrogant and insulting. Burt almost sounds as if the PLP is entitled to win the next election, even though the PLP's track record on good governance and ethics is factually quite appalling.

But before we can even get to the PLP's good governance track record tomorrow, we have to address Burt's elephants in the room. Marc Bean's resignation from the party leadership and retirement from politics have not yet been forgotten. Neither have the claims of subterfuge and deceit that were made by several of Bean's supporters. It would, however, appear obvious that both Bean and Burt would prefer to sweep it all under the rug.

The Royal Gazette's December 2 editorial expressed frustration that Bean would grant an interview only if he was able to pick the interviewer, the interview location and also mandated that politics be left off the table.

It should also be noticed that Burt's December 9 Bernews interview contained no questions about the leadership change. One has to assume that Burt set a similar condition for his interview, yet we are expected to deliver the PLP to victory in spite of the lack of transparency regarding the transition of power.

The next elephant is the PLP's involvement in the illegal blockading of Parliament, which according to Burt, should not prevent its inevitable win, either. Shortly after Burt called for a protest, PLP supporters published the same #OccupyParliament Twitter call sign that was used during the March blockading of Parliament. But, per Leah Scott's apology letter, Burt was not engaged in a blockade. He was merely trying to protect the public from the attacks of the riot police. Ultimately, voters must judge the video footage for themselves, but Burt obviously does not think that it matters.

We also need to consider Burt's previous support for privatisation. In March 2011, he had the following to say about it:

“It is my hope, as the Government looks to open up the budget process and looks to medium-term planning, that we take a serious look at what government services may be able to be provided by the private sector in a more efficient manner.”

Those views appear to be diametrically opposed to Burt's present views on the proposed construction and outsourcing of management of the airport. Once again, facts are irrelevant, and the PLP will get re-elected regardless of the truth. At least according to Burt.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that Burt has made such a claim. During his first Reply to the Throne Speech, he remarked, “Mr Speaker, as the next government our priorities are clear, but our aspirations must be tempered.”

Well, it would appear that Burt no longer cares to temper his aspirations.

Tomorrow: the PLP and good governance

To reach out to Bryant Trew, e-mail bryanttrew@mac.com

David Burt, the leader of the Progressive Labour Party (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published January 26, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated January 26, 2017 at 7:18 am)

Why let facts get in the way of spin

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