ADELAIDE – There has developed the most depressing reality that people can be seduced by falsehoods once they opt to suspend disbelief and accept as true that which has been fabricated.
In 1858 Abraham Lincoln famously said, ““You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
There are sufficient numbers of ignorant, credulous or stupid people to ensure that a person like Donald Trump can successfully transform lies, distortions and half-truths into political success.
I have to admit that this astonishes and bewilders me.
How can it be that so many people opt to believe fiction, or to prefer it ahead of fact, in an age when so many people are supposedly educated and enlightened?
I could also ask how people can continue to believe in the notion that supernatural powers, in whatever form but based purely on ‘faith’, govern how the human world is ordered?
I think this undue credulity of far too many people is the Achilles’ heel of representative democracy.
And when they are so easily dismissive of democracy in utilising this power.
By doing no more than using the detested Joseph Goebbels’ method of constantly asserting that a lie is the truth, our political elites succeed in bewildering and misleading many citizens into accepting the lie.
Such has been the case in the current Australian election, now just over a week away.
Political practice reduced to little more than a series of photo opportunities, shouted slogans, baby kissing, dog patting and hi-vis vests.
All that matters to the politician is to relentlessly stay 'on message', inanely repeating ‘talking points’ workshopped to please not to inform.
Messages to nudge people where the politician wants them to go in their minds not necessarily where they would more advantageously go.
So-called debates become slanging matches and journalists’ questions are designed for entrapment not elucidation.
It is a real sadness to observe the open bias of far too many journalists and the abandonment of analytical and probing questions for the cheap alternative of manufactured 'gotcha' moments.
Sensation pushes out significance.
It is little wonder that so many people switch off literally and figuratively from the political process.
Where is there to go when meaningful content is removed from public discourse and what is left is communication totally bereft of intelligent advocacy, discussion and debate.
People are left with mantras from which compelling issues and big ideas have been removed.
Pap trundled out to disenchanted audiences who are later asked to nominate which politician was the least worst performer on the night.
What we are witnessing is a deeply corrosive way of doing politics.
It explains why there is so little confidence in political processes and why populist demagogues can harness prevailing disenchantment by the deft use of what amounts to the tricks of carnival spruikers.
We have seen enough of this in Australia through some poor emulations of Donald Trump and we’ve just watched it lead to political success in the Philippines in the deceptive campaign of the ludicrous Bongbong Marcos.
(Some translate bongbong as ‘thief and liar’ and others say it means ‘bearer of hope’ but in Cebuano, the native tongue of the Vesayan people of Cebu in the southern Philippines, bungbong is nothing but a wall.)
In my assessment, unless and until there is serious reform to the way in which representative democracies are structured, governed and honoured, then the race to the bottom in terms of the quality and honesty of government will continue unabated.
It is hard to imagine the bulk of the people, we regular people, being anything other than damaged and our interests defiled by this trend.