Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Why political spin is more dangerous in Thailand

Mar 29. 2019
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By The Nation

The election behind us, let’s be on guard against manipulations of the truth

Misdirection as a tool of political gamesmanship, commonly referred to as “spinning” the facts, constitutes one of the worst elements of our embattled constitutional democracy. The only path to normalcy in state affairs is to accept the outcome of last weekend’s election and seek a workable means of proceeding from here that is of the greatest benefit to the country and its citizens. The vote tallies should not be downplayed, distorted or blown out of proportion purely for political ends. 

The more the players succeed in spinning the truth, the more likely the 2019 election will go down in history as a meaningless exercise.

Both sides of our vast and unyielding political canyon have adopted double standards on issues of considerable ethical, legal and moral consequence. Twisted consciences have been one of the more lamentable by-products emerging from years of polarised preferences. The election will have provided a chance to resolve this if it leads to a fair and just social system in which the same standards apply to everyone.

The misinformation churned up by habitual spinning doesn’t merely blur the issues and confound a progressive agenda. Contrived efforts to distract public attention from a critical problem can be so extensive that injury and long-term harm can result. It is a dark art that feeds on itself on its way to becoming the accepted norm and ultimately destroying the perpetrators as well as the intended enemies.

Tricking the electorate with false or misleading claims can be witnessed even in superpower nations. The level of advancement in civilisation makes little difference when gauging the wilful tawdriness displayed and damage caused. It would appear only that a better-educated citizenry requires more sophisticated lies and that the perpetrators must prepare more elaborate cover-ups.

Thailand’s deep-seated political divide has unfortunately drawn countless ordinary citizens into this murky, hurtful game, abetting the trickery initiated by politicians – sometimes unwittingly but often knowingly. Social media, where regulatory controls are so difficult to apply, allowing for a high degree of anonymity, enable and even encourage new players in the game of distortion.

Honest citizens whose top priority is to help Thailand become a proper democracy, its progress unimpeded, should be able to discern for themselves which issues genuinely warrant attention and not take the politicians’ word for it. These issues will be the ones that affect the man on the street – education, healthcare, social welfare, illicit drugs and the like. Concern should not be diverted to matters chiefly of interest to officeholders, such as the relevance of the Senate or whether certain figures found guilty of crimes were in fact victims of political persecution.

Above all else, honest citizens must question every claim and not be drawn to taking sides immediately without fully considering every aspect of an issue and sniffing for the foul scent of distortion. Regardless of where their ideological sentiment rests, they should approach every claim with the question “What happened” and not “Who was involved?”

Our failure as citizens to act as independent judges will commit Thailand to decades more animosity and diversion from the path forward. It will keep ill-intentioned puppet masters in control of our country’s every movement.

Elections are just one stage of democracy. In the next phase just begun, we have to be acutely alert to any signs of the truth being manipulated. We have to be able to identify spin and reject it outright.

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