In a democracy, you have to expect polemics instead of debate. You know opposing interests will spin the facts to put their cause in the best possible light and their opponent’s cause in the worst possible light. And you have to expect sophistry. Opposing views will be supported by specious reasoning presented in the most plausible way possible, even when the people presenting the argument know their reasoning is specious.
Smart voters long ago learned to take political arguments with a grain of salt. They know, for example, that the party financed to a large extent by oil companies will present the most persuasive arguments it can cook up for offshore drilling. Politicians may not know what countries border Iraq but they do know what side their bread is buttered on.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the party financed to a large extent by wide-eyed tree huggers can be expected to oppose offshore drilling.
It’s frustrating to people who would like to hear reasoned debates on the issues, with the participants seeing the good and the bad in all sides of an issue. There’s something to be said for offshore drilling – not much, but something. And there’s something to be said for tree hugging. So far, Paris Hilton has offered the most reasonable assessment of that situation. Maybe she should run for president, after all.
But what I find most shocking about America’s endless election campaign is the lies. Not only politicians but also the media spread deliberate falsehoods as facts. They know they’re lying. But they do it with a smile. I’m not talking about pretending to misunderstand something a politician said. They do that so much that I would be surprised if anyone actually seemed to understand anything about politics. No, I am talking about deliberate falsehoods.
Just yesterday, former New York mayor and presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani (photo below, left) said on Fox News that China had permission to drill for oil off the coast of Florida. Now, I know Giuliani has been in the former Soviet Union making heaps of cash as a consultant, so he is probably out of touch with current affairs in this part of the world. But even Giuliani knows China is not about to drill for oil off the coast of Florida. What he probably heard was that China has a deal to look for oil and gas in Cuba – not in the waters around Cuba but on the land.
He took that thread of information and deliberately wove it into a Big Lie.
That’s not the kind of thing you expect in a democracy. It was more typical of Nazi Germany, when propagandists like Goebbels (photo at right) called the shots.