A possible solution to political BS
I am one of the most cynical people I know. It is not in my nature to accept that 2+2= 4 and it is certainly not in my nature to accept that this when coming from the mouth of a politician. Politics by its nature is the business of spin, deceit and lies and if I were honest it is one of the reasons I love it so much. I enjoy the fact that you have two or more ideas being agued by grown people all claiming that they are telling the truth and the consequences of not believing their perspective will result in the total destruction of all man kind. The bigger the issues and the more they get involved, the more the truth gets stretched and the cracks in the premise show ever more. Until finally and satisfactory you smile at your political master for they have made one assertion too far and he/she destroys any shred on doubt left in the public mind. They have crossed over and the world sees them for the ridiculously, crazed individual they have become. The lie of the politician is both expected and understood, it is a product of the system in the same way that bureaucracy is, and because of this we should recognize it and find a way to control it.
For all my love of the political lie I am becoming more and more concerned with the total and utter BS being totted about as fact. It is one thing to argue over the % breakdowns of any given government report, but we are seeing a shift far beyond the basics of ‘lies, lies and statistics’. I may not expect a political manifesto to have any validity beyond week 2 of a new term in office, but I do take huge issue with what I see as a new form of misrepresentation that is sweeping through politics. We are seeing an erosion of confidence in government for what at least in part can be blamed on the heaps of crap we are expected to swallow as truth.
Recent events have with the increased the growth of new groups such as the Tea Party and these have proved to be a good breading ground for the most blatant use of the unsubstantiated political BS. They are factories of the one liner that manages to boil entire debates down to what can only be described as the lowest common denominator of crazy. The headline lie is designed in simple terms to shock people into thinking that the world is ending/has just ended. I think we all know what is going on with this type of lie but if not here are some good ones:
Responsible people like former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, fueling the fire with the statement that a health care bill provision for advance care planning consultants was tantamount to “death panels.” Or Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) accusation that President Obama is requiring children to attend political re-education camps. Let’s not forget Congressman Steve King’s (R-IA) claim that every day, 12 Americans are killed by illegal immigrants. Former Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo) joins the bandwagon with warnings of a secret plot by Mexico to invade and conquer the United States.
In response to this crippling degradation of truth I would like to propose that any member of an elected office who is proved to mislead the public be politically punished, instantly and publically. For instance: Representative X tells the public a lie relating to the Health Care debate. They go on TV and tell the public that the result of this bill will be that people over the age of 65 will have forced euthanasia. This is clearly a bunch of BS and as a result they would then be disqualified from the actual voting on the bill. There becomes an incentive to actually keep comments and argument within the bounds of reality so perhaps the level of debate may increase and the public may start to trust what they hear.
I recognize that there are inherent problems with this concept, but as a working base I propose the following:
A running straw poll is be established that allows the public to make suggestions as what should be investigated. For instance, if 500,000 e-mails are sent within 24 hours of the original statement an official case will be opened. In order to actually send that e-mail you must be a pre-registered member of the site, therefore only one e-mail can be sent by each member to avoid individual multi votes. The site is run by an independent organization that is empowered to act on the requests of the voters. When the 500k mark is reached they have 2 weeks to gather evidence on that topic. This only needs to be basic information and should include things like asking Rep’ X to provide the study/data that clearly states that their assertion is the truth. If there is clear evidence that the truth was told then the case should be dropped, but the evidence must be posted on the website for general public viewing to ensure openness.
If there is clear evidence of a lie being told, or if Rep’ X can provide no supporting material then immediate action to exclude Rep’ X from the vote should be taken (the burden of evidence should be on being able to justify their statements). In cases of conflicting/inconclusive evidence a jury of the public should be held. I would suggest 101 people chosen on the bases of proportional representation of the citizen body to ensure fairness. They would then have to vote purely on the evidence provided and then ruling either truth or lie with >50 being the final verdict. This would effectively be an extension of the current legal jury system but being modified for cases of political truth.
I am very aware that the US holds onto certain ‘Rights’ that can not be touched such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and it may appear that I am proposing to circumvent these pillars of American freedom. So let me add this. The rules I have suggested may only apply to media outlets that sign up to the program. I would like to establish a media Gold Standard, a way of showing the public that your TV Company/Newspaper/ Radio Station believes in truth and encourages its guests to speak the truth. Therefore, if you are Rep’ X and you are on NPR which is signed up to the Gold Standard then you must tell the truth or suffer the consequences. On the other hand if you are on a TV show that does not want to be recognized by the Gold Standard then you are free to say what ever BS you like, after all you have that freedom. It is my belief that given the choice the public will start to shun those that openly say they are willing to lie to you and move to those stations and programs that have pledged to show only the truth. We will let the free mark decide whether the public wants to be lied to, isn’t that the American way?
This system is in no way perfect and lots of kinks will need to be ironed out, but I think it would be a step forward. Politicians should be held accountable on everything they say and if they are simply going to make up crap there should be repercussions. If you enforce a rule of losing votes the party they represent are more likely to put forward candidates that can be trusted to tell the truth and not mislead the public, could you imagine what have happened in the health care debate if each lie told resulted in a loss of voting right! By making the politician accountable you are inadvertently making the media accountable. No media association will want to be associated with always having their shows/papers being the ones investigated for being a forum of lies. Further more, the lies of politics tend to be found on the extremes and it will mean that over time the silent majority in centre will hear arguments on their issues and without the craziness of unsubstantiated extremism. Finally and perhaps most importantly the voting public will have a direct way of involving themselves in the process of bringing truth and responsibility to politics, they will become more political aware and a better educated voting public will be established.