It wasn't me

It occurred to me that the perfect soundtrack for the outgoing Premier's legacy would be Shaggy's "It wasn't me".

Cost overruns at Dockyard? Wasn't me. Blame Planning.
Escalating violent crime? Wasn't me. Blame the Governor.
Tourism off a cliff? Wasn't me. Blame the global recession.
Massive debt? Wasn't me. Blame the global recession.
Ferry debacle? Wasn't me. Stay silent.

And while we're on the topic of a failure to own up to your legacy, the RG editorial did a good job of unpacking the lies in just a couple of segments of the outgoing Premier's rewriting of history.

While we're on the topic of lies, a recent column by Michael Kinsley highlighted the epidemic of intellectual dishonesty in political life:

These three different but overlapping concepts -- accuracy, honesty and intellectual honesty -- are honored by our political culture in reverse order of their actual importance. Accuracy is treated with holy reverence. Almost every day, The New York Times runs a "Corrections" column, solemnly cataloging its mistakes of the recent past. Last Thursday, for example, the Times confessed that it had given financier Steven Rattner the wrong middle initial, had miscounted the number of swamp white oak trees at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and had identified the author of a new book as a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland when he was really a professor of media and public affairs at The George Washington University. (He'll be at Maryland next year.) And there were three more items of similar weight. (The Times ombudsman told Publisher Arthur Sulzberger to say six Hail Marys and stop running columns by Bono.)


Intellectual dishonesty, meanwhile, is so built into the Washington culture that you have to force yourself to notice it. It even has a more familiar and less pejorative name: "spin." Spin is not just another word for lies. A better definition might be "indifference to the truth." The really great spin artists, like Karl Rove and James Carville, are celebrated as masters of their craft. Journalists crowd around them, longing to get spun.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a master spin artist, plays on this social insecurity among journalists. Barbour doesn't literally wink as he spins, but he manages to send the message: This is all a big game -- a big wonderful game -- and you have the privilege of playing it with me.

The last 4 years have seen the professionalisation of spin in Bermuda politics, marked most notably with a Press Secretary, which is essentially a taxpayer funded position to 'spin' the media.

The media in Bermuda go along with it less than their US counterparts, but I think largely fail to counter it by exposing the spin rather than simply quoting press releases, despite their lack of intellectual honesty.

If for example a politician says something demonstrably false, or patently absurd, the media's role isn't to simply report what they said as if credible. The headline should then become "Politician lies". What we've seen in Bermuda is a lot of regurgitating of half-truths and untruths without the required debunking.

The most obvious example of this was when the PLP issued a press release declaring that a number of people - myself included - were members of the new Bermuda Democratic Alliance.

ZBM news just read the release verbatim, without a simple phone call to check the veracity of the claims, and got defensive when I called up to point out that the release was complete BS. That's terrible journalism and submitting to the spin culture.

The story there should have been "PLP lie about BDA members".

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