Glen Tucker GUEST COLUMNIST
Two Tuesdays ago, ex-Governor Mitt Romney was rejected by the American electorate. Exit polls revealed that the electorate felt that President Obama needed more than four years to turn the economy around.
Another significant factor influencing their decision was trust. Romney promised the people anything he felt would win him the elections, but without specifics, the people ignored these promises.
In the second of the election season's three presidential debates, Governor Romney accused President Obama of failing to acknowledge the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi as a terrorist attack. Obama denied this. After Romney doubled down on his assertion, the moderator, CNN's Candy Crowley, corrected Romney to loud applause, and Twitter exploded with posts praising Crowley for setting the record straight.
The 'fact-checking' movement - which is really the news organisations' rebuttal of factual claims - has been gaining prominence for some time now and seems to be gaining widespread acceptance. At The New York Times, coverage of campaign debates typically includes a main article and a sidebar labelled 'Fact-Check', in which candidates' claims are vetted. For example, Romney claimed that Obama did not have a jobs plan. The Times countered: "This is incorrect."
Polls in the US regularly showed that the economy and jobs were the concerns foremost on the minds of Americans. So he simply promised to 'turn the economy around' and to 'provide 12 million jobs'. He studiously avoided several requests to explain how he proposed to find solutions that seemed to be evading economies throughout the world.
These and other situations led news organisations to conclude that Romney was not credible. When he accused Obama of failing to turn the economy around four years after a recession, the response was not positive.
Last year, Jamaica had its elections. The JLP inherited a weak economy and the great recession hit shortly thereafter. Leaders of the new Opposition hit the road and in regular weekly meetings downplayed the recession and placed the economic downturn and unemployment squarely at the feet of what they described as a 'wicked and uncaring government'.
News organisations carried this line regularly. The Opposition gained so much traction from a scandal, no one stopped to ask what plans they had for the country if they should be elected. Basically, promises were made to correct anything that was proving to be problematic for the people.
So since electricity bills were high, GCT would be removed from electricity bills. Since the unemployment figure was growing, they would provide lots of jobs. The first scandal was fading, so another one was needed. JDIP was chosen. All forms of thievery and corruption were suggested. The police should be called in. A commission of enquiry was needed. The IMF arrangement that was being delayed was no problem. That could be fixed in two weeks.
The media fed all of this to us without demanding details of how problems that are faced by the rest of the world would be solved by the PNP. So the JLP was swept from power. I find it silly and childish that we who allowed ourselves to be swayed by these duppy stories could now be expressing dissatisfaction with Government's performance.
still no IMF agreement
It is nearly 11 months - make that 22 'two weeks' - since the Government came to power and there is no IMF agreement. There are no jobs and the economy is moving downhill. Should we have expected anything else? The results of the JDIP commission of enquiry are out - long ago. Why is it kept secret? How come no one is arrested? What is being done to restore the tarnished reputations?
Journalists have an old-fashioned way of dealing with spurious claims - a 'he said, she said' approach, which entails finding someone to counter a claim. The objective, I believe, is to offer a form of balance. We are past that. We need more aggressive rebuttals!! Reporters need to correct falsehoods - not just balance them.
Journalists need to ensure that they do not become part of a disinformation system that treats all statements as equally plausible. They need to help us to see if statements fit the facts.
The Americans decided that after eight years of Bush and a recession, the economy could not be turned around in four years. We decided that after 18 and a half years of weak economic performance and the same recession, the economy should be in good shape. Well!
I think we have paid a high price for the uncritical parroting of politicians. It is a waste of time to be blaming the PNP for failing to keep impractical promises. Going forward, the nation demands an aggressive examination of candidates' claims before we vote.
Glenn Tucker is an educator and sociologist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.