WEDNESDAY, DEC. 12: I’m sitting here at my computer with my palm firmly placed over my face in disbelief. On my screen is the PLP’s deputy leader talking to a crowd with his baseball cap pointing backwards. Prior to that our Minister of Tourism literally danced backwards as he departed the stage. For 12 excruciating minutes he screamed about his love for the PLP and told “jokes” about how former colleagues might be on the rooftops trying to shoot him. We have candidates dancing, joking and singing, on stage doing their best to entertain a handful of faithful supporters while being seemingly oblivious to the fact that their “performance” can be seen by anyone on earth with access to the Internet.
I really do wonder if the campaign manager appreciates that the very people we desperately need to invest in our economy are viewing the election rallies, juvenile commercials and conspiracy theories about secret reports online. Do they appreciate the damage they are doing to Bermuda when they “stand strong” for candidates who are facing a drug charge the day before an election? Do they appreciate what foreign investors see when they run candidates who seek to demonize whites for political gain? Do they appreciate that all of the fearmongering is adding fuel to the fire burning our economy, or are they so obsessed with holding on to their Ministerial salaries that they are willing to sacrifice job creation in order to get reelected?
As with the UBP’s not so Secret Plan, I highly recommend that voters read ex-PLP member Michael Markam’s discussion document on Electoral Strategy of Racist Politics. It will be immediately clear that this is not the document of a PLP consultant, because in several sections Markham argues against the PLP’s use of racist propaganda techniques. Reading it is therefore very useful for analyzing the PLP’s campaign tactics.
For example, I believe that Markham speaks to the heavy entertainment component seen at last Thursday’s rally. It strikes me as bizarre that this has absolutely nothing to do with running a country, especially one that is struggling, but it’s somehow supposed to be taken as a sign of Standing Strong with struggling -Bermudians:
When the individual or party lacks a coherent intellectually honest policy they turn to a race based strategy of election message instead of policy based on considered issues.
Any intellectual platform development is secondary to the race issue, the emotive issue is first on the agenda, and the intellect is last. Development of slogans not substance is the order of the day; introducing campaign things like music, spotlights, parades, flags.
The PLP’s incessant use of catch-phrases such as OBA/UBP, Secret Plan, Secret Agenda, Black Surrogates, Austerity, etc. is reflected in Markham’s comments on repetitive messaging:
Racist politicians utilize strategies appealing to emotions rather than sound, logical reasoning. Their main technique is using a few simple points repeated again and again into the mind of the masses.
And what about the Secret Plan, which is obviously not secret nor a plan, yet was still put into the public domain two weeks before the election? And what would Markham have to say about the PLP’s claim of a cover-up in spite of the facts now before us?
Platform of political racist conspiracy is an important election component. My telling the voter there is a secret group of racial people working against their interest suggests the voters should vote against those people of a specific race. The accuracy of the charges is not necessary just the publicity of racial charges in the public mind is enough.
All of this helps us to better appreciate Vince Ingham’s response at the PLP town hall meeting last week. When confronted with a hostile audience, it appeared that Ingham resorted to both conspiracy theory and xenophobia to avoid taking personal responsibility: “When he says for no reason the position he was filling was terminated and someone with a different cultural background was more appropriate — that’s absolutely wrong in 2012. There’s a pile of money sitting somewhere in Bermuda. I see that pile of money being spent now on a campaign by the other side. I can tell you now, it’s not coming from the black surrogates. It’s coming from business and business leaders who are playing a game with our people.”
When the PLP places advertisements that ask “What else are they hiding?” and “What is the OBA really about?” they are doing so because they believe as Markam writes, “A fearful person will do anything, say anything, accept anything, reject anything, it makes him feel more secure for his own, his family’s or his country’s security and safety, whether it actually accomplishes it or not.”
The economic trouble with these fear tactics is that not only can they scare voters into supporting the PLP, but they can also scare investors away from Bermuda. The world is watching our dancing, dishonest, fearmongering politicians, and the PLP’s campaign is sending out the wrong message. Many PLP members know the economic damage their fear-based campaign produces, but out of self-interest they won’t do anything to stop it.