Election or by-election time always bring forth the best or worst part of our political discourse. I will not deal with the senseless violence which our police service seems incapable of preventing but deal with the issue of political deception.According to Merriam-Webster deception is “the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid” or as Hugo Grotius ( On The Law of War and Peace) put it, saying something completely false either to make others laugh or to mislead them.
There is no doubt that apart from a few political actors like Tayali who may say things that are completely false for amusement, deception especially by the ruling elite is used for political expediency
There is no doubt that apart from a few political actors like Tayali who may say things that are completely false for amusement, deception especially by the ruling elite is used for political expediency and carefully crafted for the maintenance of political power and stability for as long as possible. The late former Vice President Kunda once said the MMD would be in power for 100 years. Similarly some PF leaders have said PF will be in power for eternity! Of course this is not true but is said anyway because in their belief voters have “infant-like response to lies and if they say something often enough people will believe it” (Machiavelli).
Listening to the PF Director of Media, Sunday Chanda’s incessant propaganda one cannot but see deception by omission, deception by saturation and deception by spin at work as elaborated by Carlo Kopp ( Considerations on Deception Techniques used in Political and Product Marketing).”
All these techniques are designed to create a misperception of reality by either excluding unpalatable facts or encouraging the (reader or listener) to devalue or disregard the unpalatable facts by accepting the spin on the issue”. For example, the outbursts against Prime TV by PF Secretary General Davies Mwila are explained as a “simple misunderstanding” and that the “PF and its government have championed freedom of the press and the right for journalists to practice without fear or favour”!
According to Kopp, deception by omission or concealment seeks to create a misperception of reality favourable to the presenter by trying to induce the public to form a picture of reality based only upon what the attacker presents. This may explain why successive governments have been at great pains to push through the Access to Information Bill because of fear that adverse policy outcomes or reports are not disclosed to the public.
Deception by saturation seeks to inundate the public with messages, most of them redundant or irrelevant ( like “under the wise leadership of His Excellency, The Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces”) so that the public cannot gather information which might contradict the attacker’s message. Deception by saturation also seeks to hide information behind a deluge of messages which have little or no information content.Is it any wonder that the public readership of the “public” press has drastically gone down not to mention the loss of interest by many in ZNBC news where the first 20 mins is predictable!
Deception by spin is a form of subversion attack which presents an unpalatable or other acknowledged or accepted fact by encouraging the public to assess that fact from a perspective which is less damaging to the attacker. Consider the spin over the “Ubomba Mwibala” or the “6/10 criminals are Bemba”.
It appears to me quite obvious that the focus of the so-called political media institutions has shifted from truthful and factual information to the public to lying and deception for the maintenance of political power. In “When Presidents Lie – A History of Official Deception and And Its Consequences” Eric Alterman argues that deception invariably exacts a price later and that that even though it may appear that “the ability to lie convincingly had come to be regarded as almost being a qualification for holding public office”, honesty in government is in fact the best policy.
By G Soneka