The lie has a bad reputation but it is an infallible weapon in politics

The lie has a bad reputation but it is an infallible weapon in politics

The thesis that the power of the media is really dangerous for the left in liberal democracy has had a hard clash with reality in this campaign. At least, when it comes to those decisive duels that can leave an indelible stamp. Pedro Sánchez easily got rid of Ana Rosa Quintana and Pablo Motos, two presenters with conservative ideas and extensive experience on television. In the case of Ana Rosa, the confrontation was so unbalanced that she decided to take a week’s vacation afterwards. Suddenly, Sánchez was growing on the sets, and that his performance in the 2019 televised debates was not exactly extraordinary.

With Alberto Núñez Feijóo, Sánchez found a tougher rival, as aggressive as he was and even more willing to lie or manipulate. The leader of the PP had been discreet in his skirmishes in the Senate, although he had gone from less to more. In the last two, he was already on a par with the Prime Minister. Sánchez came up in June and claimed six debates. Feijóo only accepted one. The socialist, pressured by risking everything on one card, did not prepare for a foreseeable scenario. That the PP candidate bet on the style of Pablo Casado as if he too had emerged from the trenches of Aznarism.

Of all the sentences in which Feijóo walked through an alternative reality, there is one that was not the most serious, but the most revealing. “Stop kidding pensioners,” he told Sánchez. If there is a group that cannot complain about the government’s measures related to inflation, it is that of retirees, whose pensions have enjoyed higher increases than those of salaries.

Feijóo alleged that his party had voted in favor of the increase when in fact it voted against the pension reform that included raising them at the rate of the CPI. Who was kidding whom?

Another phrase that without being a lie is a fallacy and defines his style in some moments of the debate. “I have all the respect for the LGTBI flag, but I also have it for the Spanish flag. What happens, that the Spanish flag is inferior to the other?” He said. Nobody has affirmed such a thing, but Feijóo released it with the intention of not entering into the decision of some municipalities not to place the LGTBI banner. Don’t ask me about that flag, because above it is the flag of Spain and that’s where the discussion ends, something similar to what Santiago Abascal said. A version of the straw man fallacy.

Some on Twitter recalled that the PP leader fully used the Gish Gallop technique, which consists of overwhelming the opponent with a rapid succession of “misleading arguments, half-truths and misrepresentations in a short space of time”. It’s almost impossible to refute everything in one turn. This Gish was a creationist who could only drive the scientists he was up against crazy.

It is also called the machine gun of fallacies, an expression in which the key word is machine gun. Not letting the opponent breathe, interrupting him when he tries to dismantle an accusation and move on to the next.

Sánchez started the hundred-minute debate too hastily, as if it were only going to last twenty and he needed to rate everything his rival said. He discovered surprised that Feijóo was not intimidated and ended up doing the same, but in a more effective way. Immoral if we take into account some of those answers, but effective.

He even took it for granted that Sánchez, who was a mere councilor at the time and therefore a nobody, had direct responsibility for the crisis at Caja Madrid, governed by Miguel Blesa, Aznar’s personal friend, and later by Rodrigo Rato. You have to discover yourself in the face of such impudence. In those years, Feijóo was in his first term as president of the Xunta, he had real institutional power and he used it to promote the failed union of the Galician savings banks.

Feijóo was euphoric on Tuesday. “They are going to lose a lot,” he said in Ciudad Real, referring to his opponents. The manual says that it is not convenient to take your victory for granted, lest your potential voters stay at home thinking that their vote will not be decisive. But his strategy suits that victory morale. Voters who hesitate to the end, for example between supporting the PSOE or the PP, will have an easier time convincing themselves that voting for the latter is appropriate if many people like them are going to do it. Those who change to another party thus feel more supported when facing a complicated decision.

If in the end the PP is the party with the most votes and can reach a majority with the support of Vox, the key will be in another sentence from its Ciudad Real rally. “For Sánchez to continue, there are several options: vote for the Sanchista party. For Sumar and the 18 parties that make it up. For ERC. For Sortu-Bildu. For those of Puigdemont.”

Feijóo ignores Vox and presents himself as the only bulwark against a constellation of left-wing and nationalist parties. He even places Abascal’s party on the enemy’s bloc by stating that voting for him is “a sanchista joke.” And that is the party with which he has agreed in the Valencian Community, Extremadura and the Balearic Islands, as he will probably do in Aragon.

Despite all those lies or false data, the PP leader allowed himself to give lessons at that rally: “Honesty in politics is decisive.” He is unusual, but he said it.

In this legislature, the coalition government had 155 seats, which is why it had to agree with various formations to approve budgets and other laws. That support was not guaranteed. ERC and Bildu voted against the labor reform. They also refused to support the gag law reform for not including a ban on rubber balls. Bildu never came to vote in favor of the extension of the states of alarm in the pandemic (he always abstained, unlike the PP, which voted in favor three times). Junts, Puigdemont’s party, was never a reliable ally of the government.

This last paragraph is based on real events, but as a response to the official discourse of the PP and Vox in this legislature, it should not be assumed that it will serve an electorate consumed by polarization. Despite the veneration that social networks feel for fact-checking in English and for that expression that has made a fortune as “data kills story”, there comes a time when the refutation of lies stops take effect if the majority of voters have reached a prior conclusion about the credibility of the complainant or the denounced.

This is what happened in the United Kingdom with the Brexit referendum. Lies are more easily accepted if they confirm the prejudices of those who hear them.

It is easier to present to the electorate from the beginning of the legislature the original sin of the government’s collaboration with the Catalan and Basque separatists, who do not enjoy great popularity in various regions of Spain, crush it in each plenary session and wait for a concrete decision favorable to these deputies (pardons or the reform of the crimes of sedition and embezzlement) is especially unpopular among the sufficient number of PSOE voters.

Sánchez would have had a chance if he had insisted on highlighting the laws that were approved with the support of those parliamentary groups. Crush it as many times as necessary, as the right wing crushed him throughout the legislature due to his relations with the nationalists. In fact, he has mentioned it in a few interviews.

He did not do it with the same conviction and effectiveness in the debate on Monday. Perhaps the machine gun of fallacies, or directly lies, made you nervous or did not let you think. He has twelve days to correct the error.

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Written by Editor TLN

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