Friday, June 17, 2005

POLITICS: Opinion makers and rationalism

READER BEWARE/READER ADVISORY/CAVEAT LECTOR: This post is a commentary on a specific political event affecting Philippines society. The writer while trying to be balanced in his assessment or read of situation is also aware that whatever he does the post will always include his point of views on the matter. As such this not simply a record of events. Thanks! You just cannot help it. Public opinion makers cannot just stop making statements about the alleged recorded conversation between GMA and Garci. Everytime you switch to a talk show that is all you see and hear. Gloria-gate. I guess its inevitable. Last week, an analyst on tv postulated that the whole thing was arranged by the Americans. Strains with GMA started after she withdrew from the coalition of the willing because of the Mawanay affair. Unfortunately, this form of thinking betrays a mind set trapped in a Cold War mental frame of mind. Its the rightist version of the leftist's Maoist dementia, a perfect example of is the Netherlands-based Joma Sison, who still dreams of a Communist Philippines. Maybe somebody should tell him the only reason Castro lasted up to the present is because of the USSR sugar quota and later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the return of the hotels and casinos. Then last Wednesday I watched the usual placid UP Prof Randy David in a rare tempest mood. What set him to ranting? The Gloriagate tapes of course. He was quite certain that it was GMA and Garci ,easier to say that than his surname, on the recorded conversation. The flaw in that claim is the hearing and memory can be deceived. In order to make certain that the voice is that of GMA you need unrefutable proof - Is the physical characteristic of the voice in the recording the same as GMA's voice?. Prof David argued also that since the areas mentioned in the conversation corresponded to the areas where the FPJ camp claims they were cheated. If the conversation was manufactured it would be easy to insert these information. And in his column today Prof David deconstructed the conversation using a sub-specialty in sociology called ethnomethodology. It is an interesting side postulate on the conversation controversy. Prof David claims that because of the length and fluidity of the conversation it was impossible for it to have been contrived and he also used words from the conversation that he termed as gloss or euphemisms as proof that the conversation was about poll cheating. However, one needs only a skilled writer to produce a good dialogue that is fluid and not feel contrived. One should note that it took almost a year before the conversations surfaced and within that time several things could have been accomplished. Interpretations and counter-interpretations can be constructed about the conversations. But I think all this interpretations are useless because we do not know if the conversations are genuine or not. There are three originals in the Philippines and one in the US it would seem that none of them have been checked by an independent expert. At present the person who recorded the conversation has not yet appeared. One was about to appear but now he has retracted and alleges he was convinced ,with money and a promise of position in government, to falsely claim that he was responsible for the recording and he was coming out now to unmask the anomalies in the last election. Without a wiretapper your wiretap-product is critically compromised. SO what does the public opinion makers and the opposition proposes? The President comment whether or not the recording is true. Now the political opposition and some opinion makers are asking the President if the allegations is true and come clean. If she remains quiet then she is pressumed to be guilty. Unfortunately like most of us GMA does not possess the skill nor the technical equipment to verify if the recordings are real. Until a technical analysis of the tape is done it would be useless to issue any statement. Any statement based only on personal conviction or belief at this point is fatal to negative perception. The President's statement will only have weight and of importance if the technical analysis and authenticity of recording supported her statement of inocence Of course it has been argued that the issue is now in the realm of public opinion and proof of burden is not on the accuser but the accused. Really, so we have to do away with proof? Suspension of disbelief only applies in works of fiction. Does that mean the one holding the recordings will leave it at that? It is not only important to ascertain that the recording are genuine but also to authenticate the recordings are true, meaning they are wiretapped conversations actually happened for this you need the one who did the wiretapping. Is public opinion now a euphemism for the mob? Rational thinking should be employed in this issue. Anything less is an appeal to emotion and a descent into prejudice in a sense a lynch mob. For the moment it seems the lynch mob is limited to pundits and the politicians. Opinions are flying left and right. Again I think insisting on a rationale discourse is important and a good barometer to measure the arguments from both sides.


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