Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty.

– Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propaganda minister

THAT must be the most horrible but effective advice ever given to people prone to lying, who lie a lot and in a big way. For me, it is even better than the big lie or the repeated lie, which through audacity or repetition become accepted. This lie is so effective and convincing because you live it completely as it is you. Look at the biggest and most prominent liar of our time, Donald Trump. All his big and constant lies that he accused others of are things he is guilty of or afraid of being. I am not going to repeat the examples, but you can look up my prior columns and so many other examples where he publicly says something and turns out privately and believes the opposite.

Why is it so effective? Because the accuser is being himself. He knows the details, and the particulars come naturally and instinctively. Also, he knows why one does it as he does it himself. Thus, if verbose and articulate, this liar will be very convincing in both the big points and details if he stays with lying by accusing others of what he is guilty of.

Telephone effect

As we have prematurely gotten to election time where the usual lies and exaggerations reach Delta variant stage in their number, spread and virulence, what else should we look out for? One is the telephone effect. Telephone is a game children play where the same story is repeated, and the amusement is how the original story innocently gets distorted as retold, even in just a short time. Then the megaphone effect occurs when the message is amplified with mass media, social media and the like. Now with social media, this is a pandemic of disinformation of its own. It was common in 2016 and earlier for the ruling party or the one with a lot of money to "procure" friendly columnists, and when I asked how many read this or that paper, someone victimized by this time-tested strategy explained it to me. That is just the start. Being a major newspaper gives it, even if fading, a patina of respectability. Then that column is repeated and amplified nationally via local AM radio, and that gives it resonance. Then it is posted and quoted on social media, which turbocharges it. That is a way lies prosper and grow.

There is also suspension of judgment. I am shocked how many of my childhood and school friends who seemed to be amiable and reasonable turned out to be so prejudiced and frankly gullible. If you can't judge and weigh for yourself, then at least don't spread your ignorance and make it obvious to all.

It is relatively easy to tell who are writing under commission or at least are incredibly real believers given most journalists are skeptical and questioning types by nature. Even in business columns it is easy to tell. First giveaway, it is a counter-intuitive story. Someone not doing so well or underperforming is praised as a turn-around expert if a business leader or a reformer when he or she is anything but a politician. Nice way to make up a narrative when there is no level of accomplishment to be proud of. Related to this is repeating and repeating this line or a variation thereof even if there is nothing noteworthy to write about. It is keeping the person in the public eye and because his public relations machine is at work and is spreading the wealth. It gets pretty obvious if the writer is one of the usual suspects or repeatedly goes back to the same person or narrative. Even more obvious when it is dropped when the incentive is no longer forthcoming. Not really in business writing but more in political is the corollary, the repeated denunciation or denigration, especially with constant and repeated insults - corrupt, dumb, etc. of a desired target. That was really obvious in 2016. One side that had a lot of funds reminded me of what Richard Nixon said: "It is not enough that I succeed, others must fail."

Related to my first point - when their advocates accuse others of what they may or may not be guilty of, but their patron or preferred party is equally guilty of or even worse. Or guilty of something analogous or equivalent. Like this politician is academically deficient when their preferred candidate is just as bad, worse or has been lying about his or her academic qualifications.

Here in the Philippines, I get so amused at the irony of politicians who are prone to personally insulting their opponents complaining when they are insulted back. Like most bullies, they can often be the biggest crybabies who can dish it out but can't take it.

Obsessions

On the participants themselves, carefully observe the smaller points and asides. They can often be very revealing about their priorities and character or what they think of a topic. For example, anyone reading the voluminous autobiography of Lee Kuan Yew will understand why Singapore is so clean. It was really an obsession of his. I consider that a virtue as I try to be very clean and sanitary myself. I was taken by the following. Describing the horrors of the Japanese occupation in World War 2, he wrote about how badly the soldiers smelled. Then about his time studying in Cambridge, he complained about having to pay to take a bath. Lastly, in one of his earlier campaigns he wrote about how badly the sewers smelled. No one should be surprised about his obsession with sanitation and cleanliness after reading that.

On a less salutary side, I was amused at Cut and Paste's description of what he misses due to the lockdown rules we have, which includes pedicures! I suppose twinkle toes prioritizes that above other things. Reminds me of my late father who, let us euphemistically say, had a much easier and señorito life than me. When he spent over a month visiting me in Northern Virginia in 2003, he had to have my older son drive him to the mall to get manicures and pedicures. When he asked me how I cut my nails here in the US, I replied, "Like most normal people, I cut them myself."

Anti-corruption

Let's not forget the biggest staple among elections slogans and promises that is never fulfilled here - anti-corruption. Remember "Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap," and so on. Repeated for every campaign in some form. Well, we still have corruption, and the country is still poor. When an administration goes after corrupt members of the prior that may secondarily be anti-corruption, it seems to me more like primarily settling scores and a vendetta. Why? First, if those you are accusing are really corrupt, why aren't charges filed (with few exceptions) after the political points have been made? Then for it to be effective, why aren't senior members of the present administration fired and criminally charged? Give Lee Kuan Yew credit for setting the example. First, he paid government employees well, some would even argue too well so they prefer to work in the government than in the private sector so they would have no financial excuse but better still, no temptation to corrupt or be corrupted. On that point, if we did the same, wouldn't it still be cheaper and less debilitating than corruption? Second, he fired, charged and jailed a sitting president and a cabinet minister. That made it clear he was serious and to Singapore's credit, one does not accuse their government of corruption. When both happen here, I will believe the anti-corruption slogan. I believe some of those in power and influence like the present system as, to get ahead, many need a sideline and payments to maintain a basic lifestyle and it heightens the power and influence of those who can bestow it.

I did not want to write about Covid again and did not feel it was the right time to write about an economic or financial issue. I do feel a sense of tentativeness and caution given where we are and the seemingly strange way we are going. It is like something is not working and we have to change but we don't know how or are incapable of changing correctly or even have an idea of how to.

Caveat emptor friends and readers. We are in treacherous and unsettled times.