Bullshit in politics

first_imgAbout a decade or so ago, the philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s book, with the seemingly most non-philosophically sounding title, On Bullshit, became a NY Times bestseller. The blurb to Frankfurt’s slim book – which was originally just an article – summarises the concept of “bullshit”. He argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all.“Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms (like in our rum-shop gyaafs), excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner’s capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not.“Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.” This last feature of bullshit is what makes bullshit so dangerous: very soon truth becomes irrelevant.Against this background, what can we say about the PNC’s statements on the No-confidence Motion subsequent to its passage on December 21, 2018, but that it’s been all Frankfurtian bullshit spewed onto the Guyanese people?? On the night in question, against plaintive cries of “No Charrandas, No!” the AFC MP replied with three firm “Yes! Yes! Yes!” and the PNC-led coalition fell like Humpy Dumpty. After a quick huddle, the grim faced PM Nagamootoo, and PNC Chairman Volda Lawrence faced reporters.Nagamootoo said, “We want our supporters in particular… to understand that we are going back to the polls… Guyanese must understand that the democratic process is sometimes unpredictable. You may have results that are not planned for… but the outcome has to be accepted… It is like cricket in some sense. What happened here today, a game of glorious uncertainty. There was a robust debate involving speakers from both sides and the parliamentary democracy in a sense triumphed that after the robust debate, a vote was called for and one member of the Government voted with the Opposition.”The next morning, President Granger issued a statement: “We will do everything necessary to facilitate the smooth functioning of General and Regional Elections bearing in mind the need for normal governmental functions to continue uninterrupted.” And that was when the truth stopped and the bullshit began to flow in an uninterrupted stream to this day. And it is bullshit because what they said was so reckless that it clearly didn’t matter when they were later shown to be “wrong” – what mattered was that their supporters believed them. Bullshitters are basically speaking to those with similar mindsets who then are predisposed to accepting their claims.A ridiculous assertion, that the 33 who voted for the NCM was not the majority in the 65-member National Assembly, was picked up by the PNC-led coalition that had been installed into Government by just that number! Any primary school student knew that such a claim was bullshit – but it didn’t matter to the PNC – who now ate their words and passed them out as pure bullshit. They went back to the Assembly and asked the Speaker to reverse his ruling on their BS claim, but he flatly refused. They then took their BS to the High Court where the Chief Justice threw them out on their ears as the rest of the Caribbean once again snickered at how far the PNC would go to stay in power.But even to them, their BS must have started to smell after the international community politely reminded them about the norms of democracy. Still insisting that the President and his Cabinet did not have to resign according to Article 106 (6) of the Constitution, they began to refer to their meetings as a “plenary” and a “Caucus”. More BS. This spread to the PNC-controlled GECOM Commission, which pretended not to notice that they were constitutionally bound to prepare for elections by March 19. Suddenly they declared they needed more time.And this brings us to the BS about the two letters from President Granger to GECOM – the second obviously meant to delay immediate elections which the first had called for. A long time ago, Walter Scott had bemoaned “what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”It is even more tangled when woven with bullshit.last_img read more

Auction of Van Nuys Library is one for the books

first_imgThe historic Van Nuys Library fared well on the auction block Monday as a longtime admirer doled out $1.52 million to become the building’s new owner. Winning bidder Tony Nasr with NTR Consultants said he’s admired the 1926 Spanish Colonial Revival-style building for more than 20 years and used to frequent the building for business when the Fire Department used it as an office. “I was in love,” Nasr said after placing the winning bid during an auction at City Hall. “I studied in Greece and I love the history of the buildings. I respect historic things. I want to keep the building as it is.” Nasr – who paid more than a half-million dollars above the library’s appraised value of $950,000 – said he plans to restore the building and use it as an office. The auction capped several weeks of controversy as some San Fernando Valley groups tried to persuade the city to retain ownership and let a local nonprofit use the building as a public space. The one-story masonry building at 14553 Sylvan St. is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by Allison and Allison, which built many public buildings – including Royce Hall at the University of California, Los Angeles. The building was among the Valley’s first libraries but was vacated in 1964, when the library moved to a more modern home in the Civic Center complex. The Fire Department used the building as an office until 2005, and it’s been vacant and surrounded by a chain-link fence since. The city decided to auction the historic building to expand library services in the area and, perhaps, build a new, larger library if the city can raise additional money, officials said. Said Reginald Jones-Sawyer, director of real estate for the Department of General Services: “$1.5 million, that’s a lot of books.” The money from the sale will be used for libraries in Council District 6, which includes Van Nuys, Arleta and Sun Valley. “The proceeds of this sale will give the other libraries in the Valley the resources necessary to better serve our families,” said Councilman Tony C rdenas, who represents the area. “If we had not sold this facility, we would have denied these families a vital funding opportunity and we would have risked burdening the taxpayers with hefty costs.” Some in the community noted that the library’s final sales price was higher than they had expected. “That’s certainly higher than I would have been able to bid,” said Sara Fisk, president of the New Valley Symphony Orchestra. Fisk had collected about $500,000 in pledges toward buying the building and is still hoping to find a home for the orchestra. “I’m so sorry,” Fisk said. “We already have a glut of office space in Van Nuys. It had the feel that it should have been an arts center,” she said. Bidding on the library started at $950,000. Although the building has been modified over the years and the interior looks more sterile than the original version, bidders quickly pushed the price up to $1.52 million in the fast-paced auction. Susan Kudo-Leeds, who owns Leeds Investment and Management with Ben Leeds, was hoping to buy the library and restore it to its former glory. “It’s stately and old,” she said. “And it just needs a little help.” [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more