Monday, June 7, 2010

Beware of "double-act" politicians

We have heard of doublespeak (or double talk) among politicians. Less commonly noticed are politicians that actually do what the voting public wants them to do, but in name only. In fact, some even go as far as re-defining the words they use in order to avoid being called a liar. Double talk, double meanings... these are all tools used by seasoned politicians who make a mockery of the public's intelligence.

Double speak, by one definition, is language constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning. "Double-act" does the same thing, except that instead of talking, the politician is actually doing what the people wants but not what the people think they are getting. A good example is the Malaysian university entry system whereby the marginalized Chinese and Indians called for an end to the race-based quota system in favour of a merit system. Mahathir, the Prime Minister at that time, suddenly announced the merit system. Overnight there was a hue and cry among the Malays and a joyous celebration among the others. Very quickly it became obvious that although a so-called merit system has been introduced, the method of assessing competency was still race-based. Hence, in effect, no change.

Victorian Premier Brumby has mastered the art of "double-act". In giving in to the public's call for a new anti-corruption agency to fight the rising problem of corruption in the state, Brumby did a backflip after six month's of vehemently denying the need. With the state election drawing near, he suddenly agreed to set up one, but in the process, he actually reduced the power of the Ombudsman office, and introduced a complex system that will take the corruption-fighting effort in the wrong direction, according to the Ombudsman (who should know what he's talking about). In the eyes of the voters, Brumby will be seen as having done the right thing, but the few who care to read the small prints will find that Brumby may have pulled off a fast one.

A double-act is more potent than a doublespeak. A doublespeak reveals itself right away. A double-act is a smokescreen whereby the truth slowly becomes visible. By that time, most would have walked away after getting the first whiff, while a few would linger to see what is behind the smokescreen.

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