FASTLANES: The crowd as untruth and the myth of winnability

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/29 March) — The second presidential debate in Cebu created a stir for the action. The organizers promised a brawl, like the ‘in-your-face’ style of news of the TV station that sponsored it, and the bloodthirsty crowd roared in approval.

Four persons of high education and purported leadership came in ready to a stadium that wanted to see who would get bloodied and deliver the most wicked blow. And the ohs, ahs and the boos can be heard from the crowd at the University of the Philippines – Cebu two Saturdays ago.

For the serious viewer who wanted to measure the depth of knowledge on important issues of the applicants for the highest and most powerful position of the land, substance was obviously wanting. But these views were muted, sacrificed to the candidates’ tack of playing to the crowd.

One candidate got applauded for saying that he or she who does not know how to kill is incapable of leading the country. One kept on repeating Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist, instead of answering questions directed at him.
Childhood buddy, lawyer Benito Dangazo listed some fallacies or errors in arguments or illogical arguments: (Fallacy is a misleading argument or belief based on a falsehood.)

— Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s sweeping generalization on drug convicts ‘cooking’ (nagluluto) drugs at the national penitentiary and blaming the former secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government. Sen. Grace Poe quickly joined in blaming administration bet Mar Roxas who responded with a recitation of drug arrests and convictions.

The national penitentiary is under the Bureau of Correction which is under the Department of Justice. The DOJ has continuously cracked down on convicted drug lords who have continued their trade inside prison. Illegal drugs trade is a pervasive problem. It is good enough that drug lords have been convicted. So logically, there is an issue, but blaming somebody for a problem being addressed makes it a sweeping generalization.

— Grace Poe’s non-sequitor (conclusion that does not follow a logical premise) on the Zamboanga standoff in September 2013, by saying the presence of President Aquino showed his distrust for Roxas as DILG secretary. It was a long-shot argument. It was putting words in the mouth of the President who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The response of government in the standoff was primarily military in nature and it is elementary to understand that the President, the secretary of national defense and the chief of staff of the AFP should be on top of this military operation. Being there where the action was is a call of the president. Unless spoken by the president himself, everything is speculation. Other cabinet secretaries like the secretaries of the DILG and the Department of Social Welfare and Development were needed there for their roles in emergency relief, among others.

— Perhaps, the biggest fallacy of the night, according to BenDangs was the fallacy argumentum ad hominen (attack on the person, not on the idea) of Binay who accused Roxas and Poe of being (Joseph) Goebbels underlings in response to corruption issues raised against the vice president when he was mayor of Makati City. Goebbels was propaganda minister of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler.

If I may add, Roxas’ hasty comment on the Zamboanga standoff referring to the attackers as “mananakop na Muslim” was another generalization, although ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said Roxas had apologized to him for that. I think the administration bet should personally make a clarification and say “sorry”. Filipinos are forgiving even if that mistake of his was the one that caught the most attention from critics.

Grace Poe may also need some more refresher on the structure of the Philippine government, especially the executive department. She kept on insisting with Duterte that BuCor is under the DILG to pound on Roxas. As mentioned earlier, it is under the DOJ. She also blamed the Office of the Ombudsman for being selective in filing cases, implying that the Ombudsman is soft on yellow targets. Why blame PNoy and/or Roxas for that? Aside from records showing Liberal Party members getting the hack, among them Mayor Oscar Moreno of Cagayan de Oro City and the Northern Mindanao chairman of the LP, the Ombudsman is not a political agency of government. It is an independent Constitutional body. I’m not sure if this is the case in the United States, where this alien candidate comes from.

Lastly, nobody, especially the media, played the argument of Binay, quoting the oath taken by those who wanted to be American citizens. Binay repeatedly said the word “abjure” to drive home the point that at one time, Grace Poe, had sworn to “abjure” among others her Filipino citizenship.

Merriam Webster online says ‘abjure’ is “renounce upon oath; to reject solemnly.”

These are serious matters to be considered in choosing the president. Would somebody be fit to lead the nation when at one time in her life, she abjured her being a Filipino. Since the Supreme Court ruled in her favor in a neither-here-nor-there decision, this has become a political question. As the Integrated Bar of the Philippines said in a statement, the SC decision was not clear on whether Poe is a natural born Filipino and had satisfied the 10-year residency rule for presidential candidates. What the SC was clear about, according to the IBP, was its order reversing the Commission on Election ruling to disqualify Poe. By the way, the Comelec had filed a motion for reconsideration arguing among others that there was no majority decision because only seven out of the 15 magistrates voted in favor of Poe and the SC majority should be eight. Abstention, the Comelec argued, is not an affirmative vote.

Finally, although people were generally satisfied with the performances of their presidential bets, the celebrations, the praises and even the criticisms have exposed some fundamental flaws of how we collectively choose our leaders.
The problem with playing to the crowd is that the more essential things are missed out. We have just observed the Lent, remembering how the crowd cried for the head of Jesus Christ, to which Pontius Pilate agreed, albeit he washed his hands of any accountability.

Existential philosophy guru Soren Keirkegaard argued lengthily in his works that the crowd is untruth. He argues that the crowd is untruth for it is an abstraction. He wrote: even if every individual possessed the truth in private, yet if they came together into a crowd (so that “the crowd” receive any decisive, voting, noisy, audible importance), untruth would be let in. Further, Keirkegaard argued that the crowd is untruth “since a crowd neither renders the single individual wholly unrepentant and irresponsible, or weakens his responsibility by making it a fraction of his decision.” Here, Keirkegaard speaks of the lack of accountability of the crowd.

But we can argue that in a democracy, there cannot be any other way. And further argue that vox populi, vox dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God). Yes, I agree, but would pose the question if that voice of God is in agreement or not with the crowd. Having a government of scalawags could be God’s will. As Engels said, the people deserve the government they choose.

The concept of winnability, on the other hand, is based on the voice of the crowd. People tend to get swayed by the noisiest candidate. Thus popularity becomes the basis of winnability. But even this is a myth. For while election is a collective process of choosing our rulers, conscience should set in while in the act of voting, which is an individual act. As individuals, we are accountable for our actions. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Comments can be sent to [email protected])