What would happen if a government or political party decided to tell the whole truth?

In today’s political arena, the truth is often the first casualty in the rush to sway popular opinion. The rise of spin has worked in tandem with a very old practice, the practice of rhetoric.

Rhetoric was in itself a product of the Ancient Greeks who used it as a way of increasing status in the community while persuading the populous to come around to your point of view.

It was taught in Athens and many of the Greek islands and gradually passed on to the Roman Empire and after the dark ages where it was used by the fledgling politicians and statesman of the Middle Ages.

Following the enlightenment, the growth of political thought and expression defined itself in the English Civil War, The French Revolution and The American War of Independence.

In our modern age, rhetoric has never been more popular as a tool, but the use of rhetoric is more and more becoming a way of distracting the general populous from the real truth of political action.

The competing superpowers of the USA and Russia used rhetoric and spin to turn their political standpoints against each other, spreading lies and disinformation to undermine their respective enemies.

It may have been perceived that the end of the cold war would have brought an end to this practice, but as the walls came down the tactics became more clandestine. Controversial governmental policies pushed the need for spin and rhetoric to the fore as governments attempted to justify their actions.

In some cases, the truths they are attempting to justify are so politically damaging, that they have to be cloaked in lies and spin to be explained to the public. The more terrifying truths are merely not expressed; instead they are classified as being in the national interest and promptly buried.

It also remains a prominent force in the practice of electioneering where increasingly it has been used by political parties to make light of the weaknesses in their opponents policies and political record.

Current affairs shows are full of politicians using spin and rhetoric to confirm /deny their actions, make beneficial coincidences seem like part of their plans and to distinguish themselves as being different from other political parties.

Politics is primarily the art of discourse, the reasoned debate that exists within a community of individuals. The rise of modern political society has supplanted this in favour of a defacto schoolyard game of one-upmanship, where one party blames another for the failings of the country.

The pursuit of controversial policies like the Iraq war, the War on Terror and austerity has made the public very sceptical, a climate which has not been favourable to politics in Britain as a whole.

Amidst this malaise of spin, the understanding and faith in the political parties shown by the general public has never been lower. Voting turnouts at elections have never been lower, entire sections of society have become estranged from politics as distrust of politicians has grown. This estrangement can only grow as time goes on and as it does, more extreme political standpoints may become more palatable to the unhappy populous.

The practices used have created this climate, but what if these practices were abandoned in favour of a new practice: telling the public the unequivocal complete truth.

We talk of truth, but what does that mean in a political sphere?

In a political sphere we are talking about the full disclosure of those things which could be beneficial or detrimental to the government of a country. No distinction would be made, all truths would be told and it would be the responsibility of the voting populous to determine if those truths make the incumbent party not worthy of voting for.

This need not be limited to things happening in the present, past acts undertaken by previous governments could be fully disclosed and not disclosed after a certain period of time as currently practiced.

That being said, a certain level of truth telling exists in modern government anyway you just have to move past the spin to find it. The truths of statistics, budgets and expenditure are not easily recoverable but they are there, it is a question of what is done with those truths (for example the recent parliamentary expenses scandal). Politicians recognise the need for truth in all spheres of politics however their policies do not go far enough.

The level of detriment of the truth would decide the path of the political party, nay the political system of the country. Alliances with other world powers could be shown to be alliances of convenience rather than actual friendship. The behind the scenes practices of government could be revealed, relationships between parties, companies and fundamental truths about how the country is run could be exposed.

The effect on that countries status in international politics is more of a hit and miss scenario. Some countries may welcome the chance to deal with a country which tells the absolute truth, whereas other more restrictive governments would actively shy away from dealing with this country. This aversion to telling the truth may in turn lead to their own populations asking why?

A tremendous amount of initial damage would undoubtedly be done to the political system of that particular country, however after the dust settles this culture of truth telling might actually find its way into the political systems. Fundamental changes would be made to the way a political party conducts itself both internally and externally. Election politics would never be the same, as parties would move away from the current schoolyard fight to reasoned engagement with the voting individuals of the country.

The truth would result in a clearer understanding of what each party does and how that could affect the determination of the country they are attempting to win the right to run. This could reenergise the voting population’s interest in the political process, lead to greater voter turnout at elections and greater faith in the systems of the respective governments.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

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