The most important role of any democratic citizenry is deciding who you trust to govern your country. This is the ultimate delegation of responsibility. But the process involves an intricate system of evaluating the ability, performance, policy and integrity of the person or party asking for your support. In order to do this vital job properly I think citizens ought to at least be aware of the "weapons of mass deception" that politicians employ to fool us into making uninformed decisions. An inquisitive electorate that asks poignant questions and holds people of authority to account is essential for a thriving democracy. Never blindly hand over the keys to our democracy without close examination, because all that glitters is not gold. As the great communicator Ronald Reagan once said: "Trust but verify."
One of the most effective weapons politicians use to deceive us is character assassination. It is a sinister and very destructive political tactic because it puts your opponent on the defensive by labelling and hurling out words like communist, chauvinist, elitist or racist in the hope that something sticks. Character assassination was abound during the last two US presidential elections. In 2008 the Republican Party attempted to link presidential candidate Obama to racially divisive statements made by the African American Reverend Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church of Christ, a church Mr Obama belonged to at the time. The tactic was so successful that Mr Obama had to quickly resign his membership from the church and publicly denounce his former pastor's venomous statements. In the 2012 elections President Obama was again subjected to the ultimate insult for any citizen let alone an incumbent president, namely questions over his birth certificate and rightful citizenship of the US by fringe theorists popularly known as "birthers".
On the subject of fringe theories, Thailand can boast a few of our very own. Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva is probably getting used to the label "draft dodger" by now; a nefarious smear campaign that I, for the record, utterly condemn because it avoids the pressing issues we face but, fuelled by factions of the Defence Ministry and successfully peddled by the red-shirt propaganda machine, the label may have stuck. But lest we forget, before Mr Abhisit starts crying wolf, it was the Democrat Party that he represented while in opposition during the Banharn Silpa-archa administration that takes the biscuit for dragging other people's name through the mud for holding a censure debate around the idea that then prime minister Banharn lacked the required qualifications to hold office in accordance with Thai law because his father was an immigrant from mainland China. This smear campaign worked its black magic so well Mr Banharn was forced to dissolve parliament on Sept 27, 1996. As they say, "what goes around comes around".
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