Out politicking

The PLP seems increasingly desperate as evidence mounts about their horrible track record in government alongside the OBA’s slow and steady bailing and righting of the ship the PLP nearly sunk. Yesterdays episode demonstrates how low the PLP are willing to sink in order to achieve power and that they’re perfectly willing to gamble our islands stability while putting our most vulnerable at risk to achieve their own political ends. Despite all this, the PLP continues to politically outmaneuver the OBA.  They’re simply far more adept at manipulating the mob and public opinion to their will while the OBA is the opposite, playing right into their hands.  This may not end well.

The PLP are clearly desperate to shift the narrative. Recent headlines have questioned the honesty of current MPs and raised concerns about inept and corrupt governance. They’ve placed serious questions around the conduct of a former Premier due to his delays and then refusal to testify to the Commission of Inquiry. Subsequently the claims that “rules were bent” to accommodate the historically disadvantaged raises the awkward questions of who actually benefited from this “rule bending”?  The PLP, a disarray of infighting and a bare semblance of unity desperately needed a diversion. Was it a calculated move to stage “peaceful protests”, put the vulnerable front and center while stoking the fires of discontent?

Though they move at the pace of a snail and recoil into their shell at the thought of upsetting anyone, the OBA deserves considerable credit for actually putting us on the path to prosperity.  It must terrify the PLP that tourism numbers are improving, international business is reengaging and the economy is getting back on track.  We’re building a better reputation for ourselves internationally and we might actually one day manage to balance a budget without mass layoffs, maybe.  It must be terrifying for a party that can only seem to rehash and repackage last year’s stale ideas into the same vision with no actual plan. What options do they have but to leverage their mastery of political rhetoric and ability to manipulate the mob?

The PLP continue to politically out maneuver the OBA. They’re brilliant at framing and controlling the narrative. Right from the middle of yesterday’s conflict they were framing the protest as “peaceful”.  Never mind that the evidence shows that it clearly wasn’t.

The replay of Bernew’s live feed makes it clear from @12:09 when the riot police walk up to the crowd and the crowd shoves into confrontation with the police and people start shoving and fighting with the riot police.  Let alone @14:17 when shoving between an individual in a beige hat and police descends into someone using an umbrella as a weapon and results in an officer pulling out a can of pepper spray. That was just the beginning of the conflict.

Physically obstructing entry to parliament and getting confrontational with police while breaking the law is not by any definition a peaceful protest. You’d expect that kind of action standing up for human rights violations or fighting against unjust discrimination, but the construction of an airport? Really?  It doesn’t make the police’s choice to use force and pepper spray right but it doesn’t excuse the PLP of seemingly instigating and fueling the whole thing for what seems to be political gain.

Yet, you hear it over and over again, “peaceful protest”.  Like an elegant frame put around an ugly painting it helps set how the events are interpreted.  The vast majority of people read headlines and converse in hearsay not facts. “Peaceful protest” sets the frame and “innocent grandmother pepper sprayed” sets the emotion. It tells a story far more engaging than the truth. Never mind that the protest wasn’t peaceful and that the grandmother was participating in an illegal and violent conflict against police over a rather trivial issue. Again, the police used questionable force, but they weren’t the only once using questionable tactics and people should be aware of the risks if you’re going to physically confront the police.

The PLP continued framing the events by calling out the police for heavy handed tactics. They seem to be successfully shifting attention from the reality that they were actively and personally leading the illegal obstruction and doing so despite considerable early warning from the police that they would use force if necessary. They should shoulder the blame for instigating and escalating things and putting vulnerable people at risk for political gain. However, the OBA instead framed the events with a rather weak “regret” and “we need to do better” and cast no blame on the PLP for creating this conflict and responsibility for the results. In any framing conflict, the stronger more dominant frame wins and right now, the PLP’s is far stronger and more dominant.

The really scary thing is what this means for our future. The PLP under their new leader have shown their true colors. Previously they were perfectly willing to be behind the scenes allowing the unions, some foreigner and a “people’s campaign” to stoke controversy. This time they were front and center calling for protests and leading the obstruction of democracy while stoking the fire. What does it say for the prospects of our democracy if the opposition is willing to resort to illegal tactics to physically block the efforts of the government that was elected by majority? That doesn’t seem fitting of a well functioning democracy. However it would seem very fitting with many of the revelations of the commission of inquiry that there is a culture that rules only apply when they suit your aims. That kind of attitude can’t bode well for Bermuda’s future.