Letters & Opinion

The Ethics of Democratic Deceit

John Peters
By John Peters

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago recently had their elections, which as I predicted resulted in a change of Prime Minister. The election rhetoric has once more raised the issue of the ethics of democratic deceit and about our democracies in the Caribbean.

On August 31 1962 as the new independent country of Trinidad and Tobago was being addressed by their Prime Minister, a most interesting statement was given. Williams speaking about democracy said:

‘’The first responsibility that devolves upon you is the protection and promotion of your democracy. Democracy means more, much more, than the right to vote and one vote for every man and every woman of the prescribed age. Democracy means recognition of the rights of others.

Democracy means equality of opportunity for all in education, in the public service, and in private employment–I repeat, and in private employment. Democracy means the protection of the weak against the strong. Democracy means the obligation of the minority to recognize the right of the majority. Democracy means responsibility of the Government to its citizens, the protection of the citizens from the exercise of arbitrary power and the violation of human freedoms and individual rights. Democracy means freedom of worship for all and the subordination of the right of any race to the overriding right of the human race. Democracy means freedom of expression and assemble of organization.

All that is Democracy. All that is our Democracy, to which I call upon all citizens to dedicate themselves on this our Independence Day’’

This primary responsibility that devolves upon every citizen is the protection and promotion of our democracy. Yet that democracy is threatened by our acceptance of democratic deceit.


In a recent article written by Derek Edyvane in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, the author was making the distinction among the terms spin, lies and ‘bullshout’ ( my coined term) in our democracies, and expanded on the ethics of political deceit. Edyvane was considering spin to be a form of communication that may deceive or mislead but which does not involve explicit lies. I have defined spin as a form of communication that exerts such force as to create the maximum curvature of truth. The public seem to be able to cope with spin. We are offended by liars and even more so by ‘ bullshouters’. The liar consciously presents what is true knowing that it false. ‘Bullshouter’ is not concerned with truth or lies and will have both interwoven in a conversation to ensure that his objective is achieved.

Every politician has to make a decision on using spin, lies, ‘bullshout’ or the truth in his or her conversation with the electorate. However, every citizen has a constitutional responsibility to protect our democracy by being intolerant to democratic deceit.

I am a firm believer in truth, as truth is a floatable entity, which despite the efforts of many will always rise to the surface. The story of David and Bathsheba is one filled with the use of all the forms of deceit, in the end he was found out. David the politician had to give way to his love for the truth. He admitted his error and asked for forgiveness.

In my younger days of radical political thought, I could not have supported the PNM in Trinidad. However, I have listened to the conversations of Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley with the electorate, and was most impressed with his truthfulness. As Jesus told Nathanael, I hope we can say,’ Here truly is a Trinbagonian in whom there is no deceit’. Over the next few months as the date for elections in Saint Lucia draws near, the temptation to pursue deceit rises. The spin doctors will grow in significance, there will be liars and bullshouters. We however have a maturing electorate, a growing company of independent thinkers that have no political ethnicity and look at political parties to determine the predictability of good governance.


  1. I could have sworn you did not Answer the title of your article as one blogger responder did quip.
    I too was not certain of the IMPLIED meaning of your article and I certainly do not recall your stating EMPHATICALLY that Dr Cruwley was going to win.
    You bulldozed lots of trails , lay gravel on some BUT no pitch highway to Crowley victory.
    Any who truth and HIGH FIBER / vee-gee diets also produce manure that float to the surface
    Bull sh*t is a very poor analogy for what floats-given your engineering legacy.
    Historically, bovine manure has floated as roofing, fuel and continues to FLOAT as rich COMPOST in gardens and farms GLOBALLY
    My guess is you are compiling your arsenal of fight terms for the StLucia MUD Wrestling Championship Fest
    Your implied support of the Sheriff of Nottingham is hinted at beteen many of your archival lines-
    I shall invite “Robin Hood” to the 2016 joust- to target the spinners, crapshooters et al so as to maintain a level graded field.


    ALL FALL DOWN 4 THE uwppppppp come next election

    This is a prophetic massage. As it was in the days of Daniel so it will b in this time against those uwppp who will b in so much confusion that they will b running like mad ants from the ghost of john Compton.

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