La Crónica Hoy on Fraude: “What is Truth?”

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“Fraud in Mexico, 2006: Dare to see the truth.”

PBS recognizes that the producer of informational content deals neither in absolute truth nor in absolute objectivity. Information is by nature fragmentary; the honesty of a program, Web site, or other content can never be measured by a precise, scientifically verifiable formula. Therefore, content quality must depend, at bottom, on the producer’s professionalism, independence, honesty, integrity, sound judgment, common sense, open mindedness, and intention to inform, not to propagandize.PBS Editorial Standards

All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

El “Fraude” de Mandoki: Mandoki’s “Fraud.”

Luciano Pascoe Rippey of La Crónica de Hoy (Mexico) reviews the documentary on the Mexican election — one of two in the paper today, the other bearing the English headline “When a man loves a Peje.

Peje being the nickname of presidential also-ran and “legitimate president of Mexico” López-Obrador. In other words, the film is depicted as a partisan political advertisement.

This could be a fair assessment. But I continue to search in vain for a review of the film that is (1) not from La Jornada, which supports the project enthusiastically, as we already know and expect; and (2) gives me some idea of the film’s actual content.

Every negative review I have read so far rejects the film’s argument, and the validity of the evidence it presents, without telling what that argument actually is.

Rippey googles up as

Subcoordinador de Comunicación Social, Partido Alternativa Socialdemócrata y Campesina

and also, at some point,

Director de Nuevas Tecnologías Gobierno del Distrito Federal.

The Alternative Social Democrats were the first party to concede victory to Calderón on the evening of July 2.

See also

Like that review, this one also faults the film for being one-sided. It is said to commit the fallacy of ignoratio elenchi, to put it in fancy terms: ignoring arguments to the contrary.

Which is an astonishing proposition.

As if those arguments had already not been given sufficient time and space on the gazillion-jigawatt megaphone. COPARMEX ran an astonishing ad blitz defending IFE’s competence and solid credibility, and rebutting charges of fraud, in August 2006. The theory of IFE’s competence and solidity credibility, however, seems not to have stood the test of time: All the IFE commissioners have now been borked.

The most interesting claim about the film, however, is that its use of “citizen media” presents us with a picture of the election that is simply left out of the official version.

Which is in an interesting claim.

On the other hand, there are times when the value of “citizen journalism” can be overblown.

You can celebrate the fact that a cell-phone is beaming you live pictures of a grand confusion all you like, but unless that cell-phone camera is in a position to actually see something, the content of that citizen journalism is nothing more than, “I am on the scene, but I have no idea what is happening.”

Which is not all that informative. Being able to emotionally identify with what a person on the scene is feeling is not the same thing as being informed about what is going on at the scene. The task of journalism is to attempt to inform. If it is not attempting to be accurate and informative, it is not journalism.

So what about the “citizen journalism” in this film? Where does it stand with respect to that standard?

In any event, unless Mr. Mandoki is not telling us the truth, those on the other side of the issue — Calderón, Gordillo, Fox, et al. — refused to be interviewed for this film.

So I guess we are being admonished here, as a judge admonishes us when a criminal defendant cites their rights under the Fifth Amendment, not to interpret that silence as guilty silence, necessarily.

As if the burden of proof were not on officials, who claim to have been democratically elected, to clearly demonstrate their own democratic legitimacy.

Calderón’s official Web site has, however, given an account of events that defends the legitimacy of the election:

It is a pretty typical example of filibustering while changing the subject. I found it nonsensical, for reasons you can read in detail there if you want to bother.

Please, is there no Mexican Roger Ebert out there to review this movie properly for me?

Until the film starts circulating on BitTorrent, so that I can see it for myself, all I really want to know (1) what purported evidence the film presents, in some detail; and (2) what argument it makes on the basis of that evidence.

I personally thought, for example — much as I tend to agree with the notion that single-payer universal health insurance is probably a good idea, generally speaking — that Sicko did not make an entirely persuasive case for it.

What does Michael Moore yelling through a megaphone on a boat off the Cuban coast have to do with anything, again? Same goes for Fahrenheit 9/11. A lot of hype and spooky conjecture designed to get me pumped up against Bush. Which I really do not not any help with, thank you. The point is that the film gave me very few new facts to work with.

Se ha estrenado la película-documental “Fraude” de Luis Mandoki, largometraje que intenta dar una visión, una versión sobre lo ocurrido en el pasado proceso electoral. Vale la pena decir que esta película tiene una clara orientación política y una convicción de lo que es la verdad de ese capítulo de nuestra vida electoral.

The documentary film Fraud, by Luis Mandoki, has debuted, a feature-length attempt to impart a vision, a version of what happened in the last election. It should be said that the film has a clear political orientation and conviction about what the truth is about this chapter in the history of national elections.

As you can sort of infer just from the title.

This is like arguing, “Because Senator Smith has a clear bias toward the bill he has just introduced — as evidenced by the mere fact that he introduced it — we must dismiss all of his arguments in favor of it.”

I believe that the laws of gravity apply without exception on the swath of the planet I currently occupy. I am biased in favor of this theory because my entire life experience, incomplete as it admittedly is, suggests that it is true.

If I let go of the ball, it falls to the ground (and the dog almost invariably grabs it and slobbers all over it.) I cannot recall every trying this experiment and having it turn out otherwise.

Still, my support for this theory is questionable in principal, because it is based on merely subjective criteria.
So I guess the reviewer is trying to persuade us that the film’s argument takes the form

I want P to be true.
Therefore, P is true.

But it provides no backing for that claim.

Because it does not describe the argument the film actually does make. At all.

Es evidente que, como su propio nombre lo indica, este documental da las “evidencias” y las “pruebas” que permiten la construcción del argumento que un sector de nuestra sociedad asume como cierto: en el 2006 hubo fraude. Si usted es de ese segmento esta película le dará todos esos argumentos que tanto necesitó en las sobremesas familiares del último año.

It is obvious that, as its title indicates, this documentary provided “evidence” and “proof” that permit the construction of an argument that one sector of our society assumes as correct: That there was fraud in 2006. If you belong to this sector, this film will give you all the arguments that were lacking at Mexican dinner-table conversation in the last year.

Is it not really evidence? Why the sneer-quotes?

La película cuenta con información interesante y no toda circunstancial. Aporta una línea de pensamiento que en sus contradicciones tiene lógica y solidez. Todos los que no vivieron este proceso político que vean este documental se quedarán pasmados y seguros de que en nuestro país existió un fraude de proporciones descomunales.

The film presents information that is interesting and not completely circumstantial.

Such as what?

It pursues a line of thought that, in its contradictions, has logic and solidity.

Say wha?

All of those who did not live through this political process who see this documentary will be astonished, and certain that a massive fraud took place.

You had to be there.

Eso en mi opinión, por supuesto, es una gran falacia y me parece que Mandoki comete un error al sugerir que es un intento objetivo e imparcial por documentar ese tiempo. Mandoki debería ser tranquilamente honesto, genuino y aceptar que esta es su verdad y la historia que a sus productores —entre ellos Federico Arreola— les resulta certera. Yo no me atrevería a decir que es un documental sobre pedido, pero sí estoy seguro que tiene un objetivo político y como tal, no está pensada para documentar la verdad, para explicar lo sucedido en su conjunto.

This is, of course, in my view, a great fallacy, and it seems to me that Mandoki makes a mistake in suggesting it is an objective and impartial attempt to document this period. Mandoki ought to have been calmly honest and genuine and admitted that this is his truth, and the version of history that worked best for him and his producers, among them Federico Arreola.

He claims that he is presenting, not his own point of view, but the points of view of a whole multitude of different Mexicans who recorded the events of July 2, 2006.

Is he pulling my leg?

I would not venture to say that this is a documentary made to order, but I am sure that it has a political objective, and as such, is not meant to document the truth, to explained what happened as a whole.

Que cada cual tenga su historia es legítimo, que cada cual la cuente como quiere es más que legítimo: es su derecho a la libertad de expresión. Pero no es, en ningún momento, un recuento neutral sobre esa época. Pero no debe ostentarse como la verdad —o su autor no debería hacerlo— sobre un momento tan polémico y complejo de nuestra vida pública.

That everyone should have their own story is legitimate, and that each one tells that story as they wish is more than legitimate: It is their right to freedom of expression. But is never a neutral account of the times. But it should not be presented as the truth — or its author should not have presented it as such — about such a controversial and complex moment in our public life.

This is sophomoric mystical nonsense of the usual kind, invoking a metaphysical standard of Truth in a matter which is much less cosmic: How many black beans are in this jar, versus how many white beans?

Simple arithemetic.

Mystical nonsense a kind with the following, for example:

Who is the true master of the universe in the age of Time magazine’s YOU? A technologist like Larry Page or Sergey Brin perhaps or maybe a marketer like Tim O’Reilly or John Battelle? Or could it be Edelman, Richard Edelman, the ubiquitous CEO of the even more ubiquitous Edelman PR agency, the largest private PR firm in the world. Edelman gets the Web 2.0 revolution better than anyone. He understands that there are no absolutes in this world, that everyone is self-created, that we — individuals and corporations alike — are all responsible for establishing our own version of the truth.

If your corporation can invent a version of the truth in which the laws of entropy no longer apply, so that I no longer have to fear death, let me know. I want to invest my life savings.

The Doctrine of Fascism of 1932 expresses a similar contempt for bourgeois scientific rationality:

For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative. Individuals and groups are admissible in so far as they come within the State. Instead of directing the game and guiding the material and moral progress of the community, the liberal State restricts its activities to recording results. The Fascist State is wide awake and has a will of its own. For this reason it can be described as ethical.”

If the State needs for the treasury to be running a surplus, then the treasury is running a surplus, even if the beancounters say different.

Which is fine until you try to buy guns and butter from neighboring Freedonia and you do not have the beans on hand to swap for them.

But look: Either you have a law according to which the candidate receiving the most vote wins, or you do not.

If you do, then it matters whether the votes were counted correctly or not. Either the votes were counted accurately or they were not. Either the quality-control procedures for collecting and counting the votes functioned properly or they did not. Either the numbers add up, or they do not.

The only way to settle the question is to recount the ballots.

An audit trail exists that could well settle the entire issue, once and for all.

That this has not been done provides valid reason for uncertainty.

Uncertainty about the legitimacy of the current government. Justified uncertainty.

You can spout Schopenhauer for dummies at me all you like, but you either owe me $500 or you do not.

If we each have different views of the matter, each view is not equally valid in terms of respective subjectivities, by virtue of some principle of radical relativism.

We have a legally binding contract. I delivered the work as agreed. Therefore, I say you owe me $500. If you contend otherwise, you are either mistaken or you are trying to wiggle out of your contactual obligation.

Only one of us can be right. Just because I really need that $500 to make my student loan payment this month is not relevant to the question of whether you owe it to me or not.

Or say that you believe that the laws of physics do not apply to you. I bet you that they do, too, and suggest you give a practical demonstration of your faith in the proposition by leaping from the Eiffel Tower.

Either you survive the plunge or you do not.

Del violento y miserable golpe de Estado a Salvador Allende en Chile, a principios de la década de los setenta, existe por lo menos un gran documental —seguramente son varios más pero me referiré a éste— titulado La batalla de Chile. El filme cuenta con más de 10 horas de bien editados y comentados materiales sobre todo un proceso político por el que atravesaba el país. La premisa fundamental es: el golpe no se explica en los días previos a él, sino en los dos años previos.

About the violent and wretched coup against Allende in Chile, in the early 1970s, there exists at least one great documentary — surely there are a number of them but I am referring to this one — called The Battle of Chile. The film contains more than 10 hours of well edited and -commented material about the entire political process the nation went through. The fundamental premise is: The coup cannot be explained by the events of the days preceding it, but by events in the previous two years. …

Después, parte de la idea de que la izquierda vivía, también, un momento crítico y de descomposición. Esa izquierda que dentro de su profunda agitación y vida tenía contradicciones e incompetencias para explicarse la realidad de su país. Por supuesto que el documental se centra en la reacción de la derecha conservadora, la intervención de poderes fácticos como la CIA y los Estados Unidos, y en particular la hipócrita conspiración castrense.

Yada yada yada. The reviewer tsks tsks over a painful cast in the middle historical difference to establish his ethos as an anti-fascist. Who are these Alternative people? They gabble just like Moonies.

El resultado de ese documental, en un servidor, fue de una larga reflexión sobre lo acontecido en esos tiempos, y no una simple inyección de dogmas para que saliera yo gritando contra todo militar que cruzara mi camino. Esto es lo que no logra Mandoki. Falla porque tiene que sacar la película rápido, porque tiene que cumplir con un objetivo político, no social.

The review characterizes the film without describing it.

It is like me saying that I saw you down on the corner, “acting guilty.” You were staring at your shoes with your hands thrust into your pockets.

Falla porque nunca se habla de los tropezones y errores del equipo de López Obrador, nunca se documentan críticas o —por lo menos— pensamiento crítico sobre cómo desarrolló la campaña el Partido de Revolución Democrática. No se reflexiona sobre la crisis institucional de ese partido o el extravío ideológico de la izquierda en México.

“It does not reflect on errors by the PRD that may have cost it the election.”

This is a red herring.

The thesis here is that the votes were not counted accurately.

On purpose.

The official story now is that we cannot know whether the votes were counted accurately or not because Ugale and IFE are a bunch of demonstrated fuck-ups.

But it is too late to do anything about it except fire Ugalde. Which has now been done.

But this is just not so.

The ballots still exist.

Audit them.

All of them.

El “Fraude” está muy bien manufacturado, bien compilado y con una edición ágil. Pero terminará, me temo, como esos miles de documentales de OVNIS, sólo reafirmará la convicción de los ya creyentes, pero con un poco de escepticismo todo se desmorona rápidamente.

Fraud is very well manufactured, well compiled and ably edited. But it will end up, I fear, like one of those thousands of UFO documentaries, only reaffirming the conviction of those who already believe, but collapsing under the slightest application of skepticism.

I am still waiting for this reviewer to apply some actual skepticism to the actual content of the film, rather than just sort of airily invoking it.

Ojalá que pronto se construya, con fines sociológicos, un documental que dé un panorama más amplio sobre esa jornada, polémica y compleja.

Hopefully soon there will be made, for sociological purposes, a documentary that will give a broader panorama over that complex and controversial day.

And what is the relevance of a sociological understanding of why the Mexican government cannot produce a credible accounting of its last elections?

What you need here is an accounant with an abacus, not Tod freaking Gitlin:  A beancounting that would settle the controversy over that day by reducing its mystical, David “Fear and Misinformation Abound” Sasaki-style complexity to a simple question, with a fairly simple answer:

Were the beans counted accurately?

Que diga todo lo que los poderes fácticos hicieron, todo lo que hizo el IFE y todo lo que no, que diga cuánto dinero corrió por las arcas de los tres candidatos de mayor votación y por Nueva Alianza, que recuerde cómo Calderón ante una campaña que no funcionaba hizo cambios dramáticos y públicos, que documente cómo en tres semanas López Obrador dilapidó 10 puntos porcentuales de ventaja —es decir cinco millones de votos—, que recuerde lo heroica que fue la campaña de Alternativa, que analice los dos debates con ausencias y presencias, eso y todo lo demás. Y después podremos decir que hay un documental sobre el 2006.

Yada yada yada.

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