• The secret to successful deception in politics is the ability to control the truth, the middle ground, and the lie.
• For political deception to be effective, the lie must be intertwined with some truth and delivered in a manner that its recipients identify with, to make it believable.
Sha ji jing hou.
This is a Chinese idiom that translates to kill the chicken while the monkey watches.
Once upon a time, there was a street performer who purchased a monkey. The monkey was rather stubborn and quite delinquent. And no matter how often the owner trained it to become a performer, the monkey would not follow instructions.
The monkey had a mind of its own and disobeyed its master at every turn.
This disobedience cost the master’s street gig a lot of money. After several attempts at taming the monkey to obey, the street performer gave up on this line of persuasion. After some thought, he went back to the market and bought a chicken.
When he got home, he developed a routine where he would sit next to the chicken and bang a saucepan with an iron ladle very loudly.
This frightened the chicken tremendously. Every time he picked up the pan and iron ladle, the chicken froze in fright. Instructive to note was that he always ensured the monkey witnessed this routine.
After a couple of days, in addition to the saucepan and the iron ladle, the street performer had a meat cleaver in his hand. After scaring the chicken as was the norm, he took the meat cleaver and chopped off the chicken’s head.
Upon witnessing the chicken's head being axed, the monkey got so terrified, and from that day, he never disobeyed the street performer again.
This week has seen the mother of political axing in the ruling political party. Senators Kipchumba Murkomen and Susan Kihika were axed from the Majority leader and Majority Whip positions in the Senate respectively following a Jubilee parliamentary group meeting at State House.
The meeting was chaired by Jubilee Party leader President Uhuru Kenyatta, who also sanctioned a coalition with independence party Kanu.
And just as swiftly, Speaker Ken Lusaka gave his communication in the Senate as procedurally required, to immediately effect the changes.
In a bid to injunct the changes, the ousted parties sought reprieve from the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal. The Tribunal issued an order staying the coalition deal, pending the hearing and determination of the case.
On another front, Jubilee moved to axe some nominated senators who did not heed their party leader’s directive to attend the said meeting that resolved to change the Senate leadership.
Begs the question, given recent political nuances in the country, would it be accurate to surmise that the common denominator among those affected is their support for Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 presidential ambitions?
And if this deduction is accurate, could we be witnessing our rendition of sha ji jing hou?
I submit that this is not a case of killing the chicken while the monkey watches. It is a well-choreographed script.
The brazenness with which these political moves have been undertaken is too pedestrian to be believed as the real deal. There is hardly any stealth or finesse that you would expect in such a high stakes political orchestration.
However, I am willing to eat humble pie if proven wrong. But in my assessment, what we are witnessing is the art of successful deception in politics playing out as reality TV. Allow me to unpack this for you.
Politics is the continuation of war by any other means. And all warfare is based on deception.
Hence, when you are able to attack, you must seem unable; when using your forces, you must appear inactive; when you are near, you must make the enemy believe you are far away; and when you are far away, you must make the enemy believe you are near.
The secret to successful deception in politics is the ability to control the truth, the middle ground, and the lie.
For political deception to be effective, the lie must be intertwined with some truth and delivered in a manner that its recipients identify with, to make it believable.
Consider the following; the underlying narrative has been that Uhuru has backtracked on his promise to support his deputy’s presidential ambitions.
Consequently, the ruling party has been split down the middle between those who support the party leader and those that support his deputy.
Being part of the presidency, and by extension, a key recipient of daily national intelligence briefings, is it even remotely probable that Ruto was completely unaware of the State House meeting agenda?
And if he was in the know, is it conceivable that he would allow his so-called faction to be caught off-guard with the news?
Those that believe that this is a case of sha ji jing hou are simply deluded by confirmation bias. This is the tendency to search for, to interpret, to favour and recall information in a way that confirms or strengthens one’s prior personal beliefs of hypotheses.
Remember that the media has fed us this narrative of political betrayal for more than two years now to the point that we no longer question its authenticity.
Our confirmation bias is acquired through a process called political socialization. This is a process by which we crystalise political identities, values and behaviour that remain relatively persistent, even in the face of contradictory evidence.
As consumers of the media, we perceive how much importance to attach to an issue based on the emphasis the media gives it.
They do this by providing differential levels of coverage on specific issues or through cues such as large bold headlines, the opening story on the newscast and the length of time devoted to it.
Remember that stories do not write themselves. They are written by people who are also partakers of the political socialization process.
The authors decide how to convey the information. This is called framing and it reinforces our pre-existing beliefs.
But most importantly do not forget that the media is owned by a small group of people with vested interests. In the selectorate paradigm, media owners form part of the essentials.
Therefore, the consumer is largely fed post-truth politics. Post-truth politics is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to consumer emotion and existing beliefs, rather than objective facts.
If indeed the axing of senators is a true case of sha ji jing hou, why hasn’t the same strategy been used to eliminate corruption in this country? You be the judge.
Finally, my unsolicited advice is to Wanjiku; those who do not read the news are ill-informed, and those who read the news are misinformed.
This political orchestration is a club. And you are not a member. So let the unfolding political drama entertain you as would any reality TV show without catching feelings. You are being played.
It is easier to fool someone than to convince someone they are being fooled – Mark Twain