The alarming rate at which the false equivalence culture seems to be gaining prominence within the Ghanaian media space and among some self-declared neutrals is very worrying.
False equivalence refers to an unreasonable comparison where people incorrectly assert that two or more things or scenarios are equivalent and deserve to be treated in a similar manner simply because they share some characteristics. The danger with this culture is that it clouds our judgement and deprives us of critical thinking which is very key in problem solving.
An issue of concern in recent times has been the austerity measures implemented by Government as a control measure to the impact COVID-19 has had on our economy and livelihoods. Even though it is shameful under the current circumstances to play politics with these issues, the expected rants and twisting of facts by an opposition politician is much better than the illogical publications of a journalist who is followed by thousands of people and who expect him to be critical in thinking because they rely on him for information.
For instance, John Jinapor’s comparison of Dr Mahamudu Bawumia’s promise of tax reductions in 2015 to selected tax increments six years later although shameful is not as depressing as a journalist’s claim that the “buck stops at him (President Akufo-Addo)” and thus he is to be blamed and not any “global whatever”. And the journalist’s reason as well as other people who agree with him is that they in the past “have called out former Presidents for less”. Unfortunate false equivalence, right?
The current economic downturn and its resulting difficulties on the populace is something that cannot be denied nor overlooked. Journalists, citizens and relevant stakeholders have the right to express worry and call on Government to work towards alleviating the situation. But these calls should not be done based on wishful thinking at the expense of critical thinking. It should be based on facts and directed towards contributing solutions to the problem.
Every available data point to the fact that the recent economic challenge is indeed a global phenomenon occasioned by COVID-19 and not a creation of President Akufo-Addo. The World Bank in its “Global Economic Outlook During the COVID-19 Pandemic” describes the resultant economic damage as representing the “largest economic shock the world has experienced in decades.” Thus, how a journalist or a “neutral” expects to equate economic criticisms of any Government to one currently managing the economy during this “largest economic shock the world has experienced in decades” is indeed baffling.
An approach any fair-minded individual would take to ascertain whether indeed his/her Government deserves economic criticisms at this time is to look at the state of the economy pre-Covid. In the case of Ghana, it is an undeniable fact that all the economic indicators pre-Covid pointed to a buoyant and growing economy. Ghana was referred to as “the world’s fastest growing economy”. The growth pattern was so massive that it was described as “skyrocketing”.
It was immediately after attaining this peak in 2019 that the world was saddled with the COVID-19 pandemic. So an important question is what would have been the state of our economy during Covid if President Akufo-Addo and his Veep/Head of Economic Management Team Dr Bawumia had not led Ghana to attain this enviable economic feat? Your guess is as good as mine. Ghana would have probably witnessed the worst economic hardship in history. That is why it is very unfortunate for journalists or civil society to lump up issues for criticisms instead of critical examination and contextualized appraisals.
Thus, it is important that in the media/civil society’s rush to criticize just as to be seen as neutral or doing something, they should eschew the culture of false equivalence. Issues should be critically examined and properly contextualized. The culture of just calling out at/criticizing a Government because you did so to a previous Government is not what Ghana expects from people who should be the buffer between the politically polarized ends of society.
As it stands, we are still in the COVID pandemic with fears of more waves following recent spikes in South-East Asia and South America. There are no signs of this pandemic coming to an end soon even with the availability of vaccines. Thus, we need to be very moderate in our criticisms of measures put in place by Government to stabilize the economy. This might be our only chance to stabilize and remain strong for any unforeseen future occurrences which we of course pray against
By Dr. Issah Imoro (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Source: Daily Mail GH