Sen. Fred Mitchell
Chairman of The Progressive Liberal Party
Leader of Opposition Business – Senate
Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs & Shadow Attorney General
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let’s talk about what’s happening in our country.
The situation is desperate. This government is out of money, crashing on the rocks.
Bahamians are suffering, terribly.
The Prime Minister, who is now also the Minister of Finance, has no idea how to manage this economic crisis. He has no answers and no plan for the way forward.
His passion is not for saving the country, his passion is for saving himself.
But he’s not going to succeed.
Because this is the least competent, the least transparent, and the least caring government in our post-Independence history.
They lack vision and compassion. The new budget they are preparing for the next fiscal year will cause massive additional pain for the Bahamian people.
They have just enough sense to understand that they cannot win re-election after shoving through a budget that takes more from people who have nothing left to give.
Do you think they would cut short their term and give up an entire year in power if they thought they could win in 2022?
They know they need to have the election before the higher taxes and layoffs in that budget become public.
But going early — ahead of their Budget of Maximum Pain — isn’t going to be enough to save them.
Because they don’t have a record to run on, they have a record to run from.
They are massively unpopular, backed into a corner.
But the FNM – the same FNM who doesn’t have a plan for anything else – have what they think is an excellent plan for winning re-election despite how widely hated they are:
Their strategy is to BUY and LIE their way through the campaign.
Anyone with a phone or an Internet connection knows what I’m talking about.
People are complaining to me every day now about the toxic, deceptive ads that seem to be unavoidable.
Someone described it to me this way: “Mr. Davis, the FNM is running a garbage juice campaign.”
And that’s exactly right: The FNM is running a garbage campaign filled with garbage juice lies.
I am not talking about ordinary politics. I can handle rough and tough politics. I have no problem with that.
I am talking about how this FNM’s dirty political tactics are more deceitful and more dangerous than anything we’ve seen in our country’s modern history.
Let’s start with what’s happening on Facebook, where the FNM is committing massive fraud on the Bahamian people.
A former senior executive at Facebook, also a former White House aide during the Obama administration, wrote this in the Washington Post:
“Facebook profits…by amplifying lies” and Facebook ads “can contain blatantly false and debunked information”.
Many of you are aware of the controversies about the role Facebook plays in elections around the world. In the United States, they are also under fire for allowing white supremacists to spread hate and violence.
It’s long past time for a public conversation in this country about the role that Facebook is playing in our democracy.
We have identified at least eleven fake Facebook groups, running paid, active, anti-PLP advertising campaigns from their pages.
This is only a few of them:
PLP Dirty Dozen – launched on 16 February, 2021
Nygard’s PLP – launched on 8 February, 2021
In the Loop Grand Bahama – launched on 15 December, 2020
Grand Bahama Memes – launched on 4 December, 2020
The History of the PLP – launched on 16 November, 2020
These are groups pretending to be independent organizations, falsely identifying themselves as “Community Sites” or “News and Media” or even as a “PLP History Museum”.
They are no such thing: They are not real. They have no offices. They have no staff. They cannot be contacted. They do not produce or post or advertise content except for anti-PLP and occasionally some pro-FNM content.
They pretend to be independent, but some are running the same exact ads and overlapping graphics and language, and many click through to the same websites.
So, there’s your mother or your grandmother or your cousin, looking at Facebook to see updates about the family, and they see ad after ad from groups deceptively calling themselves “PLPs for Change” or “242 Truth Tellers” –ads filled with disgusting lies.
These are not eleven different organizations. They are all the same organization. They are the FNM.
In some of these paid ads, sent out across the country, they have an image of duct tape across my wife’s mouth, and duct tape over the mouths of female PLP candidates.
What is wrong with these people?
They know if they put their name on that, it would hurt them, not help them. That’s why they don’t run these ads from the FNM page.
And all the lies – about me, about our candidates – they can’t own up to those either, without facing legal consequences.
You know, we have an ad running on Facebook right now. It’s running right from the PLP page. We argue that the government’s failed border reopening last July led to the gigantic second wave of COVID cases. Their lack of planning meant the only tool they had was lockdowns, resulting in enormous and unnecessary damage to our local economy.
We don’t need to hide that we created this ad, and we don’t need some fake page to run it. We stand by every word of it.
The FNM can’t do the same and is poisoning our democracy instead.
If they had a shred of decency or patriotism, they’d shut down the fake Facebook sites now, and commit to only running ads they can put their names on and stand behind.
And if the traditional media – all of you in this room – if you believe The Bahamas is better served by an election centered on issues instead of an election centered on lies, you will start asking the FNM tough questions about the campaign they’re running in the shadows, and who is funding it.
It’s not just on Facebook, either. Their lies are everywhere, in banner ads when you visit your bank website, or play an online game, or watch a YouTube video.
I’m not talking about the homemade graphics and memes that supporters of both parties make and circulate.
I’m talking about expensive, coordinated, paid advertising bombardments in the millions of dollars.
Of course, expensive is all relative. If you’re a big FNM donor, making millions off your government contracts, the terms of which are being hidden from the Bahamian public by the Competent Authority. What’s a million here or there on advertising? It’s just an investment in keeping the FNM in power so they can continue getting their special inside deals.
There’s a lot at stake for FNM special interests in this election. They don’t want to lose their access and their ability to keep carving up the Bahamian economy for themselves.
But there’s even more at stake for the Bahamian people, who need and deserve a government for the many, not the privileged few.
It’s only February. If this is how the FNM is starting their campaign, you can be sure it will grow worse from here. The lies are going to get bigger and dumber and more sordid every week.
So today I am warning both the media and the Bahamian people about these kind of campaigns which are run by people with deep pockets and no moral compass.
Technology means it’s now possible to create fake photos and fake videos. These are called synthetic media, also known as deep fakes, and it is difficult and often impossible to detect that they’re not real.
Why do I think the FNM is willing to use fake images? They already have – last year, (Look and Point at Screen) they altered a photo of me in Grand Bahama to try to make it look like I was violating Emergency Orders. Their efforts were laughed at, but that only deepened their determination to use more sophisticated technology next time.
That’s not the only thing they’re planning. This FNM has a well-established pattern of using the court system and payments to witnesses in their dirty political games. I see they’ve just ratified Michael Pintard, who was forced to resign as Chairman of the party when he was caught on tape in a scheme to pay money for false testimony. So pay attention: Hubert Minnis is continuing to signal his support for that behavior loud and clear.
In this government’s failed prosecutions against former PLPs – the ones that cost taxpayers millions – a key witness met personally with two FNM Ministers and received a $1.9 million contract ahead of her testimony; other witnesses were coached and advised to change their statements…..multiple times!! Evidence in police custody was altered. All of this came out in evidence in the courts and to date, no investigation has been opened into these corrupt practices.
This is who they are.
They did it before, and they’re likely to do it again.
But let me tell you something:
Whatever they are planning in the FNM Factory of Lies – none of it is going to work for them.
Bahamians know who they are. Because Hubert Minnis’s FNM doesn’t just lie about the PLP, they lie about everything: They lied about the PLP stealing the VAT money. They lied about Oban. They lied about the Town Center Mall lease. They lied about the lives lost in Dorian. And they lied about the missing hurricane relief. It’s been one lie after another, starting with the biggest of them all, that it was “the people’s time”.
Their lies stopped working for them long ago. No lie lasts forever!
Bahamians are smart. They’re not going to choose garbage juice over compassion and competence. Lies aren’t going to put food on anyone’s table.
People are sleeping in their cars. We are in the middle of the worst economic crisis of our generation and the FNM want to make this election about a guy who paid for some t-shirts 10 years ago.
In the next days, we’ll be announcing measures we’re taking with Facebook with respect to the fake sites, and in addition we’ll be sharing steps that Bahamians can take to determine whether the information they’re seeing online is truth or lies.
And Bahamians will continue to see for themselves the difference between our campaigns. We held a Youth Town Hall this week, so I could take questions from first-time voters about the future of this country. We had a food drive in Grand Bahama, giving away thousands of boxes of food, because we don’t want to wait until we are the government to start helping. We’ve been visiting with and supporting small businesses who have been harmed by the lockdowns.
This is what our campaign is going to be about – helping people and sharing ideas.
Talking to people about what comes next, about immediate relief from suffering and about building a stronger, more inclusive economy.
We think Bahamians are ready for a government with a strategic plan for the economy and the ability to execute it.
FNM lies are a sign of their weakness. It’s all they have.
And the more they LIE about us, the more we’ll tell the TRUTH about them.