If there was ever a story that just refused to die, this would be it. Just when we thought casinogate had found some resolution with PM Bakhit being absolved of wrongdoing, or at least missing a date with impeachment, international media swoops in and does what no local media could (dare to) do. Al Jazeera’s report (produced in the video below) was only complemented with a report from The Guardian – both of which also teamed up exactly one year ago with claims that attempts to disrupt Al Jazeera’s World Cup programming in the region originated from the Kingdom.
I suppose there is some irony to all this. Bakhit returned to power with this case hanging around his neck and sought to put it right front and center in order to have it dealt with, only to have it instead boomerang and shine an unfavorable light on him. Suffice to say, this will have a likely impact on public perceptions regarding the Bakhit government, which until recently had experienced some improvement. It is difficult to see whether this case will be the downfall of this cabinet but it’s unlikely Bakhit will resign as it becomes a public admission of guilt. According to one report, the entire government, along with a few high-level positions will be changed some time soon after the extraordinary parliamentary session, and that is a more likely scenario.
However, what this does demonstrate is the state’s inability to embrace a genuine transparent approach, relying instead on putting on a good show. They evade, skirt, obfuscate and do just about anything to present half-truths, but at the end of the day the show that’s put on always seems to collapse like a big tent, and they never seem to run out of ways to miss an opportunity. And this isn’t about the Bakhit government specifically, this is about the entire state with all its trimmings, including this cabinet, and the next one, and the one after that. If you want to be transparent, then be transparent. There are no half-measures here because they always backfire. This approach is almost always complemented with outright denials of reports from international media, human rights organizations and independent institutes, all of which are deemed to be “foreign” and therefore suspect on the grounds that anything foreign is definitely looking to harm Jordan’s reputation. Our state will consistently accept massive donor funding from the governments looking to influence domestic policy, but if the organizations or the media of these same countries attempt to shed light on something happening in Jordan, then it has to be rebuffed.
I think this approach is becoming increasingly difficult in this new age of transparency. Denials do not work anymore. Information finds its ways through every crack and crevice available to it, and everyday, more avenues are being constructed. They outnumber, outweigh and outmatch any show the government can put on. This isn’t the Jordan Television era, and treating people like they still live in that era is ridiculous.
A few years ago, the state could easily get away with these kind of things, and window-dressing efforts initiated by the state were akin to a skilled poker game player sitting across the table from you. While this approach will continue to have its “good” moments (March 25th for instance), those moments are on the decline, and what we’re left with is a government stuck at the slot machines.