The leading candidate for the Spanish prime minister position is using a deceptive technique called Gish gallop during a televised debate.

Amidst the chatter surrounding disinformation, we have once again been subjected to a pitiful display of fake news and obfuscation from none other than a prominent political figure vying for the position of prime minister in Spain.

Just two weeks before the country’s general elections, during a televised debate with Pedro Sanchez, the incumbent prime minister, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, president of the People’s Party (PP) in Spain and former president of the autonomous government of Galicia, resorted to a controversial strategy known as the Gish gallop to clobber his opponent.

This particular debating tactic involves launching a rapid barrage of arguments, regardless of their accuracy or credibility, aimed at overwhelming opponents by drowning them in a flood of arguments.

The term “Gish gallop” was coined by Eugenie Scott, an American anthropologist. It is a nod to Duane Gish, the master of this tactic who loved using it to challenge evolution supporters. The sneaky motive behind this strategy is to completely overwhelm your opponent, leaving them scrambling to respond to every single point. Hence, the Gish gallop is not about showcasing your impressive speaking skills. It is all about throwing your opponent off balance and making them doubt their ability to engage in a real debate.

“The use of this tactic by Feijóo exposes his lack of honesty, even in political debate,” Eva Maldonado wrote in Diario16, a Spanish news outlet.

The great maestro of fallacy

Feijoo, PP’s aspirant to the Spanish premiership, was on a roll during the debate, spewing a plethora of falsehoods. His deceitful remarks encompassed both political matters and economic data, easily debunked by official statistics.

For example, he shamelessly disseminated erroneous information regarding employment and energy prices in Spain. Contrary to his claims, Sanchez’s administration has achieved significant job creation, with over 1.5 million positions generated in the past four years. As for energy prices, Spain has some of the most competitive rates in Europe, completely contradicting Feijoo’s absurd assertion that they are four times higher than the EU average.

Feijoo boldly declared that the current government has racked up the highest debt among EU member states, but that’s simply not true. Certainly, Spain’s public debt-to-GDP ratio has increased by 15% during Sanchez’s time in office, while the European average only went up by 6%. However, when you actually examine the numbers, Spain’s debt is insignificant compared to other countries.

On a different topic, Feijoo’s claim that Sanchez’s government implemented 42 tax hikes is pure fantasy. Only six tax increases happened in 2021, and another nine occurred in 2022. And as for Feijoo’s statement that all parties, except Podemos, supported the State Pact against gender violence, it’s utter nonsense. Vox, a strong ally of the PP, actually voted against it.

Organized last Monday by Atresmedia, a private broadcaster, the televised debate between Sanchez and Feijoo was just filled with such lies.

Electable bunkum

Feijoo had already declined the Socialists’ offer to appear on RTVE, Spain’s public broadcaster. The debate on Atresmedia took place almost two weeks before the early general election on July 23rd, which Sanchez called for after his party, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), performed poorly in local and regional polls last May.

The upcoming election will determine whether the country moves further towards the far right. The PP is leading in the polls but is not expected to win an absolute majority, meaning it will need the support of Vox, a right-wing party, to govern. The socialists are rallying left-wing voters by reminding them of the terrifying prospect of the far right gaining power. The outcome hinges on voter turnout and Vox’s demands for backing the PP.

With everything on the line, it’s no shocker that PP and their leader are pulling out all the stops to secure victory in the upcoming elections. They’re resorting to deceitful tactics and spewing lies, just like right-wing politicians that they might need to govern.

In a structured debate, the Gish gallop technique is a tough nut to crack. Time limits and structural constraints make it a real challenge.

“Nevertheless, Feijóo exhibited an unparalleled mastery of this technique, artfully capitalizing on every precious second of his speaking time to unleash a barrage of claims that would demand a considerable amount of time to refute or verify,” Diario16’s Maldonado wrote.

Without an independent fact-checking mechanism in the debate, and with the audience’s limited knowledge, the Gish gallop has a higher chance of succeeding. This sneaky tactic can sow doubt and distract from the important issues being discussed. Feijoo’s use of this tactic is a clear sign of his integrity deficit, completely sabotaging the political conversation. Yet, he was helped in his deceiving by the journalists from Atresmedia, a major broadcaster co-owned by Planeta Corporacion and Germany’s Bertelsmann, who disappointingly turned a blind eye to Feijoo’s lies.

Feijoo’s refusal to participate in a debate on public television, paired with his Gish gallop spectacle on Atresmedia, is a cunning ploy to distort the truth. It might help him win the elections, but it also chips away at the public’s trust in political integrity and, consequently, the overall standard of public discourse.

Photo: Creative Commons (Dimitris Papamitsos), Wikimedia Commons