The Long View: The lunatic fringe

The Long View
The lunatic fringe
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:40:00 04/28/2010

IN 1950 MARYLAND SEN. MILLARD TYDINGS (of Tydings-McDuffie Act fame) ran for reelection—only to face a remarkable smear campaign. It included a doctored photograph purportedly showing him conversing with American Communist Party leader Earl Browder (suggesting Tydings had Communist sympathies, immersed as he was, at the time, in a fight with his fellow senator, Joseph McCarthy). An open letter was also circulated among voters, which darkly accused Tydings of having a sister who was “a thespian” and, worse, a brother who was “a practicing homo sapiens,” the technical terms for a sister-actress and brother-human, apparently helping to contribute to the veteran senator’s defeat.

A similar low opinion of voters—and disregard for anything resembling reality—seems to afflict those who are hell-bent on planting seeds of doubt about Sen. Benigno Aquino III’s fitness for the presidency, though with conspicuously less success. Since it has proven extremely difficult to rake up any muck about Aquino, the plan of attack seems to revolve on simply inventing something, using the media to propagate fiction in the hope it accomplishes one of three things:

First, it could fool the gullible or reinforce existing biases against the candidate: this particularly applies to those who have remained loyal to President Macapagal-Arroyo and her cloud cuckoo-land tales of legitimacy and accomplishment. Second, it might bog down the candidate in having to disprove rumors, allowing his rivals to pursue their own campaigns unchallenged and unimpeded. Third, simply by existing, the stories can take on a life of their own, never really proving anything but adding to the insecurities of some, who might then use it as an excuse to withhold support for the candidate, a variation of the first objective.

At the heart of the tall tales is the suspicion that no such thing as an honest, principled politician exists; or, put another way, anyone who considers himself a politician running on a platform of honesty, integrity, and good governance (and who personally represents all these things) has to be delusional or an imbecile—and that goes for his supporters. After all, a central talking point of the administration has been, “they are all the same, anyway,” so better the devil you know since no angels exist. But since it is a proven fact Aquino exists, then the only thing left to do, since he has no crimes—no lying, cheating, or stealing—is to accuse him of being either a half-wit or psychologically unsound.

A gruesome parade of columnists shuffled forward to try to do this. First, they suggested Aquino was autistic—only to have the chronology they put forward fall apart upon closer examination. Next, they insisted that a psychological report so crude as to be obviously a fake had to mean something, even though it was a forgery. Only in the weird world in which Palace loyalists exist could their subsequent logic—that even if fake, Aquino was duty-bound to prove to the country he wasn’t mentally disturbed—make any sense.

When that backfired, they backtracked and said Aquino’s people did the inventing to try to deflect really damaging information to come. Only for their partners-in-interest to take up the tale where it left off, as Guido Delgado did the other day. Only for the second fabricated report to end up debunked, as the first one was, by the Ateneo de Manila’s psychology department. All the while further implicating the Nacionalistas (and their administration fellow-travelers) in their unrelenting scheme to try to plant seeds of doubt concerning Aquino’s mental health.

None of this would have been possible without the uncritical acceptance of these documents as newsworthy by the media at large. Putting forward fake documents is, of course, a newsworthy story. It involves, to begin with, the possibility that confidential medical records can be leaked, which has profound ethical implications for medical practitioners (which is why one related allegation had to involve a doctor safely dead, for the purposes of those who tried to propagate the tale). It also involves the horror media outfits have over being given potentially explosive, but ultimately false, information.

And it is in the public interest to know that both the Palace’s friends and the Nacionalista leadership see fit to fabricate stories, regardless of whether or not it gets otherwise Palace-friendly institutions such as the Ateneo de Manila into a needlessly embarrassing situation. Anything goes, so long as it torpedoes a historic verdict against the administration and its allies in the polls.

But what puzzles me is why the contents of two entirely fabricated documents should, in themselves, end up reported, thereby lending credibility to all the related stories being put forward as part of the larger plan to erode public confidence in Aquino. The first report, flimsy to begin with because signed by a priest who isn’t even a psychiatrist, could have easily been checked by referring the document to the priest and the relevant department. As for the second report, it was also denounced by another priest, an eminent personage in his field, who says he never signed any such thing, and the same department—but not before the document and its contents got extensive airplay as a story in itself.

What this means is that media jumped the gun, merrily accomplishing the aims of those who forged the documents by reporting their contents and only afterwards informing the public that, by the way, they were blatant forgeries. This adds fuel to the glowing embers of manufactured scandal the Palace and Nacionalista drumbeaters have been vainly huffing and puffing to turn into a public relations fire.

It seems these people have taken the industry’s measure and found it wanting in the extreme.

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  1. Even if the contents of the second faked document were true, so what? Didn’t Winston Churchill suffer from depression, calling it that “black dog”? Here in Australia, several high ranking MPs have come out in the open stating that they suffered from the blues and were treating it (presumably with medication). They were then able to discharge their duties as public servants with bi-partisan support.

    The allegations reflect first of all how backward the perceived mentality of Filipinos these fabricators presume we have. Their assumption is that depression prevents people from functioning, when in fact this is simply not the case.

    The real scandal is in fact how individuals identified with other candidates can demand an explanation from Noynoy without having verified their sources. It is utterly irresponsible. In Australia, two prominent opposition leaders had to issue public apologies and later resign for misleading the public by making accusations based on fake documents. That is how serious such actions are regarded since it demonstrates lack of judgement and makes them unfit for holding public office.

  2. My concern really is that the media (and I am looking at your employer too, Mr Quezon) is also fanning a series of unfortunate stereotypes about the nature of psychology. I have come recently to the conclusion that the therapist’s room has become very much connected with “discipline and punishment” (a Foucauldian concept, I suspect) that it is something to be avoided whenever possible. It hasn’t helped, from my experience, that guidance counselors (who are, in a certain sense, primary mental health workers in the school setting) have become in common understanding part of a “disciplinary procedure.”

  3. Mainstream media probably scared that the the folks of the blogging world who do intelligent diligent research will beat them to the story. That will be an embarassment for them, that’s for sure.

  4. I don’t find anything new in this situation. The argument about media propagating canards and myths on several issues is universally debated and denounced by those on different sides of the fence. Pro and anti Israel factions denounce media for distorting facts and propagating half-truths, if not outright lies. Conservatives and liberals both accuse media of being a tool of one or the other. Perhaps, it is because, as Gustave Flaubert once said, “There is no truth. There is only perception”.

    In the Philippines, truth and perception may be easier to obscure because media is generally either corrupt, shoddy with facts or highly partisan. Or all of the above. And very lax libel laws allow media to play even more fast and loose with information.

    • Brian on April 30, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Of Thespians and Practicing Homo Sapiens.

    Guys, aren’t we lucky we live in a country that judges libel and slander based on intent and malice?

    • nick on April 30, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Depression and melancholia of a young boy for a sick father incarcerated in prison. What should a young boy in a situation like that be doing, go partying and discoing?

    The NP propagandists clutching at a straw for the survival of their drowning candidate.

  5. Ano ka ba Nick, pro-Villar? Noynoy “felt sad.”

    • SoP on April 30, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Depression is a western pussy disease. True blue Filipinos don’t suffer that shit. I’d rather my melancholic, well sad, president tipple on blue label than be psychologized on a couch like a pussy.

    Let’s not even call it melancholy. True Filipinos may be malungkot, but that’s not the same as melancholy. Melancholy is for spoiled, yuppies like Noynoy.

    Depression is as laughable as Filipinos who suffer anorexia. How can you not eat when most Filipinos go hungry? How can you afford to be depressed when you gotta work your ass off everyday in this hard economy? You can if your’s a spoiled brat like Noynoy and the rest of these annoying Westernized Filipinos.

    That’s why you’re average Filipino will look at depression with contempt. That’s why this black propaganda matters. Depression=weakness to your average hardened pinoy.

    • SoP on April 30, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    And please don’t argue with me about this being libel or slander. I don’t need documents to prove Noynoy is a depressive fuck.

    I look at Noynoy and know the truth immediately-a weak ass spoiled brat whose alleged depression is not beyond the realm of possibility.

    • SoP on April 30, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    nick on Fri, 30th Apr 2010 1:24 pm

    Depression and melancholia of a young boy for a sick father incarcerated in prison. What should a young boy in a situation like that be doing, go partying and discoing?

    As if partying and discoing are the only options for a sad motherfucker. How ’bout just talk to your friends over a few bottles of San Miguel? That’s what most Filipinos do.

    Oh I forgot, Noynoy is a loner introvert who doesn’t have friends, ergo no drinking buddies. More reason to hate this asshole wannabe.

  6. NoyNoy is a big-time loner, isn’t he? You’d think by now he would have solved that by grounding himself to a family – spouse and kids — of his very own.

  7. Many great leaders and thinkers such as Abe Lincoln and Winston Churchill as well as Charles Darwin were known to have predispositions towards depression at some point in their lives. It is a real condition, that has been verified through magnetic resonance imaging.

    The way you treat the condition and deal with it is what matters. Filipinos by their very nature are a resilient and optimistic people. No matter what life throws their way, it is in their DNA to pick themselves up and just get on with it.

    I think the reason why all this talk about depression has not damaged Noynoy’s ratings, especially with the poor, is that most Filipinos identify with the suffering, humiliation and oppression that the Aquinos suffered, and identify with the dignity, determination and resilience of the widow and orphans who were left behind by the slain Ninoy to carry on.

    • nick on April 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    “That’s why you’re average Filipino will look at depression with contempt. That’s why this black propaganda matters. Depression=weakness to your average hardened pinoy.”-SOP

    What’s the basis for that statement? Seems to me just a personal opinion. The surveys contradict such personal opinion.

    Well, of course, it depends on the emotional and personal attachment within the family. Case to case basis… one can be depressed, one can drink beer, one can be just casual about it, one can just walk in the park and sing with the birds, one can even be glad if he hates the father. Depends. See?

    But that is assuming the psychiatrict report is authentic. It’s not.

    • SoP on April 30, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    That’s because the survey includes soft Filipinos. I said hardened pinoy. There are more weak-ass soft Filipinos than hardened Pinoys in these surveys, which is results in the “depression is no factor” outcome.

    These surveys are typically taken by telephone, which under represents the hardened Filipinos, the very poor, who vote for swigging Erap.

  8. I find it very discouraging for the democratic hopes of this country when we have someone charged with Senate ethics violations calling the leading candidate crazy.

    @SoP you really would like to set the Philippines back another 50 years, wouldn’t you? I bet you think the Ampatuans are good ole macho Filipinos, too??

    • mlq3 on May 1, 2010 at 2:33 am
      Author

    I don’t think they use phone surveys, do they? Most methodologies here use face to face interviews (not everyone has a telephone).

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Right, drdavisjr, everything has to be a zero sum game huh? So if I dislike Noynoy automatically makes me like Villar? Did I even say I favor Villar?

    I think both of them are incompetent. One is mentally and emotionally weak and the other morally weak.

    Regarding setting us back, I would very much like the country to go back 50 years. Imagine, fewer people, less crime, cleaner streets, less corruption, who wouldn’t want to go back 50 years before?

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 8:23 am

    And just to further highlight your idiocy, you chose Ampatuans as your ideal “macho”. Well my friend, they’re not 1950s macho. Those assholes are new millennium machos-politicos hiding behind guns like homosexual gangsters.

    I good ole fashion 1950s macho Filipino archetype for me would be the likes of Luis Taruc and Rogelio de la Rosa. More classier and kept it real. If we had more people like these at the present we’d be better off my friend.

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 8:46 am

    But just to stick to your warlord theme, if I were to choose a 1950s macho warlord, I would go with the like of the Singsons and Crisologos up North. Or even the Pinedas of Pampanga at the present.

    Those clans warred in the 1950s sure, but they common decency enough not to shoot women’s breasts and vaginas. I mean that’s just sick. At least Luzon warlords don’t act like animals, not like Muslim warlords. See, the Crisologos and Singsons eventually redeemed themselves-one became a peaceful minister politicians and the other gave us the highest criminal conviction of land ever. With these Muslims macho warlords, forget about it. Say what you want about the Pinedas, but they don’t drop bodies like these Muslims do. That’s true 1950s attitude.

  9. SoP, do you have a reputable, proven basis for claiming that Sen. Aquino is mentally and emotionally weak? Or are you jumping on the “black prop” bandwagon like the morally weak you mentioned?

    In order for the Philippines to compete on the international level, it must prove itself above reproach. No more warlords, private armies, corrupt politicians…

  10. @mlq3 – regarding the surveys, I think one of the points that Sen Gordon was using as his grounds for the lawsuit vs PulseAsia and SWS was that the surveys were conducted face-to-face.

    • nick on May 1, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Speaking of the morally weak, drdavisjr, our friend SoP here has only good words for his kabalen Bong Pineda. And the people of Pampanga will also vote for GMA, mostly possibly for the wife of Bong Pineda too on May 10. Good and well meaning people of Pampanga will do that, :).

  11. Ah ha…now SoP’s agenda becomes crystal clear. He’s not for Villar, but for the most unpopular president since Marcos. Well, if Aquino is elected, I’m sure they will all be scrambling around trying to find ways to protect their ass-ets. Oh how the great shall fall; if not today, then someday. History has proven that time and time again. 🙂

  12. The biggest difference between Arroyo and Marcos is that Marcos enjoyed the unconditional support of the White House. Whereas, Barrack can hardly stand the sight of her, if what I’ve read is accurate. So concerned is the White House over Eleksyon 2010 that they removed GMA’s mouthpiece Kristie Kenney for a much more hardliner like Thomas.

    • nick on May 1, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    SoP might be for Villar too but not sure of that. What’s clear is that he hates Noynoy…and only has good words for Bong Pineda. It’s obvious from his words above he’s a fan, heheh.

    • mlq3 on May 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm
      Author

    Yes, and in that case it’s good to see what Mahar Mangahas wrote today:

    Gordon claims that “surveys issued by the defendants … showed him only at the 29th spot,” and yet he won as senator in 2004. Actually, the SWS surveys of the 2004 senatorial race had him as 14th in Jan. 18-22, tied for 16th on Feb. 17-25, 14th on March 21-29, tied for 8th on April 10-17, and tied for 9th (with 29 percent of the vote) on May 1-4. It looks like 29 percent was misread as 29th place. Thus he was already in the winning circle in the last two SWS pre-election surveys.

    Gordon’s complaints about methodology are false. (1) My column of March 6, 2010 reported that SWS received two awards from the Gallup World Poll for excellence in field methodology, among all of Gallup’s Asian field providers. (2) Face-to-face interviewing, which we always do, and which Gordon thinks “outmoded,” is part of Gallup’s job order to SWS. (3) We agree with Gordon that sampling should be done by probability, and not by quota. Apparently he doesn’t know that SWS always does the former, and never does the latter.

    Gordon calls it “highly improbable” that SWS did two national surveys over as short a period as March 19-30, 2010. Actually, SWS did eight national surveys, not all about elections, over January-April 2010, plus several local surveys.

    Gordon alleges that, last April 14, an unidentified SWS pollster in Cebu asked a respondent to choose between only two presidential candidates, instead of among 10. Comments: (1) SWS had no election survey in Cebu on that date; (2) all SWS interviewers have ID cards—tell us her name so that we can check; (3) the published SWS election surveys always feature the 10 candidates; (4) in any case, it is legitimate for anyone to inquire how a voter would choose between two candidates.

    Gordon’s claim that SWS fails to disclose its sponsors is false. Check the website, http://www.sws. org.ph. The SWS Survey Data Library is open to the public. Its staff helps visitors, short of serving as research assistants. The library fee is affordable even to students. Users should come personally, and not expect their technical questions to be answered by mail.

    Gordon’s citations of survey errors in past elections are very few; they are the exceptions that prove the rule, like the failure of US pollsters to predict Truman’s win over Dewey in 1948, which he cites as though it was SWS’ fault too. My 2009 paper, “The challenge of election surveys in the Philippines,” summarizes our election survey record; see our website. The error of the 2004 exit poll in Metro Manila was investigated by an independent group of scientists, and no fraudulence was found; see their report on the website.

    Gordon’s claim that “there are no associations of professional pollsters and polling firms which regulate, control, and sanction defendants … for their violation of the code of professional ethics …” is false. Seems he hasn’t heard of the Marketing and Opinion Research Society of the Philippines (MORES), founded in 1977. Both MORES and the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR), to which key SWS staff members belong, have Codes of Ethics. Last Wednesday, the MORES board of directors issued a press statement denouncing Gordon’s petition for striking at the heart of our democratic process.

  13. Ah, you mean the laughing stock of Lubao? The jueteng warlord??? That’s so funny!! What the heck is this guy trying to say about Noynoy?? When, last I looked, jueteng is illegal. Impunity is killing the Philippines.

  14. RE: Gordon – My wife has a friend close to Sen Gordon, whose name I won’t mention here. On the surface, Dick seems like an excellent candidate, but lately he has let his frustrations show. Very unbecoming of a presidential candidate.

    Namely:
    1. Outburst on TV regrading PA system announcement.
    2. Suing the survey companies??? What a stupid thing to do.
    3. Jumping on the Noynoy depression bandwagon.

    Not deserving of the highest office in the land.

    • nick on May 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Just some clarifications, drdavisjr. Those guys are no laughing stocks of Lubao. Lubao residents love ’em, wife three-termed mayor, now the son. Wife running for governor of Pampanga vs. Fr. Panlilio.

    But we’re digressing, we’re talking about ‘morally weak’, are we not?

    Oh, yes, the people of Pampanga sure love those guys, you’ll see after May 10, 2010.

  15. Sorry, from a western point of view, anyone involved in illegal activities with the permission of the government are laughing stocks. Maybe Lubao isn’t laughing, but what about the civilized world?

  16. However, please consider that I am only stating an opinion based upon what I’ve read. Unless Pineda has been found guilty of a crime, he is still very much innocent.

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I’m talking about the relative decency of Noynoy and Pineda in different contexts.

    In the context of warlords, the Pinedas and Singsons are relatively tame. That’s because they derive their money from jueteng, a legally scorned but socially accepted past time. Jueteng historically has been the predominant source of income for Luzon warlords. And jueteng as a gambling habit never caught on in the south. Which formed the unusually violent nature of Mindanao warlords.

    In the south, the warlords source on income is shabu. This is due to a confluence of Islamic terrorism, proximity of Mindanao to raw material sources in Thailand and India, and lax law enforcement due to rebellion. Protectors of drug lords, such as the Ampatuans, have to use a lot of muscle because they deal with hardened elements like the Abu Sayyaf who control the distribution, Chinese Triads who control the manufacture, and law enforcement and general society which scorns shabu use. Add the fact that the Ampatuans “get high on their own supply” and you can seen how they pale in comparison to the Pinedas, who use “peaceful” means to maintain their hold on gambling, which is bayongs of cash distributed to police and politicos.

    I’m not saying this is right. You could argue the legality of this and all, but at the end of the day, nobody gets hurt from jueteng patrons spending 5 to 10 pesos here and there to feed their gambling habit.

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    And believe me, the western world is not laughing at the Pinedas, knowing full well their experience in making illegal socially accepted sins like jueteng. Did you know that Al Capone made his money smuggling alcohol, which was made illegal in the 1930’s America? Americans realized the folly of this, and believe me, we too shall realize the folly of making jueteng illegal.

    You actually have to congratulate the peaceful nature of Pampangos in controlling this illegal trade. We don’t exactly see gambling groups jocking for supremacy in controlling gambling. If these were the Italian Mafia or Chinese Triads, I’m sure the streets of Pampanga would already be littered with dead bodies of gangs killing each other to control gambling in Pampanga, but no. Everything is peaceful the way it is with Pinedas at the helm, the police and politicos with their bribe money, and the Kapampangans with their violence-free cities. Not unlike the Mindanaoans, who murder each other for territory. (It is my theory that the Ampatuans’s political enemeies are fighting them for the shabu protection racket).

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Re: nobody getting hurt from jueteng, I just would like to qualify that the only entity getting hurt from making jueteng illegal is the government. If they just made it legal, all those bribe monies paid to police and mayor all the way to the president could have been paid to the Philippine government instead. Let’s make it legal so we can tax it. Making it illegal will not stop people from Luzon gambling because it is culturally entrenched.

    I don’t see anyway why we should scorn at it. I mean, how is it different from legal gambling like Philippine Sweepstakes? People pick a number and one of them wins all the money from the pool. Drdavisjr, explain to me why one form of number picking should be made illegal while the other one should be promoted in TV as contributing to charities?

  17. Yes, SoP. You might be correct. Al Capone eventually fell and so will those involved in illegal activities here. All it takes is political will. It appears that most likely Noynoy will win the elections; question remains is the sincerity of his words. I believe he is sincere; only time will tell.

  18. SoP: explain to me why one form of number picking should be made illegal while the other one should be promoted in TV as contributing to charities?

    Because the law currently says it is. If a bill is introduced to make it legal, and it is passed into law, the so be it. That is how is should be. Otherwise, until then, it is against the law. There are no grey areas. Black is black and white is white.

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    drdavisjr on Sat, 1st May 2010 5:21 pm

    Yes, SoP. You might be correct. Al Capone eventually fell and so will those involved in illegal activities here.

    And the Americans eventually made the sale and distribution of alcohol legal. Laws are made by men (congressmen and senators specifically), and men can be wrong, so laws can be wrong.

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    And just so you know, it was not alcohol distribution that landed Al Capone in jail, but tax evasion.

  19. Yes, SoP. No doubt. Law can be wrong and eventually changed. But until that happens, the act remains illegal.

  20. “And just so you know, it was not alcohol distribution that landed Al Capone in jail, but tax evasion.”

    Of course. I just thought since you chose to cite Capone, I’d remind you of his eventual demise.

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Ah but what if they made freedom to criticize the government illegal? Would you follow it? That’s what Marcos did.

    Just because it’s illegal does not mean it’s right.

  21. SoP on Sat, 1st May 2010 5:33 pm

    Ah but what if they made freedom to criticize the government illegal?

    If that happens, we have to make a choice. And with that choice comes with a price. I’m sure the Aquino kids remember that all too well.

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    I hope you accommodate those who fight for freedom to gamble in the same vain as those who fight to criticize the government freely.

    Right now, we’re lucky we can criticize the government in relative freedom. I don’t gamble myself, but I feel for my fellow Filipinos who are made to feel criminal for spending their hard earned money the way they want to. And I also feel for people like the Pinedas who are made out to be criminals for providing that service.

  22. Plus, I am not criticizing the government, am I? Unless we must infer that the government is involved in illegal activities, and that must be substantiated.

  23. “I hope you accommodate those who fight for freedom to gamble in the same vain as those who fight to criticize the government freely.”

    Yes sir. Most definitely. I respect everyone who fights for their cause, insomuch as it doesn’t cause harm to others.

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Erap was impeached because of receiving jueteng protection bribes.

    You must be living in lala land to think the whole Luzon government is not involved in receiving jueteng protection money. It’s been substantiated during the Erap impeachment trials. Everybody in Luzon, from mayor to governors to congressmen to the police chiefs and the president, are receiving bayongs of jueteng protection money.

    You can criticize this, as I do. I want to make it legal so all that protection money can go to the people instead of the politicians.

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    drdavisjr on Sat, 1st May 2010 5:44 pm

    Yes sir. Most definitely. I respect everyone who fights for their cause, insomuch as it doesn’t cause harm to others.

    How does a person earning his/her money to gamble hurt others?

  24. “I want to make it legal so all that protection money can go to the people instead of the politicians.”

    I think this is one of Erap’s campaign promises, correct?

    • SoP on May 1, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    It’s their money you know. Not your’s or anybody’s.

  25. How does a person earning his/her money to gamble hurt others?

    I never said it did. But, as with freedom fighting, there is a price to pay if you lose (get caught).

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