Will Me­dia Man Up in 2015?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Rick Wayne

A na­tion that forms de­tailed opin­ions on the ba­sis of de­tailed fact that has lit­tle to do with re­al­ity be­comes a na­tion of cit­i­zens whose psy­ches are skewed, item by de­tailed item, away from any re­al­ity.

So wrote Nor­man Mailer, re­fer­ring to his fel­low Americans in Some Hon­or­able Men, a re­port on po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tions in the U.S. be­tween 1960-1972.

“Great guilt clings to re­porters,” he went on. “They know they help to keep Amer­ica slightly in­sane. Think of the poor re­porter who does not have the leisure of the nov­el­ist or the poet to dis­cover what he thinks. The un­con­scious gives up, buries it­self, leaves the writer to his cliché, and saves the truth, or that part of it the re­porter is yet priv­i­leged to find, for his col­leagues and friends.”

A good re­porter, Mailer ob­serves, “is a man who must tell you the truth,” if only pri­vately.

What then to make of our own me­dia re­porters who couldn’t care less what they dump on the long-dam­aged Saint Lu­cian psy­che? How to de­scribe me­dia work­ers who de­pend for their head­lines on Party Head­quar­ters?

Con­sider the re­cent mat­ter in­volv­ing a teenager who, in the course of un­der­scor­ing the shared frus­tra­tions of the young and un­em­ployed, re­vealed to the na­tion dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on

TALK that his friends moaned about leav­ing the coun­try and never re­turn­ing, the jobs sit­u­a­tion . . . “some even told me they feel like shoot­ing the prime min­is­ter and them­selves.”

How­ever shock­ing, the young man’s state­ment was hardly news. A 2013 of­fi­cial survey had un­cov­ered in the Caribbean too many young peo­ple who were frus­trated, chron­i­cally de­pressed, sui­ci­dal, too eas­ily ir­ri­tated and prone to vi­o­lence. Con­se­quently, too many wasted their pro­duc­tive years be­hind prison bars, at great cost to them­selves and the re­gion’s gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

Oh, but in the eyes of the SLP’s pro­pa­gan­dists the op­por­tu­nity to score was too promis­ing to ig­nore. In less than 24 hours fol­low­ing the TALK episode, they had de­liv­ered to our ac­com­mo­dat­ing me­dia its daily dose of suit­ably salted green ba­nanas and cod.

True to form, the re­ceivers had swal­lowed the damn thing whole; no checks, no bal­ances. Why bother to in­ves­ti­gate the pro­pa­ganda? If in­deed there was more to the tale than claimed, then why not leave it to those most af­fected to pro­vide it? Mean­while there was a nutty na­tion to be kept off bal­ance!

Per­mit me a re­turn visit to Mailer: “The re­porter hangs in a pow­er­less power—his voice di­rectly or via the rewrite desk in­di­rectly, reaches out to mil­lions of read­ers; the more read­ers he owns, the less he can say. He is for­bid­den by a hun­dred cen­sors, most of them inside him­self, to com­mu­ni­cate no­tions which are not con­formisti­cally sim­ple . . . He learns to write what he does not nat­u­rally be­lieve . . . He ends by blud­geon­ing his brain into be­liev­ing that some­thing which is half true is in fact nine-tenths true. A false fact is cre­ated. For which fact, sooner or later, in­evitably, in­ex­orably, the pub­lic

will pay.”

And boy are we pay­ing. If we know next to noth­ing about the Fren­well ar­range­ment that had re­sulted in the na­tion’s ir­recov­er­able loss of forty-some­thing mil­lion dol­lars; if we know even less about the trans­ac­tion be­tween our prime min­is­ter and a con­tro­ver­sial Colorado oil­man named Jack Gryn­berg that fi­nally had led to a breach of con­tract suit that could cost Saint Lu­cia some US$500 mil­lion, still our cuckoo majority can be counted on to spec­u­late in fa­vor of ig­no­rance.

Shortly be­fore Christ­mas, with few em­ploy­ers in a po­si­tion to pay the rit­ual bonuses, how­ever small, to their greatly re­duced staff, the prime min­is­ter per­mit­ted him­self to be in­ter­viewed on TV by DBS’ Pete Nin­vale.

Those among us who had ex­pected to hear the prime min­is­ter say some­thing use­ful about the year-old IMPACS in­ves­ti­ga­tion, or about the in­creas­ing un­em­ploy­ment fig­ures, or about a much hoped for sig­nif­i­cant VAT re­duc­tion, were soon set right.

The prime min­is­ter had come out merely to add his own spe­cial spice to what his party’s chief cooks had ear­lier served the na­tion in relation to a per­ceived “threat” on his life.

Along the way, he re­called an in­ci­dent that had oc­curred at the height of the gang wars (now among the mat­ters un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by IMPACS): a res­i­dent of Wil­ton’s Yard was fa­tally shot out­side the con­stituency of­fice of the Castries North par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tive, while the MP met with con­stituents inside.

“That re­ally was, for all in­tents and pur­poses, a warn­ing of what could hap­pen to any par­lia­men­tar­ian, any prime min­is­ter. For that rea­son of course we need to take th­ese is­sues very se­ri­ously and at least get a sense of who are the per­sons or­ches­trat­ing and en­cour­ag­ing this kind of be­hav­ior. I mean, you can never fully be pro­tected at all places. We are a small is­land, we rub shoul­ders with every­body . . .”

The 2010 shoot­ing had ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with the safety of the day’s prime min­is­ter and MP for Castries North—or any other par­lia­men­tar­ian.

Stephen­son King’s re­lated press com­ments had un­der­scored the need for all par­ties to set aside po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions and unite against crime. Ev­i­dently his ap­peal never reached the ears of the then leader of the op­po­si­tion, our cur­rent prime min­is­ter.

Re­turn­ing to the mat­ter at hand, Nin­vale asked him whether he felt “per­son­ally threat­ened” by what my TALK guest had said about the frus­tra­tions of fel­low young Saint Lu­cians.

His re­sponse: “In this business threats ex­ist, death threats are is­sued from time to time. Of course you treat it as nor­mal. It’s part of the haz­ards of the business. I can un­der­stand that the per­sons around me and of course of­fi­cials of my party are very con­cerned be­cause of the very pub­lic na­ture of what was said.” Which of course left at least one ob­server won­der­ing about what had been the real mo­ti­va­tion for the re­lated SLP press re­lease.

In any event, so ended the at­tempted dis­trac­tion from the harsh con­di­tions con­fronting our na­tion, aided and abet­ted by an ac­com­mo­dat­ing press. Then again, the more things change . . .

The New Year has started with another non-is­sue, once again pro­moted by our no-balls me­dia, this time cen­tered on how the gov­ern­ment prof­its from the high fuel prices paid by the lo­cal con­sumer.

The more use­ful ques­tion that must be asked is: why do we per­mit our in­creas­ingly vam­piric gov­ern­ment to feed from this dy­ing na­tion’s jugu­lar? More to the point, why has the me­dia al­lowed it­self to be­come the no-ques­tions-asked dis­sem­i­na­tor of po­lit­i­cal bull­shit, red or yel­low?

Why are we, the so-called Fourth Es­tate, con­sciously aid­ing and abet­ting our politi­cians in their self-serv­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion to ren­der this na­tion’s cit­i­zens in­ca­pable of mak­ing in­formed de­ci­sions?

Have we all gone slightly in­sane, the press in­cluded?

In a re­cent in­ter­view Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony (right) told DBS’ Pete Nin­vale he con­sid­ers death threats nor­mal; an oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ard. He added that the 2010 gang-re­lated fa­tal shoot­ing out­side the con­stituency of­fice of the MP for Castries North, Stephen­son King (left) was “a warn­ing of what could hap­pen to par­lia­men­tar­i­ans.”

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