A red nigger who loves free speech!
Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable,” wrote George Orwell, author of the classics Animal Farm and 1984. Remember Bill Clinton’s “it all depends on what you mean by is?”
Closer to home there was the unforgettable exchange, close to a decade ago, triggered by a former cabinet colleague during a budget debate when she mischievously recalled that a certain frustrated prime minister had been reduced to pleading publicly with rampaging criminals in his constituency to “please give the people a break for Christmas!”
As I say, a verbal blow below the belt perhaps, but hardly news. The prime minister had been hit with it several times before, in and outside the House. With desperation now in the elections atmosphere, he decided finally to risk defensive action. He assured his parliamentary colleagues and observers via TV that the often-repeated put-down was altogether untrue, a false creation by the opposition party and promoted by local media personnel out to get him.
He insisted via the Speaker that the MP offer proof of her scabrous insinuation, or withdraw it and apologize for attempting to mislead the House. A puerile back and forth ensued that lasted several hilarious minutes. But then, confronted by the Speaker’s threat to eject her from the chamber, and with proof of her allegation not immediately accessible, the MP reluctantly apologized while threatening at the next sitting of parliament to validate her claim. In the meantime, she had little choice but to withdraw it and take her seat.
Several weeks later the government suffered a shocking defeat at the polls, at which point an abruptly courageous HTS aired a video that exposed the real House prevaricator.
Then there was the education minister Robert Lewis. Two years after his party had been returned to office in 2011, while making an appearance on Choice TV at the height of the so-called Molly controversy, a viewer called to inquire when the government intended to honor its campaign pledge to invest a hundred million dollars in the private sector “immediately upon taking office.”
“Well,” said the grinning Clinton copycat, probably best known for his closeness to God, “it all depends on what you mean by immediately!” As he understood the prime minister, he confessed, immediately did not mean right away; it merely suggested the prime minister would deliver on his promise as soon as possible.
Orwell’s observation notwithstanding, it would seem words, when spoken by a politician, depend for their meaning as much on time and place of utterance as on what the politician chooses them to mean. To borrow from Humpty Dumpty, “no more, no less.”
Remember Richard Frederick’s “you know what I know that you know that I know?” Asked by a reporter to decode the spiked gibberish, the day’s prime minister had taken refuge behind his famous ho-ho-ho Santa persona and admonished the press for overestimating meaningless outbursts.
Barely a week later, with a suspicious electorate speculating dangerously on what the then highly popular Frederick may have meant, a concerned Christopher Hunte invited the Castries Central candidate to explain himself on TV. Frederick’s typically verbose response was such that many imagined a slander suit would follow.
Indeed, so flustered had been the host of Town Hall Tuesday by Frederick’s shocking revelations that he promised to have as his next guest the prime minister himself, perchance he might wish to clear the putrid atmosphere. It never happened. But that didn’t mean Frederick was off the hook.
Red-striped lawyer-politicians cleverly insinuated at every opportunity that he was close to several nefarious incidents, that he was under investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for money laundering. The unexplained revocation of his visa and diplomatic passport by the U.S. authorities shortly before the 2011 general elections offered his political opponents still more opportunities to discredit Frederick.
When Stephenson King sought to stand by his man the then prime minister was effectively denounced as “de lyin’ King.” The Labour Party propaganda machine stopped just short of associating Frederick with several murderous activities that ultimately would result in the withdrawal of all U.S. assistance to local crime fighters and a related reluctant investigation by IMPACS.
Oh, but just last week the incumbent party was publicly demanding via a widely distributed press release that the leader of the opposition party explain a vague statement that Richard Frederick allegedly had dropped via his TV show, to the effect that Allen Chastanet had conspired with an unidentified local hotelier who had sent home several of his regular staff on the eve of the 2005 general elections. Moreover, that Chastanet had traveled recently to Barbados in preparation for a repeat performance on the eve of the next poll. Remarkably, at least one section of our cowering media saw the need to put the SLP’s second-
hand suggestion to the UWP leader during a radio interview. And to my great surprise it had not occurred to Allen Chastanet to point out that the calculatedly unidentified hotelier had for years been contributing billions of dollars to the Saint Lucia economy via his three hotels; was possibly the nation’s foremost private sector employer; continues to afford young Saint Lucians scholarships worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, to say nothing of his philanthropic activities. Just this week his hotel donated to a Soufriere-based organization some $40,000 to benefit the beleaguered Fond St. Jacques community. What a way to repay Butch Stewart!
Was the government on this occasion less interested in truth than in self-serving propaganda? Was the hearsay, potentially costly press release motivated by fear, self-convinced as were its creators that Stewart alone had been responsible for their party’s defeat in 2005? Or was the press release inspired by Machiavellian notions including “the enemy of my enemy is my friend?”
Listening to some of the comments, official and quasi official, in the immediate aftermath of the January 8 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, I could not help recalling Karl Marx’s reference to “defenders of the press who have on the whole no relationship to what they are defending. They have never come to know freedom of the press as a vital need. For them freedom is a matter of the head, in which the heart plays no part.”
Even our prime minister had expressed his condemnation of the murders “in the strongest possible terms,” albeit in our name. He also acknowledged that “France has been a bastion of liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of expression” and that the Charlie Hebdo murders represented an “unconscionable attack . . . on the very bedrock on which democracy is founded.”
Did the quoted words spring from a campaigning politician’s head or from the heart of a leader cognizant of the vital need of a free press and free expression, despite that some might find such expression offensive?
After all, our prime minister had more than once held himself free to publicly declare two local journalists “terrorists”—never mind the possible deadly consequences to the reporters.
The issue of the written word and its interpretation by local politicians again has dominated this week’s news— in particular, the word Niggas. But on that, more later.
What was it about this demonstration that suggests it could be a prayer meeting? And
how ironic that those who had given cause for the march should imagine themselves in a position to demand an apology from the organizers!