A red nig­ger who loves free speech!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

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!

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