FREE AT LAST! FREE AT LAST!
In Freedom House Stakes St. Lucia Beats out U. S. Prime Minister Kenny Anthony anda RCi’s Timothy Poleon (top row l-r). Bottom row: late U.S. President Richard Nixon (left) and author Bob Woodward.
Ican’t help wondering which is more dangerous—the anonymous muck suckers that infest the Internet in pursuit of fulfillment or the incorrigible inebriates alone in their holes save for their cell phones and their palpable misery. Conceivably they are the same species of vermin, as dangerous to self as to the rest of unsuspecting humanity.
Thank goodness for the vast majority of our population that do their best with scant resources; take pride in what they do and, being only human after all, secretly fantasize about success despite debilitating odds. Call them tripping egomaniacs if you must. (A man for whom my respect endures long past his passing had often reminded me that “only a corpse is without ambition and ego is its high octane!” Do read that a second time, dear reader!)
Alas, the cited particular strain of spirochete knows one ambition: to make everyone else responsible for their meaningless existence, for their germ status, their insatiable thirst for public recognition that will never arrive, either because they are too lazy to dream, let alone follow one; or are too busy coveting the accomplishments of others who live by the unassailable principle that you get out of an endeavor only what you put into it.
Schadenfreude is their oxygen; little do they know its effect on their psyches is equal to that of cyanide on the body’s biochemistry. Schadenfreude kills the soul. Provided, that is, there is a soul to kill!
Now, I have been a journalist for most of my working life and, if I say so, have learned a thing or two about the profession, notwithstanding my detractors who seem to know a whole lot more despite that what they think and how they express their notions betrays their aversion to anything remotely resembling useful knowledge. Serious journalists know we enjoy no constitutional rights not also available to the semi-literate blogger. We acknowledge the ubiquitous presence of individuals who long ago renounced the use of reason and know not that they believe only what serves their particular prejudices, however insane. Most writers know better than to write with them in mind!
Numerous are the Facebook-facilitated, often irresistible opportunities to spread anonymous idle gossip. So, should an inadvertent Internet interloper serendipitously find himself at a site pretending to be an oasis in a Sahara of drivel, count on it, he will soon discover he’s been played; the two or three gems that had lured him were dropped off days earlier, before the countless resident bugs came out of their tiny burrows and drove off the contributors. I’ve been advised the best way to avoid the insect-ambushers is to pretend not to notice them. Oh, but at what price to one’s sanity!
The latest bug pheromone turns out to be the most recent Freedom House declaration that rates Saint Lucia far more tolerant of free expression than even “the home of the brave and the land of the free.” Indeed, our own backwater leads the free pack, with Costa Rica and St. Vincent & the Grenadines both occupying second position, while Barbados, Canada and Jamaica hang on to fourth place. The U.S. could do no better at Freedom House than eighth. What an irresistible opportunity to roast alive the perceived demon journalists who continue stubbornly to complain about the official reluctance to come clean to that section of our community, however miniscule, that continues to believe in open government—in transparency and accountability in public matters, to which, by the way, we the people are entitled. Instead of supplying useful answers to questions of national interest, most local politicians calculatedly issue not-sosubtle threats of legal action based on alleged innuendo. The incumbents do their dirty work well away from public view. To quote a colloquialism, those who feel it know it!
Leave the renouncers of reason to their irrational exuberance. Of greater significance to me than the implausible Freedom House announcement is how easily we can be thrown into another us-against-us political tizzy. Here was another opportunity for programmed ambushers to take potshots at targeted media personnel. It seems not to have occurred to the bushwhackers that the Freedom House report relates to last year, in the scheme of things admittedly a small point. On this once more obvious slave plantation, freedom has nearly always been “just another word for nothing left to lose!”
Here’s what really matters: with all the complaints (true, mostly muted); the thwarted and unthwarted attempts by this and previous administrations at muzzling the press (remember Section 361?); the countless verbal threats and dressed-up insults tossed at journalists from political perches, whether or not privileged; with so many libel suits (filed or waiting to be served) chilling the free-speech atmosphere, you’d have thought Freedom House would’ve been inundated with undeniable evidence of attacks on the press, however subtle. Evidently there were none. More proof that we really are addicted to suffering in silence.
Consider this declaration— not by Freedom House: “Most of the movement in the World Press Freedom Index unveiled today by Reporters Without Borders is indicative of a climate of fear and tension combined with increasing control over newsrooms by governments and private sector interests.”
And this: “It is unfortunately clear that many of the world’s leaders are developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism. The climate results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, a clampdown on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments, and reporting in the privately-owned media that is increasingly shaped by personal interests.”
It is worth noting, in conclusion, that while there had been many unresolved shooting deaths between 1998 and 2005 (Michael ‘Gaboo’ Alexander and Adolphus ‘Bonnie’ Clarke were among other not as notorious victims) there was no demonstrated U.S. State Department concern. Not a word, not a word, not a word from human rights organizations, at home or abroad. Despite the followup predictable inquests, some aborted after only a few hours, the facilitating funds kept rolling in.
So what was different about the 2010-2011 killings? One of the reasons must be that the last mentioned homicides were
reported to people with the power to revoke U.S. visas in the middle of election campaigns—unlike in 1998-2005. I can’t help thinking that somewhere in there a lesson awaits the attention of Mr. Clinton Reynolds, who may or may not be the only member of the Media Association of Saint Lucia.
And speaking of the not as free as reputed United States, imagine if you can Allen Chastanet openly referring to our prime minister as Crooked Kenny, in the fashion of Donald Trump who almost daily, before the whole universe, refers to a former First Lady as “Crooked Hillary.” Further stretch your imagination perchance to conceive of Guy Joseph dropping Choice-TV a tidbit about “Lying Tony”—the same as had never ever ever ever appealed to Vieux Fort criminals to “please give the people a break for Christmas!”
Perchance you cannot imagine what would follow, consider this: some twenty years ago an opposing politician had made an admittedly careless platform reference to a stacked brief-case allegedly donated by Muammar Gaddafi to the cause of George Odlum’s People’s Progressive Party—a subject that the present prime minister had addressed publicly at a 1997 Marchand rally covered by both Dennis DaBreo’s One Caribbean and the STAR. Suffice it to say the matter continues to this day to over-burden our comatose court system.
Former prime ministers Compton and Lewis were also hauled needlessly before commissions of inquiry and the courts for hinting in the course of political campaigns that Kenny Anthony had been less than perfect in his management of certain matters of public interest. In both cases a sarcastic comeback easily might have sufficed. Ah, but our prime minister is not that easily appeased. I need not cite his pending libel suit against the MP Richard Frederick in relation to the prime minister’s relationship with a certain Jack Grynberg.
Neither will I bring up the public humiliations visited upon Timothy Poleon after he read during a Newsspin episode an online article he considered of public interest. A wheelchair-bound Dennery resident continues in silence to suffer related collateral damage. But while hopefully I still have your attention, dear reader, perhaps I can usefully suggest you recall Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the legendary two reporters whose book on the 1972 Watergate scandal served yet again to prove (courtesy Mark Twain) “the politics of crime is not about a party’s record or a candidate’s proposals, but about perceived character and values.” As for you millennials, the principal character in Woodward’s book was the late U.S. President Richard Nixon, who clearly did not know the near limitless power of his office did not place him above the law. Nixon did all he could to destroy the influence of the press only to acquire the reputation of a crook and the loss of his presidency!
Did I say Freedom House placed Saint Lucia seven notches ahead of the United States when it comes to respect for free speech? Now here’s something we can all be proud to pass on to future generations—finally!
Left to right: Watergate author Bob Wood dward; RCI’s Timothy Poleon; late US President Richard Nixon and local Press Freedom Champion Prime Minister Kenny Anthony.