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.

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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.

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