ARE LY­ING JOUR­NAL­ISTS RE­ALLY POLITI­CIANS IN DIS­GUISE?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Wayne

You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes/And your smile is a thin dis­guise/I thought by now you’d re­al­ize/There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes (The Ea­gles)

It is no mere co­in­ci­dence that some of the world’s more re­spected mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers have in re­cent times been fo­cus­ing on the mor­phol­ogy of de­ceit. Doubt­less in­spired by Don­ald Trump’s count­less ref­er­ences to his own highly suc­cess­ful The Art of the Deal, the Septem­ber 10-16 edi­tion of The Econ­o­mist ran an item en­ti­tled Art of the Lie. It be­gins with the fol­low­ing eye-opener: Politi­cians have al­ways lied. Does it mat­ter if they leave the truth be­hind en­tirely?”

The ar­rest­ing ques­tion re­turned to my mind Ae­sop’s “a liar will not be be­lieved, even when he speaks the truth,” and I won­dered: Might this ex­plain why politi­cians lie even when the truth would bet­ter serve their purpose? Upon re­turn­ing to of­fice in 2011, when the coun­try’s econ­omy was even deeper down the toi­let than it is to­day, the avowed so­cial­ist prime min­is­ter, hell-bent on ap­pear­ing to make good on elec­tion prom­ises he had to have known were im­pos­si­ble in the na­tion’s dire fis­cal cir­cum­stances, pro­ceeded to re­make him­self in the im­age of Santa Claus.

Ev­ery gift he tossed out of his bag was ap­plauded by his overgrown yelp­ing elves—Derek Wal­cott’s “best brains rooting at the trough for scraps of fa­vor.” Shame­lessly, some openly de­clared him im­mea­sur­ably “com­pas­sion­ate.” For oth­ers he was “a car­ing leader, par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about the plight of the poor,” never mind that ev­ery tossed al­lo­ca­tion rep­re­sented another lethal blow to the neck of the co­matose golden goose. Where would the money come from to pay the new flock of may­ors and city coun­cilors, the new play­ing fields, the new light­ing sys­tems, the ad­di­tional con­sul­tants? That was the last ques­tion any­one thought to ask!

Al­ready the gov­ern­ment was bor­row­ing to pay the in­ter­est on its killer loans. But that didn’t seem to con­cern Santa. For those who wor­ried, he of­fered re­as­sur­ance: he pre­dicted the world econ­omy would re­turn to nor­malcy in 30 months; lo­cal tourism would in six months be bouncy-bouncy again; he would cre­ate another con­struc­tion boom, big­ger than he had at the time of Cricket World Cup. By 2013 Saint Lu­cia would be great again. Still no one ques­tioned his magic. So it had been for years— de kolcha. If the prime min­is­ter said it, then it had to be un­ques­tion­ably true.

But we were talk­ing about ly­ing politi­cians (yes, yes, I know, a gross re­dun­dancy). My most trusted lexicon de­fines the word “lie” as a false state­ment de­lib­er­ately pre­sented as be­ing true; a false­hood; some­thing meant to de­ceive or give a wrong im­pres­sion. Even af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama re­leased his birth cer­tifi­cate in 2011, Don­ald Trump re­peat­edly chal­lenged its au­then­tic­ity. He went so far as to in­sin­u­ate there was a con­spir­acy—in­clud­ing mur­der—to keep the truth of Obama’s for­eign birth from the pub­lic. This week he re­canted. He said he ac­tu­ally be­lieved the pres­i­dent was born in the US. Of course, he added that it was Hil­lary who had started the whole not-born-in-the-USA thing; not Don­ald Trump. Now it was time to move on.

He did some­thing for years and then de­nied he’d done it. Is it fair, then, to call Trump a liar?

Closer to home: In 2005 (2004?) the day’s prime min­is­ter and MP for Vieux Fort South de­manded an apol­ogy from a House col­league af­ter she claimed dur­ing a sit­ting that the prime min­is­ter was at such a loss as to what to do about over­whelm­ing crime in Saint Lu­cia that he had gone down on his knees be­fore his crim­i­nal con­stituents and begged them to “please give the peo­ple a break for Christ­mas!”

With elec­tions imminent the prime min­is­ter jumped to his feet and an­grily de­manded the Speaker or­der his of­fend­ing col­league ei­ther to with­draw her state­ment and apol­o­gize or present proof of its ve­rac­ity. He claimed her jibe was just another fab­ri­ca­tion by the press and the op­po­si­tion party that he had tol­er­ated for far too long in si­lence. Un­pre­pared on the mo­ment to back up her words, the MP re­luc­tantly with­drew. Less than a month later (the SLP had lost the elec­tion to a dy­ing John Comp­ton) He­len Tele­vi­sion Ser­vice safely broad­casted a video of a par­tic­u­lar pre-Christ­mas rally in Vieux Fort at which the for­mer prime min­is­ter said pre­cisely what he later said he had never said.

Would it be fair, then, to say Kenny Anthony is a liar? I sup­pose that would de­pend on what you mean by is. To re­turn to The Econ­o­mist and the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee: “Mr. Trump is the lead­ing ex­po­nent of ‘post-truth’ pol­i­tics,” noted the mag­a­zine, by which it meant to say the Amer­i­can politi­cian re­lied on “as­ser­tions that feel true but have no ba­sis in fact.”

More­over, “post truth” picks out the heart of what is new: that truth is not fal­si­fied, or con­tested, but of sec­ondary im­por­tance. “Once upon a time,” re­called The Econ­o­mist, “the purpose of po­lit­i­cal ly­ing was to cre­ate a false view of the world.” But there had been a sud­den change. “The lies men like Trump tell are in­tended only to re­in­force prej­u­dices. Feel­ings, not facts, are what mat­ter in post-truth pol­i­tics. If your op­po­nents fo­cus on try­ing to show your facts are wrong, they have to fight on the ground you have cho­sen.”

Still quot­ing from The

Econ­o­mist: “Lies that are widely shared on­line within a network, whose mem­bers trust each other more than they trust any other source, can quickly take on the ap­pear­ance of truth. Pre­sented with ev­i­dence that con­tra­dicts a be­lief that is dearly held, such peo­ple have a ten­dency to ditch the facts first.”

To il­lus­trate: De­spite that at Sec­tion 65 our Con­sti­tu­tion says: “The prime min­is­ter shall keep the gov­er­nor gen­eral fully in­formed con­cern­ing the

gen­eral con­duct of the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia and shall fur­nish the gov­er­nor gen­eral with such in­for­ma­tion as he may re­quest with re­spect to any par­tic­u­lar mat­ter re­lat­ing to the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia,” still there are those (count among them highly re­garded lawyers on es­pe­cially friendly terms with the re­cently off-loaded prime min­is­ter) who in­sist the con­trary is true; that the prime min­is­ter is free to de­cide for him­self what he will tell the gov­er­nor gen­eral!

Oth­ers jump and prance on what they have been taught to be­lieve is the grave of Gryn­berg. “Dah dead man . . . let’s move on, let’s move on!” Sounds like Trump the birther, doesn’t it? Move on to what? Who knows? Who cares if in con­se­quence we all take it in the neck, red and yel­low?

And so, at long last, we ar­rive at this week’s post truth: Was it prime min­is­te­rial of Allen Chas­tanet to have called out a jour­nal­ist he be­lieved had writ­ten “ma­li­ciously” about him? As I’ve said elsewhere, more than once, I would pre­fer on this oc­ca­sion not to mix my ap­ples and pears. I am less con­cerned that the prime min­is­ter called an HTS re­porter a liar than I am with what lo­cal jour­nal­ism may have suf­fered this week.

But first the back story: On the morn­ing of Septem­ber 7 I was alerted to a Caribbean News On­line item. My im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion as I read it was shock. A sec­ond, slower read made me want to laugh out loud. But this was no laugh­ing mat­ter; just egre­gious writ­ing that bor­dered on ab­sur­dity. It also had the po­ten­tial to em­bar­rass the gov­er­nor gen­eral and the cur­rent prime min­is­ter, if not his fa­ther. I could not de­ter­mine whether it was some off-sea­son April Fool’s joke or a fun­house in­vi­ta­tion to come party with roy­alty.

The ar­ti­cle (ac­tu­ally it de­scribed it­self as a “press re­lease”) was headed “Coco Palm Rolls Out the Royal Car­pet for Prince Harry.” It was ac­com­pa­nied by a pho­to­graph of Dame Pear­lette Louisy cozy­ing up to Allen Chas­tanet and his fa­ther Michael. Its one ref­er­ence to Chas­tanet the Son was his past po­si­tion as gen­eral man­ager of the fam­ily-owned Coco Palm—un­til the June 6 elec­tions.

Min­utes af­ter I’d read for the third time the ho­tel’s re­lease, I took a call from a re­porter for HTS. Atyp­i­cally, he so­licited my as­sess­ment of the pub­li­ca­tion. Suf­fice it to say I was not kind, for sev­eral rea­sons, in­clud­ing that it showed both the gov­er­nor gen­eral and the prime min­is­ter in an un­flat­ter­ing light. I ac­knowl­edged it nev­er­the­less had the in­gre­di­ents for an in­ter­est­ing story. I then called the Coco Palm’s gen­eral man­ager, whom I’ve known for over twenty years.

Fe­olla pos­sesses a bit­ing, very English wit. Ini­tially, she imag­ined the re­lease had merely poked fun at Harry’s tabloid im­age as a lady’s man, while pro­mot­ing Coco Palm. She also in­formed me that her ho­tel would be closed at the time of the prince’s visit. Also that from all she’d heard he would be here only for a few hours and would not be stay­ing at Coco Palm or, for that mat­ter, any other lo­cal ho­tel.

I sternly re­minded her that Allen Chas­tanet in his ca­pac­ity as the Prime Min­is­ter of Saint Lu­cia was nei­ther her brother nor the for­mer man­ager of Coco Palm. She should keep that in mind, I ad­vised, when­ever she con­tem­plated ref­er­enc­ing Allen Chas­tanet.

Fe­olla is no fool, she quickly caught my drift. By the next day she had re­tracted her orig­i­nal re­lease and is­sued another to the me­dia and to the SLHTA in­di­cat­ing the dis­plea­sure of the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice with her pub­lished promo.

As far as I know the mat­ter went un­re­ported by most of the lo­cal me­dia. But more than a week fol­low­ing Fe­olla’s re­trac­tion-clar­i­fi­ca­tion HTS fea­tured the results of a re­lated so-called E-Poll and street in­ter­view that elicited an­swers po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing to the prime min­is­ter. Thank­fully there was no ref­er­ence to Dame Pear­lette.

On Mon­day, ahead of a sched­uled 8 p.m. press brief­ing, the prime min­is­ter en­coun­tered a gag­gle of re­porters out­side his of­fice, the HTS rep­re­sen­ta­tive among them. When he had the op­por­tu­nity to ques­tion the PM, he said “many peo­ple” had been seek­ing “clar­i­fi­ca­tion” of the re­lease put out by Coco Palm on Septem­ber 7 and “clar­i­fied” a day later.

The prime min­is­ter’s re­ac­tion was less than cor­dial, for rea­sons undis­closed but not all that dif­fi­cult to imag­ine. He gruffly asked the re­porter whether he had con­tacted the ho­tel re­spon­si­ble for the trou­ble­some re­lease. The re­porter said he had, but was de­nied a use­ful re­sponse. At which point the prime min­is­ter called him a liar.

Since then, some of Saint Lu­cia’s best brains have been call­ing the more ac­com­mo­dat­ing talk shows, ei­ther to toss fire­bombs at the prime min­is­ter’s ad­judged over-ag­gres­sive at­ti­tude to­ward a mem­ber of the press, or to spit on his record, at any rate ac­cord­ing to the party that had de­clared it­self at war with Allen and Michael Chas­tanet. As it turned out on June 6, a los­ing war!

Mean­while, var­i­ous in­di­vid­u­als, some of whom have never placed much value on my opin­ions—ex­cept when they seem to re­in­force their own prej­u­dices, have been try­ing by di­verse means to squeeze a com­ment out of me. But I have a ques­tion: How much did Allen Chas­tanet know when he ac­cused the HTS re­porter, to his face, of ly­ing about hav­ing called Coco Palm?

Ac­cord­ing to his sis­ter Fe­olla, her ho­tel had re­ceived just one call in re­la­tion to her promo. It came shortly af­ter I’d spo­ken to her—from some­one from the of­fice of the prime min­is­ter who had com­plained in no un­cer­tain terms that her promo was out of line and needed clar­i­fi­ca­tion. It was Fe­olla’s de­ci­sion to not only pull the promo but also to is­sue a new re­lease to the press and to the SLHTA ac­knowl­edg­ing her poor judg­ment. I imag­ine it would not be at all dif­fi­cult in this time for the HTS re­porter to prove she, not the HTS re­porter, is the liar!

Is there an equiv­a­lent of Emily Post’s Eti­quette for prime min­is­ters and other gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials? And, if there is, is it avail­able at our Cen­tral Li­brary?

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