Lies, fake news, and 'bad mind' not the tools for success, PNP

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Lies, fake news, and 'bad mind' not the tools for success, PNP

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, January 19, 2020

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The venom of the snake does nothing to the back of the tortoise. — Yoruba proverb, Nigeria

From the 1950s, well into the 80s, a privileged few had a near monopoly on the major conduits of information and communication. As a consequence, they directed, the principal narrative of the political architecture. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they decided to a large degree what people thought about and how often they thought it. Those days are over and done. Those who live off the proceeds of fabrication need to understand that.

Compared to yesteryear, politically bloodthirsty mythomanes are now able to spread their lies nearly at the speed of light, via social media. Last July, I said among other things in this space: “I do not believe incessant complaining, pie-in-the-sky promises, fake news, misguided bluster, empty chat, political deflection, 'bad mind', threats of street demonstrations, political schizophrenia, 1984 Orwellian-type strategies, and/or attempts at filibuster will help the People's National Party (PNP) in its bid to return to Jamaica House.” (Jamaica Observer, July 29, 2018)

The PNP, for reasons best known to it, has evidently increased the frenetic pace with which it uses the mentioned and related anachronistic political 'strategies'.

Two Fridays ago individuals whose political DNA are not secret began to spread a nasty and foul rumour on social media that Washington, USA, was demanding the extradition of a current minister in the Andrew Holness-led Administration.
The scurrilous claims, immediately suggested to me that they were hatched at a troll farm. The fake news merchants exposed their dishevelled state. Their poisonous post revealed that they did not have even the slightest understanding of our extradition process. Pranksters and calculated malignant disruptors — you can take your pick of title — I am not surprised by any of this.

Recall this recent bombshell revelation from Paul Burke, former general secretary of the PNP, which ruffled many feathers in his party: “The SMMs...social media mercenaries, they are paid attack dogs, paid to attack the JLP [Jamaica Labour Party], but also Comrades like me who step out of line.” (Jamaica Observer, April 10, 2019) Recall that after Burke's divulgence, some PNP bloggers used social media to issue poorly veiled threats.

Many months ago I said in this space that we are again witnessing a very a heightened state of political desperation in our politics which is reminiscent of an era that most who experienced it would like to forget. Among other things, I pointed out that the 844 Jamaicans murdered (official police statistics) in the run-up to the October 30, 1980 General Election was the horrendous result of a cumulative process of social and political animus. A pressure cooker political environment which existed for many years burst its lid and released its putrid contents. We cannot and must never go back down that horrible road again.

The creaking foundation at 89 Old Hope Road is not the fault of anyone but the members of that residence. Recall that Paul Burke, in a six-page introspection, corroborated that which those reliable Black-Bellied Plovers, John Chewits and Bananaquits had warbled for many months prior. Among other things, Burke said, “The PNP's problems are deeper and we have been in denial.” He noted, “We have had a defective vehicle for years and we don't want to admit the truth.” Burke likened the PNP to “a six-cylinder engine firing on one cylinder and going uphill in many instances”. He submitted that, “The party's machinery has fallen into disarray and has been in steady decline over the past two decades.” (The Gleaner, April 7, 2019)

Burke also told us that the “paid social media mercenaries? [They] have very little impact on the ground.” (Jamaica Observer, April 10, 2019)

Norman Manley's party needs to focus on convincing the citizens of this country that it can be trusted to deliver programmes that will improve the living standards of our people and secure the nation's future.

Those who fabricated and those who facilitated the spread of fabrication, doubtless, are wiping egg from their faces today. Their actions were 'Bannonesque' — relating to Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist in the Donald Trump Administration. I believe they only succeeded in fastening another nail in their coffin.

Last Sunday, in what some say was an unprecedented move, the United States Embassy here issued this brief statement: “Contrary to social media rumours: There is no extradition request(s) for any minister of the Jamaican Government from the United States Government. The Jamaican Government has been very cooperative with the United States Government on these matters.”

There was also a compendium of rejection of the malevolent rumours which gave rise to the above statement from the US Embassy from many other highly credible sources.

Trailer loads of lies on social media is not a winning strategy. While folks shout Pinocchio, I do not believe the operators of the troll farm will be deterred by the fact that the public is laughing at their very long noses. In fact, I envisage they will hatch even bigger lies in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Many folks were astonished at portions of a press release by the PNP two Saturdays ago which centred on, among other matters, “issues, including speculation about extradition”. It seems the constitutional office of the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition has allowed itself to be sucked into the murky world of fake news.

This is a harbinger.

Being only months away from when I believe the next general election will be held I was not surprised at the release of this political boulder from the Catapult Turret of the PNP. And, again, I believe similar missiles will be released soon.

On November 3, 2019, I said, among other things, in this space: “Those who are figuring that bombast, generational party loyalty, and/or mobile ATMs will be sufficient to bring home the bacon will discover, as rural folks say, 'how water walk guh a pumpkin belly'. They will get a rude political awakening.

A word to the wise should be sufficient, as rural folks maintain.

Own goals

The PNP needs to shift political gears from its present political trajectory of scorched-earth politics.

Last week I pointed out here that folks are interested in delivery. They want to know if you can be trusted to deliver more and better paying jobs. Can you be trusted to deliver more reliable water supplies? Can you be trusted to deliver more affordable housing. Can you be trusted to deliver much-needed, improved, fit-for-purpose educational facilities at all levels. Can you guarantee protection for the most vulnerable? And, of course, the 10,000 pound gorilla in the room, can you cauterise the bloodletting in the country? Folks want practical solutions to these and the myriad other urgent problems.

Instead of focusing on these and related issues like a laser beam the PNP has immersed itself over many months in the scoring of a preponderance of own goals. Recall the recent Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) corruption dud that was spearheaded by Dr Peter Phillips and the PNP? At what some sections of the media described as a hastily called press conference, Dr Phillips was flanked by Opposition spokesperson on water, environment and climate change Dr Fenton Ferguson and Opposition spokesperson on agriculture and rural development Victor Wright. The latter had made specific allegations of massive corruption at RADA.

Phillips said these words, “We have bushing scandal 2.0, which is of even more enormous proportion than the first bushing scandal. And I should point out also that bushing is not part of the remit of RADA in relation to roads. What we have is another massive rip-off scheme being undertaken by an agency of this Jamaica Labour Party Government.”

Dr Fenton Ferguson said this as he stood alongside his president at the press conference: “From the documents presented it is clearly showing that of $1.6 billion spent on farm roads over recent times; $600 million would have been spent in my constituency and over $1 billion in Western St Thomas. It is, therefore, of great concern to me and to the Opposition that this kind of use of public funds, especially in a sector that is supposed to be a critical player in relation to the growth agenda and food security, that we could be going down this pathway of wanton waste and not getting value for money.”

Based on information in the public domain and documents provided by the chairman of RADA, “Nutten nuh guh suh!” It was a fake scandal; more than likely intended to cast a dark cloud over the then-upcoming JLP Annual Conference — which from a production standpoint turned out to be a big success. The PNP was also certainly hoping to prop up its crumbling campaign scaffolding. It failed on both fronts.

Recall, that last September Dr Phillips and other numerous high-ranking members of the PNP journeyed into St Ann and Trelawny to register their opposition to what they claimed was bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country? I believe Phillips and his team were on a jaunt executed to piggyback on the gatherings of certain religious groups in the bauxite belt at the time.

Phillips and his outfit went to Trelawny believing that they were going to be greeted by a grand reception. Instead, they were received by well-informed workers, community leaders, and other enlightened stakeholders, who interrogated their motives and found them wanting, as evidenced in headlines like this: 'Bauxite workers express concern over PNP's 'anti-mining' position'. (Loop Jamaica, September 14, 2019)

The story said, among other things: “Noranda Bauxite workers on Friday pressed Opposition Leader Peter Phillips to clarify the People's National Party's (PNP) position on the ongoing Cockpit Country anti-bauxite mining campaign which they have said is misrepresenting the true facts and could have negative effects on their jobs and the industry.

“The employees met Dr Phillips while he was on a tour of Noranda's bauxite mining area in St Ann on his way to a Cockpit Country Warriors' public vigil scheduled for Stewart Town Friday night.

“The Opposition leader's tour was interrupted by scores of employees who posed questions on the party's position re[garding] mining in the Special Mining Lease [SML] 173.

“The employees said that the SML 173 area has been officially confirmed by Government mining regulatory agencies as being outside of the Cockpit Country Protected Area.

“The employees expressed their concerns at the support being given to the allegations that Noranda's activities will be disruptive to the Cockpit Country and the environment.

“The employees also expressed their disappointment that the company and the company's management had not been advised of or asked to take part in the tour through their operational areas in St Ann.”

I could recount several other similar and recent incidents which make it reasonable to conclude that the PNP is grasping at straws. It is evidently intent on consistently swimming against the very strong current of public sentiment.

All well-thinking Jamaicans want to see a strong Opposition. We do not want the continuation of fractiousness and factionalism in its ranks. The PNP at present seems to be wedded to an obvious and clumsy lose-lose political matrix that can only lead to political immolation. Dr Peter Phillips's PNP can chose to continue merrily along this path, but I believe it will only lead to political perdition.

Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.


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