The propaganda train is picking up steamSunday, August 09, 2020
A hyena will not change its spots, even if it moves to a different forest. — Chewa proverb, Malawi
At 6:45 pm last Monday a friend who lives in New York City sent m e a video clip via social media. He had received it from his colleague who also lives in The Big Apple. The video appeared to capture a robbery in progress in a section of the downtown Kingston area. I was seeing the video for the first time. Nonetheless, it struck me as something staged.
“Let me check this and get back to you in a second,” I said.
Quite quickly I got confirmation from highly credible sources that the clip was part of a music video. Someone also sent me an additional portion of the clip which left me in no doubt that it was a music video that was being filmed.
Later Monday evening I saw where individuals on social media had sent around the alleged robbery video, massively marinated with wolf cries that it was evidence of brazen daylight crimes in downtown Kingston. Why would anyone with even a scintilla of love/respect for Jamaica do such a reprehensible thing, some may wonder? The answer is simple: It is in their nature.
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), in a statement last Monday, said inter alia: “Extensive checks with our police officers in the area have not revealed any such incident; neither has any such incident been reported to us at this time.”
Up to the time of writing this column last Thursday relics were still reposting the video with false howls of robbery in downtown Kingston. Evidently the falsifiers needed more nourishment for their fragile egos.
This does not surprise me in the least. I saw this return by some to a near moribund political strategy from a thousand miles away. In fact, I said so in my The Agenda columns many months ago. I anticipate that as we get closer to the announcement of the date for the general election we will see a concentrated descent into fake news, misinformation, and disinformation by some.
Fear is the primary tool of those who are slaves to a type of politics which is taking its final breath. Like a two-bit despot, whose relevance has been almost totally destroyed, fearmongers know their comeuppance is near. Unsurprisingly, they are frantically resurrecting antiquated strategies from the crumpled pages of an old political playbook.
Those who fund, direct, and manage troll farms and derivatives are quickly running out of effective ammunition. They have cried wolf, wolf so often folks are no longer thoughtlessly swallowing their grubby fabrications.
I remember in 2017 we had 72 hours of heavy rains which seriously impacted sections of Clarendon. Nine other parishes also suffered damage. Those who titivate themselves by stroking panic, political busybodies even, posted archival footage of catastrophic floods in countries like Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, purporting that these were actual representations of flood damage in Jamaica.
The purveyors of lies did not have even an ounce of concern for the marooned communities here in Jamaica. They evidently did not spare even a thought for the considerable fallout in the local and national economy that the significant damage to roads, loss of bridges and related infrastructure would have caused. Their primary objective was the feeding of an assembly line which is fuelled by likes and retweets of false information.
Those whose vocation is the maiming and tarnishing of our country must be repudiated and exposed. Bad actors who damage the country's and people's good name by retailing and wholesaling innuendos and lies must not be allowed to operate with impunity.
The counterfeiters of truth are now attacking even our highest courts. Consider this: “In the meantime…pictures of the judges involved in the case are being circulated on social media with some persons criticising and even threatening to harm them.
“On Facebook, one user posted: 'These are the three criminals fronting as judges and must be beaten to smithereens for what the user says is crime against the Rastafarian community.' ” ( Nationwide News Network, August 3, 2020)
I believe fabricators who use social media as a kind of lair to systematically discolour people's reputation must be made to pay in the courts. The authorities must apply all the necessary resources to bring them to book.
Be warned, those who think that falsehoods and propaganda are best responded to with plutonium-grade falsehoods and propaganda are wrong.
I believe prompt doses of the truth are the best antidote to the sordid fixations of those who trade is falsehoods.
Many months ago I pointed out in my The Agenda column that, “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, are not winning strategies in today's Jamaica.” ( Sunday Observer, January 19, 2020) I have not abandoned that position.
Some who did not listen to these simple suggestions are now reaping the whirlwind. “Hard ears bud nyam stone,” say rural folks. Meaning: Bad consequences follow failure to heed sound advice.
Today's voter and today's campaigning
The next general election must centre on workable and fundable plans, policies, and programmes that, at a minimum, must reset Jamaica's economy to her pre-COVID-19 position over the coming months and years. Those who seek to promote division, strife, and are trying desperately to reinvigorate a type of scorched-earth political atmosphere do not know 'what ah clock a strike' (present realities).
Jamaicans are resilient and clever people. We can, as rural folks say, 'pick sense out of nonsense' (decipher truth from falsehood). I have concluded from data collected on numerous road trips that the vast majority of Jamaicans want a more conciliatory type of politics. The signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the National Consensus on Crime, last Monday, fits perfectly in the preferred framework. A real commitment to the MOU is a win-win for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), the People's National Party (PNP), and the country.
I think the majority of voters, especially in marginal seats, are interested in far more than trinkets of traditional, immediate gratification. Today's voters are, in general, much more motivated by medium- and long-term qualitative and quantitative benefits like the “1.5 income tax relief”, the abolition of obligatory fees at the secondary level implemented by the Andrew Holness-led Administration, and the no-user-fee health policy implemented during the Bruce Golding-led Administration.
Maybe it is a blessing that the mass meetings, which were a staple of our general election campaigning, will not be possible this turn. Mass meetings have never been a favourite of mine. They are too often characterised by political fluff, razzle dazzle, three-card buffoonery, senseless political pyrotechnics, and appeals to urges situated below the waist. We must embrace the new normal of the prescriptions of the World Health Organization (WHO) and related local and regional authorities as we carry on our lives and livelihoods in a new normal dictated by the wearing of appropriate masks, physical distancing, frequent personal and public sanitisation, plus community and national education.
How might we begin to concretely apply this new and necessary template? Technology, inclusive of all forms of media, must be generously employed to engage Jamaicans at all levels. Most Jamaicans have at least one mobile/smartphone, so that is a big plus. Customised text messaging, social media wooing/canvassing — which by now is another staple of local campaigning — limited house-to-house visits, a few heart-to-heart at the roomy National Arena, National Stadium, the Montego Bay Convention Centre, or spacious school auditoriums where strict physical distancing protocols are enforced are, in my humble opinion, better alternatives to the traditional mass meetings at which Jamaicans are often bundled into conditions resembling a cattle pen.
It is not beyond us to hold a general election without reverting to mass public meetings. If either of our two major political parties insist on going the route of mass meetings I believe we will all literally pay a very deadly price. I believe the new type of campaigning that will have to characterise the upcoming general election will also remove the mask from some Members of Parliament, especially in marginal seats, whose performance gauge is near E. This can only be good for voters and the country at large.
In my The Agenda piece last week I listed what I believe are the 22 marginal seats in the upcoming election. Some of my readers have asked me to list the seats which I consider to be safe seats for the JLP and PNP. Based on an average of recent poll findings, data which I have been collecting on recent road trips, and the political garrison effect (zones of political exclusion), these are the seats that I believe are safe, in the sense that the outcome is not in any serious doubt:
JLP Safe Seats
1) Andrew Holness – St Andrew West Central
2) Edmund Bartlett – St James East Central
3) Dave Brown – Hanover Eastern
4) Horace Chang – St James North Western
5) Delroy Chuck – St Andrew North Eastern
6) Nigel Clarke – St Andrew North Western
7) Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn – St Andrew West Rural
8) Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert – Trelawny Southern
9) Norman Dunn – St Mary South Eastern
10) Olivia Grange – St Catherine Central
11) Floyd Green – St Elizabeth South Western
12) Mike Henry – Clarendon Central
13) Desmond McKenzie – Kingston Western
14) James Robertson – St Thomas Western
15) (standard-bearer selected to be officially introduced) – St Ann North Eastern
16) Karl Samuda – St Andrew North Central
17) Audley Shaw – Manchester North Eastern
18) Christopher Tufton – St Catherine West Central
19) Daryl Vaz – Portland Western
20) Everald Warmington – St Catherine South Western
21) Andrew Wheatley – St Catherine South Central
22) Ann-Marie Vaz – Portland Eastern
23) Juliet Holness – St Andrew East Rural
24) Robert Montague – St Mary Western
25) Heroy Clarke – St James Central
PNP Safe Seats
1) Peter Phillips – St Andrew East Central
2) Angela Brown Burke – St Andrew South Western
3) Luther Buchanan – Westmoreland Eastern
4) Peter Bunting – Manchester Central
5) Denise Daley – St Catherine Eastern
6) Mark Golding – St Andrew Southern
7) Lisa Hanna – St Ann South Eastern
8) Fitz Jackson – St Catherine Southern
9) Dr Wykeham McNeill – Westmoreland Western
10) Natalie Neita – St Catherine North Central
11) Phillip Paulwell – Kingston Eastern & Port Royal
12) Julian Robinson – St Andrew South Eastern
13) Michael Stewart – Manchester Southern
14) Ronald Thwaites – Kingston Central
15) Dwayne Vaz – Westmoreland Central
16) Ian Hayles – Hanover Western
Dennis Brown, the crown prince of reggae, has a beautiful song entitled Hold On To What You've Got. As happened on February 25, 2016, the party which does so more successfully, plus gains from its opponents, will be victorious.
In last Sunday's column I said, among other things: “If I had the decision to make I would set the general election date for early as September 1, 2020, but certainly no later than October 29, 2020.” Information in the public domain suggests Holness will soon announce the election date.
Good! Let us settle business for the next five years.
No tears from me
The loss of any life is regrettable. But men who have decided that they will live and die by the gun cannot be tamed with butterfly nets. The security forces deserve very high commendation for the professional way in which they defended themselves and the State against members of the notorious Bushman Gang, six of whom were cut down in an exchange of gunfire in Effortville, Clarendon, in the wee hours of last Sunday.
We give the security forces hell when they mess up. We, equally, should commend them when they carry out their duties within the law. We have a great deal of work to do before crime and violence are tamed.
I don't believe any child is born criminal. Criminals are produced by societal conditions. We have to pump more resources into ridding our country of the conditions that foster criminality and, simultaneously, apply the formula of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair: “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.”
Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.