A nation that forms detailed opinions on the basis of detailed fact that has little to do with reality becomes a nation of citizens whose psyches are skewed, item by detailed item, away from any reality.
So wrote Norman Mailer, referring to his fellow Americans in Some Honorable Men, a report on political conventions in the U.S. between 1960-1972.
“Great guilt clings to reporters,” he went on. “They know they help to keep America slightly insane. Think of the poor reporter who does not have the leisure of the novelist or the poet to discover what he thinks. The unconscious gives up, buries itself, leaves the writer to his cliché, and saves the truth, or that part of it the reporter is yet privileged to find, for his colleagues and friends.”
A good reporter, Mailer observes, “is a man who must tell you the truth,” if only privately. What then to make of our own media reporters who couldn’t care less what they dump on the long-damaged Saint Lucian psyche? How to describe media workers who depend for their headlines on Party Headquarters?
Consider the recent matter involving a teenager who, in the course of underscoring the shared frustrations of the young and unemployed, revealed to the nation during an appearance on TALK that his friends moaned about leaving the country and never returning, the jobs situation . . . “some even told me they feel like shooting the prime minister and themselves.”
However shocking, the young man’s statement was hardly news. A 2013 official survey had uncovered in the Caribbean too many young people who were frustrated, chronically depressed, suicidal, too easily irritated and prone to violence.
Consequently, too many wasted their productive years behind prison bars, at great cost to themselves and the region’s general population.
Oh, but in the eyes of the SLP’s propagandists the opportunity to score was too promising to ignore. In less than 24 hours following the TALK episode, they had delivered to our accommodating media its daily dose of suitably salted green bananas and cod.
True to form, the receivers had swallowed the damn thing whole; no checks, no balances. Why bother to investigate the propaganda? If indeed there was more to the tale than claimed, then why not leave it to those most affected to provide it? Meanwhile there was a nutty nation to be kept off balance!
Permit me a return visit to Mailer: “The reporter hangs in a powerless power—his voice directly or via the rewrite desk indirectly, reaches out to millions of readers; the more readers he owns, the less he can say. He is forbidden by a hundred censors, most of them inside himself, to communicate notions which are not conformistically simple . . . He learns to write what he does not naturally believe . . . He ends by bludgeoning his brain into believing that something which is half true is in fact nine-tenths true. A false fact is created. For which fact, sooner or later, inevitably, inexorably, the public will pay.”
And boy are we paying. If we know next to nothing about the Frenwell arrangement that had resulted in the nation’s irrecoverable loss of forty-something million dollars; if we know even less about the transaction between our prime minister and a controversial Colorado oilman named Jack Grynberg that finally had led to a breach of contract suit that could cost Saint Lucia some US$500 million, still our cuckoo majority can be counted on to speculate in favor of ignorance.
Shortly before Christmas, with few employers in a position to pay the ritual bonuses, however small, to their greatly reduced staff, the prime minister permitted himself to be interviewed on TV by DBS’ Pete Ninvale.
Those among us who had expected to hear the prime minister say something useful about the year-old IMPACS investigation, or about the increasing unemployment figures, or about a much hoped for significant VAT reduction, were soon set right.
The prime minister had come out merely to add his own special spice to what his party’s chief cooks had earlier served the nation in relation to a perceived “threat” on his life.
Along the way, he recalled an incident that had occurred at the height of the gang wars (now among the matters under investigation by IMPACS): a resident of Wilton’s Yard was fatally shot outside the constituency office of the Castries North parliamentary representative, while the MP met with constituents inside.
“That really was, for all intents and purposes, a warning of what could happen to any parliamentarian, any prime minister. For that reason of course we need to take these issues very seriously and at least get a sense of who are the persons orchestrating and encouraging this kind of behavior. I mean, you can never fully be protected at all places. We are a small island, we rub shoulders with everybody . . .”
The 2010 shooting had absolutely nothing to do with the safety of the day’s prime minister and MP for Castries North—or any other parliamentarian.
Stephenson King’s related press comments had underscored the need for all parties to set aside political considerations and unite against crime. Evidently his appeal never reached the ears of the then leader of the opposition, our current prime minister.
Returning to the matter at hand, Ninvale asked him whether he felt “personally threatened” by what my TALK guest had said about the frustrations of fellow young Saint Lucians.
His response: “In this business threats exist, death threats are issued from time to time. Of course you treat it as normal. It’s part of the hazards of the business. I can understand that the persons around me and of course officials of my party are very concerned because of the very public nature of what was said.” Which of course left at least one observer wondering about what had been the real motivation for the related SLP press release.
In any event, so ended the attempted distraction from the harsh conditions confronting our nation,aided and abetted by an accommodating press.Then again, the more things change . . .The New Year has started with another non-issue, once again promoted by our no-balls media, this time centered on how the government profits from the high fuel prices paid by the local consumer.
The more useful question that must be asked is: why do we permit our increasingly vampiric government to feed from this dying nation’s jugular? More to the point, why has the media allowed itself to become the no-questions-asked disseminator of political bullshit, red or yellow?
Why are we, the so-called Fourth Estate, consciously aiding and abetting our politicians in their self-serving determination to render this nation’s citizens incapable of making informed decisions?
Have we all gone slightly insane, the press included?