Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2005
By A. A. Hotep
The public's attention was drawn to two issues highlighted by the mainstream press last week: the draft of the Broadcast Code published by the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, and the escalation in violent crimes. To add to public awareness, we will examine how closely linked these supposedly separate issues are.
One side is the mainstream press collectively voicing displeasure with its perception of another government attempt to rein it in. The press using 'We must maintain freedom of the press' as a slogan is in principle a laudable idea. Logically however, the question "Is the press free and fair?" does come to mind.
Answer: the mainstream media is neither free nor fair. The mainstream media has always been used as a tool for mass misinformation. Its intent and focus is to protect the interests of the corporate elite owners/misinformers. By protecting corporate interests, the bogus Eurocentric class system is kept intact with greed as the ultimate motivator. The entire country is a product of this. This country has never been served well by the many arrogant leaders kept in influential positions by the mainstream media, who continually fight for their 'right' to protect existing conditions. They seem contented with the status quo, unless it directly threatens their profits.
The key motivator for the mainstream media is profit. Due to the protection maintained for their sponsors and investors, a whole level of 'upper class' crimes that deprive the majority are never investigated or reported, let alone prosecuted. This maintains the media elites' outward appearance of honesty, and thus the issue of how their corruption contributes to and controls much of the crime committed by poorer Blacks living in the ghetto is not understood. They will use every opportunity to overemphasize ghetto crime, all the while exploiting these same Black people as consumers. Politicians promise them things will get better, to hold on, "better" consisting of the fight for the few token 'ten-days' jobs doled out by the government. These are the same Black people who were herded and settled into communities without land to develop agriculture and other self-sustaining means of employment. And looking further back into history, when they had land, their businesses were systematically destroyed. These same Black people are victims of ongoing racism perpetrated by the attitude of a government that protects the standards imposed during the colonial era. The Black people of the ghetto, while being disenfranchised and portrayed as the worst type of criminals, are denied a voice in the media to present their historical condition, a voice that can motivate change.
The mainstream media reports about this country being racially divided, and how the major groups continually vote along racial lines. Yet they do not offer anything that speaks to the situation of the grassroots people. The media condemns them daily, and even now when they are reporting about the situation, they sensationalize their reports to ensure that they make further profit from the behavior of the ghetto criminals they helped create. Those at the helm of the mainstream press are fearful of any information that speaks to the empowerment of Black people. To this day, with all the media in this country, none offer sustained African programs that inspire another way for Black people. They do not encourage people, especially the youth, to examine their situation in a way that encourages them to rise above it. The mainstream press, through their own ignorance and fears, do not encourage positive programs that can stimulate Black people into higher states of awareness. Through their failure to offer any positive alternatives, they keep the general population of Black people unaware of how they ended up in this 'crab in a barrel' situation in the first place.
I can recall, before DNA confirmation of our human origins had been presented in the mainstream media, we were explaining, via call-in programs, how all people evolved out of Africa. A few of us presented a wide body of historical research with sources to validate our human origins. We also explained that lack of knowledge of our common humanity affects the collective well-being of society. At the time, many in the media were referring to this body of information as 'racist views.' Crying 'racism' was their way of rejecting history without allowing for an examination of the facts.
People remain polarized on important issues because of racial fears and false social considerations/conditionings. Many people do not speak the truth or stand up for the truth because they fear being attacked. People have been conditioned to feel something is wrong with them if they think outside of the narrow 'socially acceptable' arena. Therefore ideas remain extremely limited, leaving ones to repeat failed efforts to try to solve problems.
We have communities here built on the colonial legacy of putting Black people in areas without easy access to good agricultural lands, ensuring their dependence on the state for short-term employment. As a result, a culture of dog-eat-dog remains in those communities that politicians then exploit. The younger people do not see how even what passes for 'education' can lift them out of poverty. They take pride in mimicking the 'fads' from foreign countries, as foreign 'culture' is the focus of the media. This type of propaganda manipulates people away from local cultural opportunities. The same mainstream media does not allow for views and ideas that can positively impact these youths, views that relate to their own situation and can help them rise out of it. Instead the media is content to portray Black people as mindless criminals, who only need tougher laws to control them. This is the best they can offer as a solution to crime. Prime Minister Patrick Manning recently called for the reintroduction of corporal punishment to deal with crime, ignorant (as usual) of the fact that corporal punishment is on the law books, and is regularly used. Of course this is another abuse that was retained from slavery.
The mainstream media only took up the issue of street children after we broke the story here in 1996 by encouraging the Mirror newspaper to publish interviews with some of the street children. Before the story came out, people were condemning our claim that there even are children who live on the streets. As soon as the mainstream press picked up the story, they did exactly as the children predicted; they ran a sensationalized story, resulting in the government rounding up a few street children. In the government's view, picking up a few kids solved the problem. The street children knew better, as they had already told me that was the very reason they did not want the media taking up their plight. The children felt they were better off living in the shadows of society, withstanding the abuses that come with living in the streets.
For anyone not familiar with how truly gruesome it was for these children, consider six and seven year olds being raped for fast food. One case I followed closely involved a wealthy white male. He used to pick up a few children, taking them to his home for sex. For this he would give them boxes of fried chicken. One child, after having been brutally raped in a similar encounter, was left for dead in the Queens Park Savannah. We found another sick child there, and took him into our homes and nursed him back to health.
Incredibly, with all of this taking place, the politicians and mainstream media were denying the existence of street children. I continually brought this issue up on the call-in programs, and I was able to convince a few of the child victims to allow a journalist to interview them. A few weeks after the stories were published in the Mirror newspapers, TV6 decided to pick up the story, filming a group of the same children around Moonlight's Kitchen in the Queens Park Savannah. They featured the piece on their evening news program. Of course, they did no follow-ups. The careless actions of media directly allowed additional victimization, as the government's idea of addressing the issue was to cover up the story. The government simply picked up a few street-children and placed them in already deplorable shelters, thus creating the illusion that this was just a little problem that they easily solved.
The real stories of wastage, corruption and abuses that these children knew too well were never covered. The con job of "aid to the poor" never got to the children. Goods that were collected were never delivered. Orphanages and detention centres for young offenders, nothing more than poorly supervised warehouses, were never investigated. What was supposed to help vulnerable children merely offered more abuses. The street children knew these people did not care. Many of their reactions are based on society's abandonment. I will say more in another article, including a description our own efforts to deal with this problem.
We suggested that there need to be programs to deal with the wealth of African history that can speak to the people most in need. Our suggestion was met with hostility. The most infamous reaction came from staunch PNM member, Executive Chairman of Citadel Limited -the[b] operator of i95.5 FM- and chairman of the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), Louis Lee Sing. His response: such programs would bring this country to another Bosnia and Sarajevo.
Dale Enoch, at the time head of news at Power 102 FM, now head of news at I95.5 FM, once said he would never accept information about the African origin of all humans. He became quite angry when I told him these African origins are historical fact.
Although the African origins of humanity have become 'common' knowledge, not one of these mainstream media outlets has yet admitted it was wrong. They are stifling and unreceptive to new or evolving information that can expand what they have been previously 'taught'. The media feels its job is to simply carry on the pattern of suppressing information that could help address racial ignorance, even when it is presented with more progressive ways to look at this issue. This ignorance continues to perpetuate the low self esteem and racism that plague this country.
When the management of the state-owned media refused to accept payment to continue our short-lived African program 'Dialogue', none of these mainstream media personnel spoke up. They remained silent instead of defending our right to free and fair speech. They displayed their usual insensitivity to issues that affect black people. The mainstream media is insensitive to black issues; their owners and editors resent the poor. Black people's poverty is always theirs alone, and Blacks are expected to pull themselves up by the bootstraps.
Through ongoing misinformation, the mainstream media have contributed to the sordid state of affairs in the country, and they have no serious ideas on a solution except to encourage more of the same strong-arm measures to deal with the escalation of crime we have here. The politicians should take the bulk of the blame, but the mainstream media is also culpable.
The ongoing cycle of corrupt politicians and their corrupt business cronies, all criminals, is never exposed or challenged under the current system. The politicians who exploit culture for partisan political purposes have contributed to these problems. The ones extorting bribes, who hire street thugs to intimidate others, are all criminals. It is well known that mainstream media does not investigate their crimes, perpetuated by wealth being accumulated through their dishonest activities. They don't expose the bigwigs who finance all other levels of crime. How can they? The elitist criminals own or control the mainstream media and are aligned with the leading corrupt politicians. This is the vicious circle of the mainstream media.
If many youths do not have a strong sense of self, sufficient to want to be productive and give of their best, these misleaders should examine the education system as well as the quality of 'information' easily accessible via the media. Are they presenting free and fair reporting? Are they deliberately suppressing pertinent views and voices because of their collective biases and fears?
Media is at the heart of destabilizing countries today. It is a popular tool of the aggressive U.S. 'regime change' disinformation campaign. For example, it is common to hear presenters in the mainstream media here in Trinidad and Tobago using disparaging remarks when speaking about Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, having been schooled in U.S. and British disinformation. In light of this, local mainstream media outlets in Trinidad and Tobago continue to report the U.S. and British versions of what is taking place in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and South America: countries targeted by U.S./U.K. administrations. Quite often they do this without offering alternative views. They are lazy and narrow-minded so they will carelessly report European/American versions of events as indisputable facts. Why bother to verify the information?
Too often a few of us have to use narrowly focused call-in programs to give alternative views, with sources, to dispute what is presented. Most often the hosts are hostile to these alternative views. When it becomes apparent that they are wrong, they still will not admit to their error or try to correct their misinformed views.
We do need a fair press, but until more people are willing to speak up on these issues they can expect more of the same. There will be more crime and complaining, along with uncreative approaches to dealing with issues. If those who are better informed are not prepared to invest in developing alternative media made easily accessible to all, they too are part of the problem. More people need to start thinking outside of the 'mainstream media' box.
We here will continue to do our part and offer alternatives, but it should not be left up to so few of us with our limited resources.
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