Respect conventions of war

By Raffique Shah
May 24, 2021

Raffique ShahAn amazing contradiction that is embedded in the dissemination of information via technology that seems to evolve at a dizzying pace is how easy it is to fool massive numbers of people into believing glaring lies. Disinformation, a craft that is as old as civilisation itself, which has been used in warfare and in politics from ancient times to today, remains a weapon of mass confusion in the armories of sovereign states as much as parties that could, and have, catapulted many of them into power against immense odds.

What is frightening about such machinations in electoral politics is that it’s all perfectly legal. Worse, one might think that as citizens and electors become more educated, they would discern untruths more easily, and reject them for what they are-outrageous lies. Not so fast. With tertiary-level education more accessible to successive generations in developed and not-so-developed nations, formal education seems to have stymied the intellect of university graduates. Critical thinking are buzzwords they repeat by rote, not skills they have mastered to empower them as they face the onslaught of cleverly-masked propaganda machines that render them fodder for today’s computer-armed snake oil salesmen.

Consider this: two old words have been strung together, ‘fake news’, that actually say nothing, mean nothing. Yet, they have been adopted by supposedly intelligent people across the world, and applied to encompass propaganda, empty rhetoric, and outright lies. Last year’s elections in the USA, which laid bare just how unsophisticated the American electorate is, and how it was possible for any two-bit shyster to capture power in the most powerful nation on earth, also saw the words ‘fake news’ being touted as deserving of discussion on the agendas of agencies such as the United Nations.

Are these people serious? We are really in a sorry state when the self-righteous leaders of today, who lie as casually as politicians of every era in history have done, can consider taking trash to international conference tables. Today, for instance, they ought to be discussing Israel’s slaughter of the people of Palestine which, in a world where justice is dispensed fairly, should invite global condemnation and possibly charges of war crimes against Israel.

That will never happen, of course. From its establishment as a Zionist state in the aftermath of the Second World War by men who were as brutal as the Nazis whose persecution of Jews won victims of the Holocaust worldwide sympathy, to its uncanny resemblance today of Adolf Hitler’s fascists, Israel has defied world opinion, reinvented apartheid, and is a renegade state, a law unto itself.

A placard carried by one woman in one of the thousands of demonstrations staged across the world to protest its murderous campaign to obliterate what little is left of Palestine, sums up the shame that many Jews bear: my granddad didn’t survive Auschwitz to bomb Gaza to death.

The controllers of Israel, luckily for them, do not need ‘fake news’, misinformation or disinformation to do their dirty deeds the way politicians in countries such as T&T and the USA do: for them, might is right, end of story. Here, on the fertile Covid-infested ground, they find easy targets for disinformation—which, I should explain, is distinct from misinformation. The latter could be an error on the part of the perpetrator, or failure to understand what he or she is writing or saying.

Disinformation is deliberate. It’s a lie that is crafted to confuse one’s enemy, to mislead him into a trap you have set (in a military context). I should note that at Sandhurst, certainly in my time, cadets studied not just the art of warfare, but also its devious side, like the use of disinformation. Veterans of World War II and the Korean War (not many people remember that war) lectured to us on their experiences when such deviousness was employed against them, and instances when they used it to advantage.

Even in the brutality of wars of such magnitude or ferocity, however, one respects the sanctity of certain personnel—the press, the Red Cross or Crescent, etc. You never target them. In the war against Covid, a deadly enemy to all, a war that requires every citizen to contribute what he can, there are such exceptions to combat.

Top of the list are medical personnel, those who are putting their lives on the line every day, professionals who give of their knowledge, their experience, their everything. They are protected by convention if not law. Respect them. Do not violate that convention. Nuff said.

13 thoughts on “Respect conventions of war”

  1. Medical personnel should be revered ; however, many doctors have been willingly giving contradictory information on Covid in every country in the world, creating uncertainty and doubt in the minds of unsuspecting citizens.
    The greatest fake news ever perpetrated on the citizens of T&T was that their country was ranked first in the world in its handling of the pandemic in the initial stages. The Minister bragged that Oxford had done the rankings. True, but Oxford used the fake numbers provided to them. T&T had no testing or quarantine protocols for their citizens. No plan for vaccine procurement. If no one is being tested, obviously you are going to have zero cases , while the virus quietly seeped through the country. T&T falsely claimed that its borders were being protected while illegal immigrants were flooding in from areas devastated by the virus, including variants.
    Another fake article by Shah unwilling to deal with the reality of the fake news put out daily by the government of T&T. And we have not yet explored the fake news and numbers coming out of the ministry of finance!

  2. “Disinformation is deliberate. It’s a lie that is crafted to confuse one’s enemy, to mislead him into a trap you have set (in a military context).”
    Today disinformation is a lie used to mislead the public. The public being those who support the elected but can go to bed thinking they are doing the job.
    The purpose of the media is to expose the lies, but too many journalist, media folks are friends of politicians and even go to bed with them. One media outlet is owned and operated by a PNM supporter, so reading the articles are like drinking from a chalice filled with balisier juice. The editor is not going to allow the truth for the sake of friendship and monetary gain.

    Then there is another conglomerate owning a media outlet that is a financier of the ruling party. The contracts are huge and the profits are excessive. Don’t expect their articles to be hard hitting. As Malcolm X said “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent.”

    Covid 19 is exploding in Trinidad but don’t expect the media to cover the stories, they have an ulterior motive to make the government look good. Presently the hospitals that Kamla built is the lifesaving mediums. If she did not invest in the various health care system things would have been far worst. The much maligned Couva Hospital is saving lives, so to Arima and Point Fortin Hospitals. But don’t expect the media to write a thank you note to this progressive lady, instead expect them to spew balisier juice all over the place like vomit.

    Expect them not to hold the Rowley regime which is worst in TnT history when it comes to nepotism (PNM wives club), corruption (the PM office doing procurement), billions unaccounted for, money coming out of the HSF and disappearing. Yes the PNM have a free media pass…

  3. I agree that the media is more of a propagandist tool than an informative one. The journalists are mostly workers for the organizations they represent than reporters who journal the events of the community they are reporting on. For example, one can hardly read a story where the reporting begins from the source of information and ends with the covered event. The average political story will almost always start with something like this ” Kamla blasts Rowley for his statement on the vaccines”.
    The reader almost always will have to be left wondering “what did Rowley say to infuriate Kamla?”. In other words, we get what people say about the story before we get to know what the story is. That is the kind of reporting I see and read on almost all of the daily media reporting. The media denies the reader of a cohesive story, where the narrative starts with the subject matter and ends with contents relative to the subject. Thats my take on all forms of media in our country

  4. Propaganda and misinformation have been a ubiquitous part of communication. It has to do with manipulating beliefs about reality. Facts can be replaced with, in the words of Kellyanne Conway, alternative facts. In our age of advances in technology, propaganda and misinformation has become a science. Hitler was one of the early theorists in that field, “people will believe anything, provided they are told it often enough and emphatically enough, and that contradicters are either silenced or smothered in calumny.” So for lies to become more powerful than truth, you have to tell it constantly and emphatically. There is a reality on the ground, real facts as opposed to alternative facts, but if you tell it enough, alternative facts become more powerful, they acquire the status of truth, of reality. We have to look at the relationship between reality or facts on the ground and time because this is one area where the technology of misinformation or propaganda has been used effectively. Let’s look at the recent Israeli bombing of Gaza, when it was happening, you could see homes turn into rubble, you could see children being killed in the bombing, the suffering of civilians was visible and challenged our humanity, in time, however, the cries and suffering of families are less raw, they turn into memories. They are still facts but the intensity of the fact is diminished. So alternative facts begin to make their presence known. As reality becomes a memory, alternative facts become more real as they a repeated over and over. The bombing of civilians, of children, becomes the violence of Gaza, atrocity against the Palestinian people becomes a “both sides” thing. A pro-status quo media moves from facts, to questioning facts to alternative facts. So how do we deal with this world of propaganda and alternative facts? Perhaps we can learn from the experience of those who went through centuries of enslavement in our own Caribbean countries. They suffered, they were tortured and dehumanized and the media of the day hid those facts, the media recounted instead a narrative of a benevolent slave society. For the slaves however, the truth was in their hearts, and that truth was irremovable. Even today that truth is being told. It is in the hearts of human beings that truth triumphs.

  5. Here is a typical example of fake news being reported as news by a strongly pro PNM media outlet.
    https://newsday.co.tt/2021/05/24/pm-unc-promoted-vigils-which-spread-covid19/
    “ “The only country I know of in the Caribbean where in the middle of the pandemic the Opposition organised gatherings called vigils ­– thousands of people for a month, trying to exploit the death of Andrea Bharatt – and you are asking me how we got here?”— Is that correct! Absolutely not, in fact the organizers are leaders of pressure groups. Phillip Alexander has berated Kamla on many occasions even saying she wants to be Sita. Inshan Ishmael is a known PNM supporter, he is seen hugging Rowley like his doulahin, and Ian Alleyne has publicly stated he staying away from politicians.

    But this is headline on a major newspaper that should know better.
    “The last person in this country who should be talking about porous borders is the member for Siparia and her crowd.” He said it was laughable to suggest a fence could protect TT as he assured the security services had been treating aggressively with illegal migrants” Rowley is Maduro and Jinping bestie, he has done nothing to stop the inflow of Venes. They are all over the place. All he has done is blame KPB. When last has any media outlet did a correct story on the inflow of illegal immigration?

    If one reads this headline article carefully you get the impression it is the Opposition who spreading Covid. Another fake news article. (Newsday article).

  6. So this idiot writes an article “Paying the price in Gaza” saying essentially that for Israel to feel secure, Palestinians living in Gaza have to pay the price of being bombed into the Stone Age. What I would like to see is if someone steals this idiot’s house, occupies it and puts him out on the road, breaks both his hands and legs and every time it seems like they are healing, break them again, so that the person who stole his house and occupies it would feel secure, what would he think? And what if I wrote an article for the media saying well that’s the only way the house occupier would feel secure, what would the nincompoop think?

    1. The real problem is definitely “media”. I grew up thinking everything I read was supposed to be true. In fact, many people “accept” what they read as fact. But, with the sophistication of reporting, media is in fact an outlet to sway towards a given end.
      Media, used to be owned by families and learned people who wished to inform, today, it is totally owned by large corporations and entities. These entities have products that they wish to sell and make huge profits with. So, it is being used to capture of minds and mindset. I was totally aghast when I saw the video of the hate emanating from that Indian woman towards Dr. Rowley.
      I could not help but think that she is what we get when media feed a diet of hate and hate mongering. When headlines tells us “Kamla blasts Rowley”, “Kamla hits Rowley” ,”Rowley Incompetent”, “Rowley caused this or that” . Those are coded statement that easily usurped by people who extends it in the most crude way. No amount of apologies can make up for what is cruelly and widely expressed. What is the end game? Power?
      Self rule? . The unintended consequence might very well be race-war. It can happen here because there are almost no impartial minds in our society. Our culture is fast becoming “Indian” or “African” culturally, politically, socially and even our cuisine is used to push that demarcation line. Watch!!!!!!

      1. The media in Trinidad i.e. newspapers, radio, tv and even online, are controlled in a similar ethnic ditsribution of the drug/gun cartels

        *Indian owned -promotes UNC/indian politics
        *Syrian/Lebanese owned,indian managed/rented -promotes UNC undermines PNM/African grassroots position
        *Chinese- indian managed, promotes UNC, undermines PNM and african grassroots
        *African Owned – (mercenary )the majority of these outlets stifle grassroots african voices regarding race issues, and exhibit favouritism to indian voices regarding race. (“All o’ we iz one famalayyyy”) -Dunce

        The media in trinidad has been lopsidedly indian over african interests since 1995 (first indian run government UNC). The money stolen and squirreled away then and 2010-2015, the drug/gun empires built…facilitated the indianization of previoiusly balanced media houses and created whole indian/UNC Hedgemonic empires that capture african youth everyday.The media is overwhelmingly, cult-ishly, shamelessly racist, brahman-ist (“Hindu), indian and UNC.

  7. “In an April 22 article, Hinds reportedly described the surge in numbers at that time as stemming “from the Easter weekend.”
    Questions have been raised about the political independence of the technical director of the Epidemiology Division Dr Avery Hinds, after he said on Wednesday that the spike in COVID-19 numbers pre-dated Easter, although Hinds presented graphs and data to support his point.” Guardian Newspaper.

    It is a comedy of errors and a stretch when we set out to lie. A clear example of how the PM lies can infect even the “apolitical”. The PM has been using the Andrea Bharatt name as the psycho that he is when data shows that not to be true. Rowley is a wajang who should not be PM. Manning warned the population about him.

    He said that people should come over to Tobago for the Easter weekend. Over 50,000 obeyed his irresponsible statement. And further others in TnT though it was okay to loosen up things. He should be a man and say he made a mistake. Instead he pick on a young lady name Andrea Bharrat as the cause for the spike. This young lady was murdered by serial predator, rapist and sadist a monster name Joel Balcon. A man who had 70 charges against him. Who with the aid of the justice system for a decade ply his trade on vulnerable young ladies who to this day bear the horrible scars.

    Rowley continues to demonstrate his arrogance and lack of compassion for the citizenry aided and abetted by PNMites who support the disintegration of this nation….

  8. The Express got it right this time.
    REJECTING a call for an investigation into how his administration has handled the covid19 situation, the Prime Minister on Monday sought to revise history.

    Dr Rowley issued a warning to the Opposition saying such an investigation would not reflect well on the UNC because of its support for the candlelight vigils held in the wake of the murder of Andrea Bharatt.

    “Be careful what you ask for, because you will get it,” the Prime Minister told Parliament during debate on the state of emergency. He questioned in what other country an opposition could pay for and organise events that facilitated virus spread.

    “They organised transport to bring people.”

    There is no doubt an inquiry into the Government’s management of the covid19 situation should be rejected at this time. We are in a crisis. All energy should be directed at getting us out. There will be time for reviews later.

    However, the Prime Minister’s insinuation that the current situation is partly the fruit of an artificial enactment of grief that occurred when Ms Bharatt’s body was found in February is, at best, unsupported on the evidence and, at worst, a manipulation of the facts.

    There was a time when Dr Rowley had a more sympathetic view of the vigils.

    A week after Ms Bharatt’s body was found, the Prime Minister and his party convened a political meeting in Belmont and observed a minute’s silence in her memory.

    In a sombre speech, Dr Rowley said he could not, as a father and a leader, ignore the outpouring of grief around him. He said he was happy to see so many people coming out, using their physical presence to give voice to their anger and disappointment.

    “That coming together of our nation to say that enough is enough might be the first step in the right direction to say that we are a united nation,” the PM said.

    What was a “step in the right direction” in February has apparently now become nothing more than a UNC political gimmick and a public health hazard.

    Undoubtedly, the vigils posed risks. At the same time, the situation in the first quarter of this year was worlds away from what it is now.

    Vigils for Ms Bharatt began in early February. In the six weeks following, the seven-day rolling average remained under ten. If there was a spike, it paled in comparison with the spike after Easter. And the spike after the August general election.

    This week, yet another woman, Ann Marie Diaz, fell victim to violence.

    The PM’s post-facto attack on Andrea Bharatt protesters as mere political stooges does a disservice to the women and all the others who have been victims of violence. It also serves to discourage anyone who dares to speak up against injustice.

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