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Commentary: The power of media
Published on January 30, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Phillip Edward Alexander

The Trinidad Guardian and Section 34 rescued the PNM from the obscurity of the annihilation they suffered in May and July of 2010, reversed their fortunes and gave Dr Keith Rowley credibility.

phillip_edward_alexander.jpg
Phillip Edward Alexander is a social and political activist, a feature writer and columnist, the founder of the Jericho Project and the chairman of the Citizen's Union of Trinidad and Tobago
All on one quasi-true story that deliberately omitted some key points, points that, if they were included in the story, we would never have had a Section 34 march, the public would never have become as incensed and as polarized as they did and Dr Keith Rowley would probably not have a political career by now.

Without the Section 34 march, Orville London would have had nothing to campaign on to distract the voters from his and the PNM's horrible track record; the disrespect that was and is the Milsherv deal would not have been shoved to the side in favour of this new, more important issue that hobbled the government; the PNM would not have won the THA elections and history would have been different.

How different?

In an election season momentum is king. If a picture can be painted of a retreating government in the face of an advancing opposition the perception in the minds of the voter can be manipulated to mean that the opposition is the better choice based solely on perceived public opinion. But what if that public opinion is based on a lie? When his stock began to wane, the same Dr Rowley decided to benefit from media-influenced public opinion again and, without a Section 35 waiting in the wings, he had to create one.

That is how we ended up with his now well known emailgate hoax, where he took the House of Representatives and the nation as a whole for a ride.

Only thing is this time it did not wash. The public, now informed as to the PNM's role in the Section 34 fiasco, were not going to be fooled as easily and it took the work of many other hands to create the same illusion. Hands such as the disguised PNM spokes-body Fixin' T&T, whose job it is to create the illusion that the public wants answers. Himself on himself, Fixin' T&T is Dr Rowley's mouthpiece created to keep Dr Rowley's issues in the public domain, but no one is taking Fixin' T&T seriously any longer. We've seen past the ruse.

Other hands such as David Abdullah and the MSJ, who orchestrated a Round Table in response to Section 34 without admitting that he was aware that the Guardian's story was false because, as a former senator, he HAD to have known of the PNM's involvement in the passage of Section 34.

That he not only did not mention that, but went along with the charade that this was all the doing of the People's Partnership, showed clearly who he is and what he is made of, and perhaps that is why his own political stock has collapsed.

But back on point. Without that Section 34 outcry, the PNM would still be as irrelevant as they were in May and July 2010 when they were decimated at the polls and their showing at last year's local government election was going to be as bad or worse.

But they had a healthy showing, because such is the power of the media to confuse public opinion.

Guilty of buying cheap PR from cheap PR salespeople, the government did a woefully bad job of managing the information and stemming the misinformation, to their own misfortune, but thankfully they have learnt the lesson in time and are opting for the scientific approach of communication.

The people do not want to be fooled.

Without the Section 34 debacle, Jack Warner would have lost Chaguanas West because he would have had nothing to hide his own track record behind and, without a hiding place for his sins, Jack Warner is unelectable.

Without the hue and outcry of Section 34, the PNM would not have had the pious pretence it used to seize the moral high ground away from the Congress of the People, as they too would have had to campaign on their own track record and they would have lost the St Joseph by-election regardless of how Indian or unknown the candidate.

This is real political machination, the art of war and Machiavelli all rolled into one; and it is the momentum Dr Rowley wanted to hitch his fortunes to and why he has been calling for a general election.

Time is his enemy. As time passes, even the least critical thinkers among us are starting to question some of the overtly political positions being taken by some in media and at least one media house, and are smelling a bald headed, loud mouthed, brash speaking rat.

And all of this because the Guardian omitted to say that the PNM supported the entire Bill in both Houses of Parliament and were just as complicit as the government in omitting to include white collar crimes in Schedule six, the clause that lists those crimes and types of crimes not covered by Section 34.

Now, my question is, did the Guardian omit to mention such an important piece of information deliberately? Or was this just shoddy journalism that the PNM and Dr Keith Rowley benefitted from? You decide, but has the Guardian to date offered a retraction or a correction with equal column inches? Once the horse has already bolted from the stable, would it matter?

In the House of Representatives on Friday last Dr Tim Gopeesingh and Member of Parliament for Oropouche East Dr Roodal Moonilal dealt with the issues of bias in the media and how it can cause political advantage or disadvantage as the case may be. And, judging by the Jack in the box behaviour of the leader of the Opposition, the Dr Keith Rowley who has benefitted from the Section 34 half a story and from a lot of similar questionable journalism since linked to a handful of compromised journalists, one has to assume that he did not want the public to know.

The Speaker begged to differ and allowed Dr Gopeesingh to make his point -- that of the revisionist view and the power that it has to shape public opinion.

Public opinion can be a lazy guarddog, easily tricked with the right inducement. Hollywood can make a film today where the cowboys are the bad guys, and tell the same story at another time and have you root for them.

That is the power of media.
 
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