The Problem with PNP voters. In a 30 second video.

Based PNP.

It used to be that trying to obtain a better life for yourself in Jamaica was like a man running up a down escalator, not realizing that the escalator was running down. You had work ungodly hard just to get where you wanted to go. Well, what if you can’t even get to run up the escalator in the first place? An incident that took place at the People’s National Party rally in Half-Way-Tree on the night of the 31st of January, can be taken as what happens the escalator gets blocked.

The Jamaica Urban Transit Centre’s main Half-Way-Tree bus park is divided into an upstairs and downstairs section. When entering the conference for the first time, one gets of the (usually chartered) bus, walks to upper the section, and towards the centre of the city where the rally is situated. You may also walk to another upper section, the top floor, if you wish to easily get to your bus, or get to Molynes Road. That wasn’t happening about after about 7 in the evening. Police blocked off the stairs. Why? “Councilors and candidates only pass this point!” The upstairs section had then been refashioned to be used as a speech rehearsal room, among other things. So now that we were down, there was no way to get back up to where we were originally. Unfortunately, none of the supports that were with me seemed to get the symbolism of that particular event.

Notice that in the video, the supporters were calling the policemen “Labourites” (the main opposition party is the Jamaica Labour Party). It’s not that the councilors and candidates failed to create a secure area for them to congregate outside of the bus park. It’s not that they failed to realize beforehand that their supporters would need to go up- and downstairs, in the central location of the rally. What we have here is that the typical “die-hard”, not just PNP, voter fails to see that her political actions impact her personal life. The politicians up at the top know that they won’t be blamed for their actions, but that the police would be. They don’t see the need to curry favour with the supporters. They know that once there on top, they’ll stay on top. And that those on the bottom will stay on the bottom.

This is it. The final stretch. No, not for the election on the 25th of February, but final stretch as in final. For all intents and purposes, Jamaicans are now locked in three classes: rich, poor, and broke. Nobody talks about social mobility in Jamaica anymore. Yes, we do talk about education, Business Process Outsourcing jobs that are being created, and other such economic indicators, but those don’t matter. What does matter is that the 100 dollar bill can barely buy what it could 4 years ago, much more 8 years ago. And number of 100 dollar bills in one’s purse or wallet hasn’t changed. That is because our politicians are more focused on giving the IMF and multi-laterals interest on their loans than to be bothered with such silliness like sustained economic growth, stable exchange rates, and whatever. The type of PNP supporter that goes to such a rally simply cannot imagine a better life for themselves, not in the types of leaps and bounds that one sees in the history of nations like South Korea, or post-World War 2 Western Europe. The idea that your wallet can become fatter without having to stand in line at the Western Union or the MoneyGram is an alien concept to them.

What makes The System so perverse is that the typical die-hard PNP supporter cannot see how far he has fallen down the stairs. He doesn’t even realize that there was a staircase in the first place. Voting is more a social event done as a member of a tribe than a form of political action that is a necessity in a functional democracy for those attending these rallies. Tribal peoples don’t react to rational appeals. Splitting and ad hominem attacks are how they engage in political discussion. Those at the top of the staircase make their decisions based on how much more they will get from the next tax cut they will get this time around. After all, when you’re at the top of the staircase, its easy to catch the money when our political leaders decide to give out tax cuts and contracts. But how long the tribe will hold together when there’s no more space downstairs, or when the money stops trickling down is something I don’t want to be around to see.

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Nationwide News Network is useless.

One of the main complaints against prime minister Portia Simpson-Miller is her indifference to the Jamaican media. This was highlighted especially by two bloggers, Jay over at Commonsense Jamaica and Ricardo over at Constructed Thoughts.

This is Ricardo:

the office of Mrs. Simpson Miller purported to be “concerned” for the safety of the Prime Minister. Fair enough. The worrying aspect of this development is that there is no security threat, in the standard sense, to the Prime Minister. Instead, the OPM released this dubious statement after members of the media sought a response from an ever evasive Simpson Miller. In her now characteristic attempt to dodge the media, and their relentless pursuit of information, the Prime Minister was apparently struck by a microphone. It is regrettable that the PM was struck, but the real issue is why was she running? The real issue is why hasn’t she consented to sit for an interview having taken office 15 months ago?

That;s all well and good, but I don’t think that really matters that much. This is a comment I had left over at Jay’s

Now compare that to media in our time. It is really nothing more than a means for press releases, press conferences, news leaks and interviews for politicians to twist around the interviewer.

I mean, what is the press going to do, call (ahem) Emmy-award-winning journalist Cliff Hughes to throw some softball questions her way?

Jamaican news at the Cliff’s edge

The reason why I am picking on Nationwide News is because it represents everything that is wrong with journalism in Jamaica – even more so than CVM News at its worst. Yet Cliff Hughes and company are generally considered the Jamaican archetype of the “Intrepid Reporter” running down leads and “speaking truth to power”

Again from my comment:

I listened to Nationwide News at 5 yesterday. It was really nothing useful. I can download and read the budget speeches from the net. Whatever commentary was added was redundant. The rest of the news was basically dudes asking the opinions of people on the road, reading aloud Facebook and Twitter posts and repeating BBC news posts that I had heard earlier that day.

The same could be said for all of their other news shows. There is no analysis of the day’s events, only annotations of previously existing news stories. The utter and complete lack of any subject matter expertise among any of their staff members is so laughable, its sad. They recently had several of the potential candidates for the new 360MW power plant project on for interview. You would have had expected them to ask questions such as:

  • How much cents per kilowatt/hour will you be charging for electricity?
  • How will you deal with fluctuations in the Liquified Natural Gas Prices?
  • What are the safety issues with LNG as a power source?
  • What advantages or disadvantages does a barge present during a natural disaster?

and so on. However, their journalistic team’s grasp of basic economics, infrastructural development, educational or any other technical issue is just lacking. Compare this to a Ralston Hyman or a Dennis Chung, whose brains seem to be made from Excel spreadsheets and SQL queries. Just listening to Hyman talk to someone,you know that, while he may be blunt, and not have manipulative skills of a Mike Wallace, he will catch you when you fuck up. With Cliff Hughes and company, its the opposite, they fuck up and get led around by their balls (or in Emily Crook’s case, her titties). Portia’s only problem, is a lack of grip.

Pseudo-events and Pseudo-Journalists

The great American social critic Daniel Boorstin defined a pseudo-event as an event or an activity that exists for the sole purpose of generating media publicity, and serves no other purpose in real-life. Events like these are planned, scheduled for media convenience, ambiguous, and try to be self-fulfilling prophecies. This means that the party who sets up the pseudo-event, for the media’s benefit usually do so for their own selfish purposes, i not the outright manipulation of the media itself.

Thus, examples of pseudo-events would include press conferences, interviews, press releases and newsleaks – exactly the sorts of things that the bloggers and Jamaican people want from Portia Simpson-Miller. More pseudo-events will not shame our leaders into morality and performance. Those types of events only allow the leaders to make their case in a deceptive manner, and give cliff Hughes and others like him the audience share and ratings he so desperately craves – as long as he doesn’t rock the boat.

The failure of mainstream Jamaican media

Remember back in about 2006, when P.J. Patterson resigned and you had about five PNP members competing for leadership? Remember how they treated Portia? Hell, even Mutty Perkins got a hard-on interviewing her, and he hated the PNP almost as much as me! By failing to critically engage Portia in the first place, the media has put itself in the situation it is in now.

You fix that problem with boots-on-the-ground journalism. Not reciting Twitter feeds or reading Facebook responses, or reading the morning dailies verbatim. You get on the ground, dig through spreadsheets, official, and unofficial and cultivate sources. You cannot expect to go up to a politician’s face and expect them to tell you the truth. That is not how you hold power to account in a democracy. Perhaps if Nationwide News Network took their job more seriously, they would understand this.

P.S.

What they hell kind of piece of shit website these guys have operating? No podcasts? Live streaming? What the fuck is this, 1998? I call and the lady tells me that they don’t record their shows either? Ah fuck. And what the fuck does Emily Crooks do? Is she really needed?

We are all PNP (Personal National Party) members now!!

Veritas has posted about Jamaica’s infatuation with the People’s National Party,  The post, not surprisingly is with regards to the Estimates of Expenditure of the 2012 to 2013 budget.

 Of particular concern is the $19.4 billion tax package outlined by the Minister. Taking careful aim, Phillips applied the GCT to everything from milk, to crackers, to saltfish, even patties – while lowering the overall rate of the GCT by 1%. The tax on electricity, which was to have been abolished as promised by the PM herself, was expanded; printed material, the telecoms sector, the tourism sector – all taxed. Coupled with this massive tax package was a public sector wage freeze. The stage seemed set for riots and demonstrations, as was the case in 2009, when then Minister Shaw outlined a similar tax package. Instead, there has been little more than murmurings of discontent at the tax burden and a quiet acceptance of the wage freeze by public sector groups. I was stunned. What was so different when Shaw had proposed these measures? All hell had broken loose then, why not now? And then it hit me, this is PNP country. Jamaica is in bed with the PNP, and like an abused spouse, we silently bear the beatings, because surely Mama P loves us, a dats why she beat wi.

So a politician lied. Why is Veritas surprised?  He is surprised because the country has given up. When the Greeks got screwed over, they knew what to do. From Chris Hedges:

Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.

Fuck with the Greeks, and they’ll get all Spartan on you ass.

But there is something that doesn’t sit well with me when I read Veritas’ article. The idea that Jamaica was PNP country only makes sense if a majority of the Jamaican population votes for the PNP. And with a voter turnout at the general election of 53% and a local government voter turnout of 34.5% I think its safe to say that the majority of Jamaicans aren’t really concerned about the political process. Hell, I ‘d put forth that the majority of Jamaican people really don’t care much about anything.

Well, there is something Jamaican’s do care about. Themselves. Everybody is an individual now, just compare Michael Manley back in 1972 with the 1988 version. When the Berlin Wall came down, and American consumer capitalism and Mont Pelerin style neoliberal governance came to dominate the Western world, all hope for a democratic socialist utopia got dashed and scattered like a boardhouse after Hurricane Gilbert. A simple glance at the number of scandals that the PNP took part in during from 1988 to 2001 will show that they have gone from being a socialist party to a kleptocratic, Machiavellian, political machine.

But doesn’t that describe all Jamaicans at this point? A non-ideological herd, struggling apart, yet alone together Go to any verandah, street corner, university or workplace and ask Jamaican people what they believe. Blackness, socialism, capitalism and other ideologies aren’t even on the radar. What we have are a nation of people that believe… nothing. Want nothing. Hope nothing. Expect nothing. Dream nothing. Desire nothing. Lets use the old Olympic test. Here’s the defining image of 1968:

And here is 2008

High crime rate, police killings, skin bleaching and economic stagnation? Chinese workers committing suicide at Foxconn’s factories? Fuck all that , I’ll take a PUMA contract , thank you very much….

Things wont change until someone gives Jamaicans something worth believing in. Because just like the PNP,  we sure don’t seem to believe in each other, even though every man believes in himself.