Jamaica’s Twitter-shy Media: When will the would-be watchdogs of Jamaican democracy wake up

CARTOON of the YEAR

Clovis, The Observer, December 31, 2009

One thing’s for sure, the Golding government could definitely use a shot of VITAGOV, the miraculous tonic recommended for ailing democracies everywhere. In Jamaica the Farcical News Network (Left, Right and Centre, Nationwide Radio) is sponsored by this super syrup whose ad goes like this:


VITAGOV!…Vitalize your Government!


Is slow representation getting you down? does the bad road leading to your house get on your nerves to the point of nausea? Then reach for VITAGOV! VITAGOV’s new and improved, time-honoured potent formula is crammed full of the major indices of development, including civil rights and liberties, the rule of law, effective representation and economic growth.


Combined with every hyper-caffeinated drink on the planet, VITAGOV is guaranteed to get your member of parliament and prime minister working in unrealistically fast time. Use our aerosol pump and spray your MP when he finally turns up in your constituency. Pour the VITAGOV syrup into your Minister’s drink at a party function or sprinkle it on a chair that he’s about to sit on. Whatever the method you’ll be sure to get him working. For governance on the go, it’s VITAGOV!


Meanwhile Messrs. Brooks and Co. need to develop a similar product for our ailing media, the print media in particular. I wonder if 2010 will prove to be the year when Jamaican journalists finally discover Twitter. Their silence on/in this increasingly crucial new medium is deafening. Where are @Boyne, @MartinHenry, @Wignall, @Hughes and @emilycrooks? Don’t you know that Twitter is how news is telegraphed nowadays and audiences created?


Photo by Colin Hamilton


Ah well, i continue to scratch my head in perplexity at the lagging behind of those who claim to be our watchdogs. Their caginess and timidity would be amusing if it wasn’t so tragic. While the formal, English-speaking posse bury their heads in the sand the Patwa-speakers are off and running with the new technologies. I was able to get a blow-by-blow account of the rather uneventful Sting finale this year because the dancehall massive and crew were tweeting comments and photos, alternately transmitting their disgust at the lack of clashing and fear when shots were fired amongst a range of reactions which i wouldn’t have missed for the world.


Here’s a selection of tweets from that morning:

Kartel dress like a wedding cake ornament.. LOL RT @tplayfair: #sting http://tweetphoto.com/7374217

Vybz Kartel at Sting09 by Tara Playfair-Scott
Shot of crowd at Sting 09 tweeted from location.
And after all the boasting and pre-Sting publicity (see trailer below) LA Lewis didn’t turn up giving rise to many jokes about the Queen, the new taxes, the coffin he had prepared to bury Goofy and much else.

tplayfair RT @SuppaKid: @tplayfair at least he made the
coffin b4 they pass the taxes. so him save some $$$

tplayfair Twit Classified> One white coffin red velvet
interior comes w/4 cans of spray paint & 7 pairs of white sox.
Vampires get 17.5% off purchase

KandeeAppl Everybody’s FB status is about how lame sting
was, glad I opted to watch it on TV, big up ER an Anthony
Miller, pon top a tings-as always!

anniepaul But of course! RT @RoryLeif: La lewis said he was
unable to attend sting becuz he was meeting with the queen

LivUp_Records Reach home. Laing biggest joka. Bout kartel
& vado pon stage 1 time di prezi alone can do that!!

LivUp_RecordsTeacha de ya.

A funny misunderstanding happened when Kartel’s fans thought that their fanpower and enthusiastic tweets had made #Gaza a trending topic on Twitter (Gaza is the name Kartel also known as the Teacher adopted for his community after its original name ‘Borderline’ was besmirched by association in a popular play) only to find that it was no such thing. It was just that their beloved Teacha’s performance in the wee hours of December 27th coincided with a Twitter campaign to raise awareness about the ORIGINAL Gaza that unfolded at 3 pm middle eastern time but early morning for us:

In honor of the one-year anniversary of Israel’s attacks on Gaza in December 2008, a number of activists have planned a targeted “tweet for Gaza” campaign on Twitter. The campaign, widely promoted by Twitter usernmoawad, is meant to draw attention to the current siege on Gaza, and will be implemented on Sunday, December 27, between 3pm and 7pm GMT, in an effort to make#Gaza a Twitter trending topic . . . a great number of people are using Twitter to share their own personal thoughts about Gaza, one year after the attacks which left 1,417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. Rime Allaf, a Syrian Twitterer, explains what it means to her:
Rime Allaf shares her thoughts on Gaza
New Twitter user Joelle Hatem joins the campaign
May i recommend that our celebrated journalists follow Joelle Hatem’s example and take a crash course in Twitter? The lagging behind in use of new technologies from the most literate segments of Jamaican society contradicts the ‘English is better than Patwa’ message that the English-speaking elites are constantly advancing, claiming that English is necessary to ‘move ahead’, converse with the rest of the world, keep up with new knowledge and so on. It would seem from the example that they’re setting that English is actually holding back the learned, speaky-spoky elites.

Even the latest Shebada play Serious Business, pivots on the plot-bending detail of ‘Facebook and Twidder’ for he plays a Revival preacher from New York, with 5000 Facebook friends and 3000 Twitter followers. Those are his qualifications for being hired to replace the crufty, corrupt old Preacher who is busy ripping off the Church at every opportunity he gets.

It’s an amazing development when the less literate massive and crew get the new technologies before those who benefited from the highest education this country can offer. What can it portend for the future?

Jamaican police: All dressed in uniforms of brutality? The Robert Hill killing

These are my most recent tweets this evening after listening to a radio discussion on the killing of Robert Hill by the police here. The story had been reported in yesterday’s Sunday Herald which had already reported in October that Hill was being threatened:


“Robert ‘Kentucky Kid’ Hill predicted his death and he actually named the cops who would be responsible.”


Acc to the Sunday Herald’s team, Hill, virtually in tears, said he was convinced that cops were stalking him and he felt intimidated.


Based on a police report, Hill was killed during a shootout with a police party on Wednesday, December 9

“They killed my child. How am i going to come down there and bury my son?” Robert Hill’s mother on Nationwide Radio.

Its not the Jamaica Constabulary Force, it’s the Jamaican Criminal Force, declares Cliff Hughes on Nationwide radio

“He’s never going 2 see his baby grow. She’s never going to know her father” Robert Hill’s sobbing mother said.


Carolyn Gomes, spokesperson for Jamaicans for Justice, is holding Acting Police Commissioner responsible for safety of Junior, Robert Hill’s cousin, who saw the killers. He is missing, alleged abducted…

“None of us is safe. They can get away with it. ” Cliff Hughes. Nationwide Radio.


One of my ‘tweeple’ responded asking:


who was Robert Hill Annie?


i referred him to the Sunday Herald article.


Then he sent this: ok. Kentucky. You seen the youtube link i posted last week? he names the police


i begged him to repost the link and he did urging me to read Kentucky’s comments on the video. See it below…



A High Wind in Jamaica

He’s been here a few hours now. i don’t mind him; he’s a gentle soul compared to Emily and Dennis. Or Ivan. Ivan was terrible.

It’s been raining and gusting for some hours now, at least four or five. but we’re lucky, we have water and power so i can amuse myself on the internet and watch tv if i want. Barack is to speak shortly and i guess some people are all agog about that.

It’s not all as upbeat as i’m making out. There’ve been a few casualties–motor vehicle accidents some of them. A Police Inspector has been shot in St. Mary. A 50 year old man was killed while belatedly trying to prune a tree. i know all this from Nationwide Radio. Radio in Jamaica is the best. and Nationwide is arguably the best of local radio. Digital radio FM 720 in Kingston. The brainchild of Cliff Hughes, an old hand who has revolutionized local media, N’wide is my lifeline during these disruptive and distressing weather events. There’s something very comforting about having your favourite journalists on duty, keeping you company as it were, through the rough times. Emily Crooks and Hughes babysat us through Ivan the Terrible. Don’t know what we’d have done without them.

everytingkripsy left a hilarious note on the youtube video Hurricane! in my previous post:

I know unu a get prep for the storm and everyting but a wah yu a do wid so much kerosene!! mine unu blow up the yard.. lol.. good luck

Well, everytingkripsy, a kersene a run ting when di power gone; anyway, mi gone a watch Obama do his ting. till soon folks.

Masters of the Universe?

Remember how former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller was chided and ridiculed for wanting to hold elections on July 7 last year? 7-7-7 I did try and point out at the time that in countries like India and China it’s quite normal to schedule things on auspicious dates at auspicious times. Numbers are nothing after all if not symbolic!

Like many others I ritualistically seated myself in front of my TV screen at 8.08 pm Chinese time on August 8, 2008 to catch the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. What a stupendous show! To have pulled off such a stunning feat live, with the entire world watching, without a glitch or stutter—hats, tams and solar topees off to the mighty Chinese!

I gushed about it to all and sundry for two whole days till my cousin Susan sent me a tart email from Delhi saying: Dear Annie, I’ve been supporting the Tibet group in India, so the Beijing opening seemed stylistic and opaque, also 95,000 people were evacuated from Eastern China because of flash floods same day as the opening…and I’m not even a political person really, so Tiananmen square is always dedicated in my mind to those students.

Stick a pin.

For me it was the East showing the West what the marriage of technology, art and people can do. A show of power but one far more sophisticated than the nationalistic military parades normally on offer. With this synthesis of China’s penchant for the military, their mastery of technology and ancient flair for the artistic the mightiest nation of the east was signaling that it has reached; it has arrived. China has dramatically proven its prowess, displaying complete mastery over the universe on the very terms that capitalism uses to assess success.

At the same time the spectacular display was premised on teamwork, on large numbers of people working together, not on individual idiosyncracy so highly prized in the West. There were of course cameo concessions to the valued place of the modern individual for instance when two singers stood on top of a globe, looking like for all the world like one of those plastic couples used to decorate wedding cakes; dressed in Western clothes they theatrically lip-synched the haunting theme song You and Me, ingeniously combining Western pop and Chinese song (someone I read somewhere dismissed this as kitschy tripe).

Is this the same China that impassively stood by and allowed Tiananman Square to happen? I’m not sure but this Olympics also signals China’s opening up to the values of the West, including the notion of individual human rights I would imagine. Yet in this opening ceremony it was showing the splendour and vastness of imagination its people are capable of; the achievements of its civilization from the invention of paper and gunpowder to outer space exploration; its ability to command the heights of tradition as well as the most contemporary technology. There was something extraordinary in that display ( It’s cyberfeudalism growled Melinda Brown as we watched thousands of elegantly begowned, bewigged Mandarins juggling neon laserbeams).

Having so memorably flexed its creative muscles will China now be more willing to negotiate with the rest of the world? Will it feel more gracious toward the demands made on it by Tibet- and Darfur-watchers? We’ll find out in the sweet by and by, won’t we?

Meanwhile back home the excitement is building as Jamaica’s cassava-fed athletes get ready to hit their stride when the Olympic Track and Field events kick off tomorrow. Will Asafa finally deliver? Or will there be a repeat of the World Championships some years back when both Asafa and Usain Bolt were pipped by Tyson Gay; the best excuse I heard after that debacle was a radio announcer claiming that this was because “Jamaican men nah like Gay running after dem so dem just a let him pass”.

Some of the funniest commentary on the impending Olympic events is to be heard on my all-time favourite radio programme, Left, Right and Centre (LRC), part of the Nationwide Radio network here (Digital AM 770). For weeks now they’ve been carrying spoof ads on The Farcical News Network for products such as ‘ANDRALONE’. Here’s an example–

Intro: Bob Marley’s song “You’re running and you’re running and you’re running away…” Music fades.

Brooks: “Are you coming last in every race you run? Do you have dreams of placing 6th or 7th but can’t afford the high end drugs your friends are using? Well boost your performance with ANDRALONE, the fast-acting, low-end, generic drug designed especially for athletes who can’t seem to dig themselves out of obscurity. Build those muscles! Grow that chest hair! Get out of the blocks faster than you ever have before with ANDRALONE!

Last night the show lampooned Jamaican athletes in Beijing, imagining them upsetting Olympic Village officials by nonchalantly (Ja-style) calling all of them Mr. Chin. Missa Chin beg yu two slice a bread! Missa Chin which part di pattyshop deh? I tell you the hosts of LRC, Messrs Dennis Brooks and Damion Blake, rank right up there with Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert. Unfortunately Damion is leaving to do his PhD at Virginia Tech; he’ll be badly missed . Virginia’s gain, Ja’s loss.

Well, it’s been an intense few weeks for me lurching from deadline to deadline and trying to find a moment in between to blog when not being terrorized by my good friend Peter Dean Rickards. PD has been assaulting me at regular intervals with outtakes from his maiden music video, The System, featuring an amazing new female singer called Terry Lyn. I’m still traumatized by the first cut (trust me this is the most appropriate metaphor to use here) he sent me which involved a gory sequence of a pig being slaughtered to an unbearably cheery rendition of Fire of Eternal Glory (in her song, The System, Terry Lyn rhymes Waterhouse with Slaughterhouse).

“But I identify with the pig!” I squealed via sms.

“Pig nah die in vain! Him get videolight!” PD texted back callously.

Obviously all of this is a little premature considering that what PD refers to as the Pig Opera has yet to be released. But when it is trust me it’s going to create a sensation. Remember you heard o’ it here first!

Jamaica’s most successful products: Athletes and music. Both occupied the mainstream media in New York this past week first with Baz Dreisinger’s thought-provoking article in the Village Voice How Jamaica’s Volatile Dancehall Scene Can Avoid a Biggie vs. Tupac Tragedy; featured in this sharp critique which should be required reading for all the pontificating pundits in Jamaica who love to chant down dancehall is an in-depth profile of and interview with top DJ Mavado. With epigrammatic precision Mavado sums up the situation: “They are trying to blame a problem that they put we in on us. They are turning dancehall into a scapegoat.”

And weighing in on Jamaica’s runners, in the Wall Street Journal no less, was Colin Channer with the memorable line “Jamaica’s love of speed seems at odds with its hard-nosed commitment to nonchalance”: See ‘Cool Runnings’ Are Heating Up.

Meanwhile fingers crossed that both Asafa and Bolt prove on the global stage once and for all that they ARE, like the Chinese, masters of the universe.

%d bloggers like this: