The Sly Perfidy of People Who Say They Care…

A look at the moral panic enveloping Jamaica in the wake of Brendan Bain’s dismissal as CHART head.

Clovis, Editorial cartoon, Jamaica Observer June 12, 2014
This editorial cartoon in the Jamaica Observer of June 12 featuring a schoolboy in a chastity belt responds to the alleged rape of a male jogger that was sensationally reported in a previous issue of the paper. Questions have been raised about the sketchy details available, suggesting the incident might have been staged to fuel the moral panic instigated by the evangelical right in Jamaican society.

Jamaica is in the throes of a full blown moral panic. Three times a week since mid-May demonstrators clad in black have been assembling in front of the University of the West Indies (UWI), praying and carrying placards urging passers-by to honk in support of their campaign. Some have even taped their mouths to signal that this is a freedom of speech issue.

If you guessed that the protest might have something to do with the serious ills threatening this Caribbean society—rampant criminality, paedophilia, human and narco-trafficking, extra-judicial killings by the police and a crippling national debt among others—you would be wrong. The protest is indirectly fuelled by fear that an international ‘gay lobby’ is gaining ground in Jamaica as manifested by the termination of contract of a former UWI Professor from his post as head of  the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network or CHART as it is popularly known.

According to the University of the West Indies, CHART CEO Brendan Bain had to be removed from his leadership position after the majority of stakeholders in that organization declared they had no confidence in Bain’s leadership anymore. What prompted the no confidence vote was testimony provided by Bain in a Belize court case, on behalf of a Church group that was arguing for the retention of that country’s buggery laws. This was felt to be in direct contradiction of CHART’s mandate to improve delivery of HIV treatment in the region by reducing the stigma attached to the disease. There is widespread medical consensus based on extensive research that stigmatization and intolerance of men who have sex with men (MSMs) have helped to intensify the spread of the disease as those afflicted with it are afraid to ask for medical help. The Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa which have the highest rates of HIV infection in the world are irrefutable proof of this.

Disregarding these facts Bain’s supporters have turned the situation into a circus about freedom of speech. Their contention? That Bain should have been free to give expert evidence based on his “research” and that by rescinding his contract the university had bowed to the dictates of an internationally constituted “gay agenda”.

Clovis, Jamaica Observer editorial cartoon, June 19, 2014. A depiction of the so-called 'hijacking' of morality by Jamaicans for Justice and their sex education curriculum for institutionalized children.
Clovis, Jamaica Observer editorial cartoon, June 19, 2014. A depiction of the so-called ‘hijacking’ of morality by Jamaicans for Justice and their sex education curriculum for institutionalized children.

Jamaica’s leading newspapers have provided daily fodder to support these protests in the form of provocative anti-gay cartoons, columns and articles. An atmosphere of near hysteria prevails with all the radio stations besieged by callers self-righteously denouncing the ‘gay agenda’ that is about to derail this virtuous, God-loving country. Virtually every day another scandal rocks the nation. A male jogger is raped by a gang of men! A few days later a 16-year old boy who tried to buy a tube of lipstick is nearly lynched by a mob and has to be rescued by the Police. Practically the next day Jamaicans for Justice, the local human rights group, is accused of attempting to “sexually groom” minors in the state’s care by providing them with special text books modified to include information on anal and oral sex.

JFJbackdoordeal.

Improbably a morning radio host on Newstalk 93 claims that the furore over sex education has NOTHING to do with homosexuality or gay rights and everything to do with the rights of poor, vulnerable children. Yet such concern for children’s rights and for the welfare of children in state homes is unprecedented. Was such a declaration made when the sexual violence that is the norm at these homes was exposed in the media a mere two months ago? Are these armchair moralists aware that the majority of children at these farcical ‘places of safety’ are routinely buggered and raped, often by adult staff members? Where was the disproportionate outrage now being displayed over the education of these children when the Jamaica Observer detailed the kind of sexual abuse young boys in one particular home were subject to?

According to a story by Karyl Walker in the Observer of April 9, 2014:

Horror stories of rape and sexual predation have long haunted children’s homes and one former student of the institution told the Observer that he had been raped by older boys many times during his stay there.

“The big boys rape the smaller boys, and when the smaller boys grow up they rape those who are weaker than them. It never stop,” the former ward said.

More recently, on June 9, 2014, Christopher Pryce wrote an anguished letter to the editor about what he called the ‘Boko Haramisation’ Of Jamaica’s children highlighting the alarming rate at which children are disappearing from their family homes.

Did crusading Christians undertake dramatic demonstrations against the government for its abject dereliction of duty in regulating children’s safety in these instances? Why not? Or does it reserve such protests for socially prominent members of high society who are removed from their cushy jobs?

If there is indeed such widespread concern over the education of children why don’t we express the same angst over the rape and buggery of their little bodies? The lessons in horror these children are taught, come not from any textbook smuggled into the curriculum by ‘the gay lobby’ but as a result of the vile predations of those entrusted with their care. Yet such flagrant violations earn no reaction– let alone action–from the innumerable Christian pulpits dotting this island or the churches braying so vigorously on behalf of Bain’s so-called rights.

Our Churches deal exclusively with the spirit such blatantly skewed reactions seem to say. We don’t care if your children are starving or being turned into sex slaves but rest assured we will police what their young minds and spirits are fed with the fervour of Ayatollahs. Your spiritual health is safe in our holy hands. For material well-being apply to your nearest Don and if necessary yield up your pubescent girl children. Remain confident that such children will go to their sexual slaughter with minds unsullied by the truth. Hallelujah! Pass the collection plate!

The Indiscreet Charm of Jamaican Media-cracy

Jamaican media trips over itself in its haste to curtail freedom of speech

 

Clovis Toon
Clovis, Jamaica Observer, July 27, 2013

 

In the last six months I’ve virtually stopped buying the newspapers completely, even the Sunday papers which was all I had been buying for some years now. Last Sunday I decided to buy the papers just to see if any of our esteemed columnists had mentioned the gruesome mob killing of Dwayne Jones which had occurred less than a week before.

Alas not a single one had commented on it nor did I find anything else pertaining to the cross dresser’s murder in any of the numerous sections which piled up on the floor as I went through them.

I did read something that gave me pause on the Gleaner’s editorial page. The editorial addressed Milton Samuda’s extremely strange behaviour in the wake of a press conference involving Olympians Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, and the recent controversy the two were embroiled in. Samuda, a lawyer, is the lead attorney for the two athletes whose ‘A samples’ had tested positive for banned substances.

In what has proven to be a clear case of wearing one hat too many, Mr. Samuda (also the chairman of Television Jamaica (TVJ) and board member of its parent company RJR—virtually the only journalists allowed at the press conference were from these two entities), first demanded that journalists stick to a pre-approved list of questions and when they departed from this, used his managerial clout to demand that the reporters surrender their recording devices to him. Perhaps cowed by his powerful position the journalists meekly handed over their devices. The next day the recordings were returned with the offending questions and answers edited out.

As the Gleaner editorial correctly pointed out “Mr. Samuda’s role as defence lawyer and a custodian of the media collided violently in this case.” He had flouted one of the fundamental rules of journalism–freedom of speech. The journalists concerned were also taken to task for spinelessly submitting to Samuda’s imperious demands.

I then moved on to the bottom two thirds of the editorial page which is devoted to a segment called Public Affairs. ‘Ineptocracy Squared’ blared the headline to an article by Gordon Robinson, who normally writes a regular column in the Gleaner’s In Focus section. The opening of the article informed me that this was a thing of the past.

“People ask me why I no longer write for The Gleaner,” began Robinson, going on to explain the convoluted circumstances which led to his resignation as a Gleaner columnist:

Here’s how it happened. In a column headlined ‘Ineptocracy at the Racetrack’ published May 14, 2013, I took Andrew Azar to task for his silly and baseless comments made before a meeting intended, in my opinion, for Caymanas Track Limited’s (CTL) CEO and “stakeholders” to discuss and explain the board’s previously announced intention to cut purses.

… To my surprise, Andrew, absent when the board’s decision was announced, attended that meeting with “stakeholders” and made inflammatory statements, which could only have the effect of undermining the very board of which he was a member. In that context, as a result of that unexpected input, the meeting (and its purpose) was “crashed”. I pointed out why his public utterances were, in my opinion, inappropriate, inaccurate, reckless and improper. I tried to educate Andrew Azar on how to “separate his personal role from his role as CTL director”. I reminded that no company director is appointed to “serve” any interest but that of the company, and cited Section 174 of the Companies Act as authority for that trite law.

Well, to paraphrase the great Paul Keens-Douglas, who tell me say so? The Gleaner (not me) got a letter from a lawyer. Instead of finding the nearest trash receptacle, most serious newspapers’ preferred place to file lawyers’ letters, it took the letter seriously.

Without going into the ins and outs of this complicated case let me just say I found the irony of the situation quite funny. In the wake of Robinson’s criticisms Azar’s lawyers issued the Gleaner with a defamation claim. According to Robinson the Gleaner rushed to publish an apology  without so much as pausing to find out if there was any merit to the claim:

Nobody asked Mr Jobson [Azar’s lawyer] to specify which of my words were defamatory and what defamatory meanings were alleged. Nobody asked to see the alleged invitation. Nobody reminded Mr Franz Jobson that an opinion (that Azar, a public official politically appointed to a government-owned company, “crashed the meeting”) honestly held, based on uncontested published material wasn’t actionable no matter how stubbornly the columnist stuck to the opinion in the face of competing assertions. It never occurred to The Gleaner that it wasn’t in any way demeaning to Azar to allege that he “crashed” a meeting that, as board member, he was absolutely entitled to “crash”.

In a rush, like Beenie Man, The Gleaner‘s editor offered Azar an “apology”. For what? For quoting him accurately? For making a fair and unassailable critique of the nonsense he spouted? The Gleaner‘s editor published an “apology” that asserted the newspaper was “satisfied” Azar was invited to the meeting. Well, whoop-de-doo! Again, so what?

How on earth had Gordon managed to get the Gleaner to carry this Jeremiad detailing their own fecklessness right under an editorial in which they were chiding the board member of a rival entity, RJR’s Milton Samuda, for abusing his powers? The answer came towards the end of the article.

The Gleaner‘s unnecessary apology damaged my own reputation as a senior counsel and one of Jamaica’s foremost horse-racing experts,” said Robinson who no doubt slapped the newspaper with a defamation claim of his own. And trust me there is nothing that frightens a Jamaican media entity more than the threat of a libel or defamation suit. Merely mention the word ‘libel’ and the editors will be reduced to shivering, quivering wrecks willing to toss freedom of speech out the window along with the baby and its bathwater.

What can one do but laugh at this absurd state of affairs? The Gleaner takes to task the journalists who bowed to Samuda’s edict that they hand over their recordings but when it’s faced with a similar situation jumps with alacrity to offer an apology when none is required. Ay Sah! All I can do is shake my head at the farce that passes for journalism in this country and for the long-suffering, stellar journos who are stuck in this mess.