Checks and balances

I logged on to the Jamaica Observer site today and saw this Clovis piece:

And I have only recently stopped laughing. This is Clovis in rare form, and the result is absolutely hysterical.  Similarly there was this piece below yesterday, regarding Robert Mugabe and the failure of the African Union to step up to the plate and demand free-and-fair elections in Zimbabwe. Note the ability to criticize Mugabe and the AU without resorting to racist-typecasting of Africans as apes. The other interesting thing to note about both these cartoons, is that Clovis is not attempting to deride an entire group in them, even if he still feels like partisan-bashing with ‘black man time.’

There are a couple of stories right now that are having a worldwide impact, that are simply impossible to imagine happening in Jamaica. The first is a story about Madonna, and the New York Yankees player Alex Rodriguez.  This is a story that broke out around the same time the Gleaner gossip column was publishing the blind item about a JLP politician who traveled to New York with a mistress.  There is a distinct difference in the willingness  of the Jamaican media to cover public figures critically.  Which is an odd position for a newspaper, or news broadcast, to find itself in. But it is not just an unwillingness to cover public figures critically that is lacking in Jamaican media, there is an unwillingness to cover other media houses critically — see how no-one in either the Gleaner or Observer raised any question about the depiction of Africans as apes.It is this lack of checks and balances that creates many of the problems that we’re experiencing in Jamaica.

The second story, which it is hard to imagine unfolding in Jamaica, involves Jesse Jackson and his whispered comments on FoxNews.

Without an agenda, I believe comments like this would never have been broadcast in Jamaica. For that matter, since this was released by FoxNews- I’m not sure it would have been published in America without that agenda. Similarly, the Jamaica Observer had a good editorial today about the lack of labor-intensive foreign investment in Jamaica. With one notable exception, it still didn’t note that the RIU hotels compete with Observer Chairman Butch Stewart’s hotels & resorts. And that omission makes all the difference; I still don’t understand the sloppy and shameful refusal of the Observer to making this disclosure, which would not detract from the “facts” they have laid out. Thankfully the Observer was able to contain its agenda to the opinion section and not masquerade their self-interests as news this time.

The third and final story that I have difficulty imagining being published or being true in Jamaica concerns Esmin Green.

To begin let me state my personal disappointment at the abhorrent absence of care meted out to this Jamaican woman. The inaction of the hospital staff was cruel and inhumane; I’m sad that she died, and shamed that it happened in New York, as this is my city.

Yet, let us look at the base facts behind this case as I have difficulty imagining this playing out the same way in Jamaica.

Undated photo of Esmin Green from NY Times

1) The chief executive, Mayor Bloomberg, of the government unit responsible for regulating the hospital spoke out against it.

2) The City of New York picked up the cost of her funeral. A real estate development firm, in a philanthropic act (and a tangential political objective), agreed to pick up the costs for her relatives to come from Jamaica.

3) There is a multi-million dollar civil suit filed by her survivors. This is in a city with a court system that is fast and relatively efficient. And if you watch the AP clip you see the hospital has already conceded some liability. I think this lawsuit will be successful or successfully settled for millions.

4) There are already specific reforms put in place to prevent a similar future occurence, as broadcast in the ABC News clip, and I am confident if these reforms are flouted there will be follow-up coverage in the media to point that out.

5) Half-a-dozen workers at Kings County have been fired or suspended, according to the ABC News clip, because a poor and poorly-connected Jamaican woman (who was mentally ill) died in their care. Who would have been held accountable in Jamaica? According to the NYTimes, three people lost their job and had to go explain to family and friends why; and three were suspended and are wondering how thin the ice will be when they return to work. I could be wrong but I don’t see that level of accountability happening in Jamaica, and it truly makes me sad to make that statement.

6) Finally there is a high likelihood of criminal prosecution in this case. Not just for the death of Esmin Green – though that security guard and others could possibly be targeted – but also due to an apparent cover-up attempt by staff at the hospital who wanted to make it appear she got treatment before she died. A whole bunch of people may be prosecuted for that crime now. And in America they tend to actually have trials following high fanfare perp-walks.

Anthony Johnson at Esmin Green funeral
Ambassador Anthony Johnson at Esmin Green's funeral

The Jamaican Ambassador to America, Anthony Johnson, was in attendance at her funeral. And I cannot source, but distinctly remember news that “Jamaican community leaders” pressured Mayor Bloomberg to pay for the funeral and to get the family here for the funeral. So in response to Ms. Gloudon’s column, the community was involved.

Regarding the media coverage of this item, would the Jamaican media have covered the story with this degree of emphasis, especially since she was “of unsound mind“? In the often cynical parlance of broadcasters, the existence of the video of her death made this a sexy story in America. And it is likely the video would have also made it an attractive story in Jamaica. But certain aspects of the coverage here are hard to imagine being replicated there. Like the fact that the NY Times covered her funeral. [Sign-up required to view link.]

I stay away from making comparisons between Jamaica and America as in many ways it will be an unflattering comparison and being the one making the comparison, I could be misinterpreted as Jamaica-bashing. People resent that kind of Jamaica-bashing, as do I. When I am with them and we pass a flooded intersection or patch of potholes, I still make fun of relatives who used to visit Jamaica and pretend America was perfect and such things as potholes were unimaginable. However, in the last week some of the coverage in Jamaica about this tragedy was a little one-sided, as if America not being perfect allowed us to take solace in the short-comings of the Jamaican health-care system. I think we should be very careful of that logic.

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7 thoughts on “Checks and balances

  1. Diatribalist — there are some reasonable comparisons to be drawn between what happens in Ja and US, not for the sake of bashing, as some of us want to claim, but to make some of our ridiculous practices apparent and visible. One of the more common approaches is to shut down any criticism of what happens in Jamaica by saying since it happen up so too, therefore, why are we thinking this is a problem? And yet, everyday we also see signs of our abiding inferiority complex with the attitude of “if them have it up so, we can have it too”. Claims about perfection are simply about distraction from the issue. You can reasonably compare the coverage of the treatment of the homeless persons in Montego Bay with this Esmin Green case; there is a similar case about a young man who presented at the St. Ann’s Bay hospital because of mental distress and ended up dead same way. The Esmin Green case unfolded the way it did because there are multiple interests involved, and all of them find some benefit in getting the story out. In Jamaica, the multiple interests conspire to keep the story from getting out. In either case, the ones working on the side of justice have their work cut out for them. What I want to know is: WHO is working on the side of justice in Jamaica? One thing we know, the media isn’t.

  2. I agree with you 100% with this part of your post “There is a distinct difference in the willingness of the Jamaican media to cover public figures critically.”

    It is very unsettling when they do this. They are afraid “fi talk di tings dem”. Sometimes when I read the paper it leave you wondering who, what and where. It’s like they are giving you a perpetual teaser. They never do follow up stories. They don’t want to step on anybody corn.

    It’s not just public figures that the Jamaican media shield. They also protect criminals, by blocking out their faces or filming their shoes or hands. I am personally very upset about this.

    I don’t know if they are afraid or being polite. Maybe they are afraid of liable lawsuits( which might mean the story is not as accurate as can be). I don’t know. I keep seeing all over the place that Jamaica and Trinidad ranks well for freedom of the press. They are not using the freedom here. They feed the public what they think we should know. Its “Prime Time News Lite” and the Jamaica Observer with artificial flavors”Even online news and entertainment sites are timid or polite although online they are a little more open. Jamaica is generally a closed society and it hurts us by ensuring things do not change for the better( status quo benefits, shield criminals in Gordon House and pon de corner.

    Regardless of what you want to say about the American main stream media, I have to give them credit for being able to cheer lead their government into a war, then question it and criticize it. Literally mold and pressure the presidential candidate/nominee into who he or she should be and stance on policy issues and blow up a simple gaffe into “breaking news” so that chatter heads can appear on TV.

    I think if the media ask the right questions often enough, many times over. Cover real stories, investigative journalism and expose night to day they have the power to change Jamaica.

    We all need to help break that silly paradigm.

  3. Clovis’ caricature of the politicians embracing the gangsters with an anxious public nervously looking on, is definitely apropos.The image strikingly delineates the inextricable and indelible bond/link between two supposedly disparate, or dissimilar groups, suffocating Jamaica in crime, the quasi-legitimization of corruption and of course astronomical high incidences of homicide.This warm embrace must be obliterated by civil society!!

  4. this happens all the time in jamaica,but we choose what we publish and until this changes we will never be any better

  5. I thought I was the only one who saw Clovis’s work as nothing but political pandering and Butch Stewart cheer leading.

    However, he took the lower road recently when he did a cartoon of the South African President being scolded by Botha as being incompetent.

    How Clovis can give credit to Botha for bringing prosperity to South Africa while belittling a the ANC is beyond me, considering the terms under which such prosperity occurred.

    Journalistic integrity is a lost art in Jamaica and is reflective of the wider society and how the powerless are dealt with. The poor knowing that society will not give them a fair shake resort to jungle justice which unfortunately we all pay for in the long run.

    All of us except newspaper owners that is.

  6. @ Judge Dawg:
    I’m in complete agreement with you, and would only add that if Botha brought prosperity to South Africa, a second question is prosperity for who?

    I have come to accept Clovis for who he is, he is hilarious and likes to push the envelope, both admirable qualities in a cartoonist. But I find Clovis “unconscious” as a black man. If I could, I’d record Mutha’s Cutting Edge and force Clovis to sit and listen to them for hours at a time – just for a start.

    Clovis also fails to appreciate the damage done to Jamaica by the partisanship which he routinely indulges himself in, and he fails to appreciate the damage done to the psyches of black people (like 90% of Jamaica’s population) by portrayals such as the one you describe. I’m all in favor of acknowledging painful realities, but that conversation should be an informed one.

    But to go further, we know that “he who pays the piper calls the tune” so Clovis’s uninformed assertions have recently been leading me to wonder “whey Bruce stand pon dem issue yah.”

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