To the Editor, Sir

Commenter “Verle” on a recent post inquired what I thought of Mike Henry’s  letter to the editor at the Observer published on Friday.

Letters to the Editor (LTEs) especially rub me the wrong way as I know for a fact that the Jamaica Gleaner, and would hypothesize that the Jamaica Observer, do not print coherently written LTE’s by unconnected and non-privileged Jamaicans who write to them. The heavy-handed editorial control of LTE’s mean the only ones that get printed tow the editorial line or makes weak arguments against the editorial line that in the end strengthens their position. Here is my LTE which the Gleaner didn’t publish a while back. I want to publicly thank them now as that refusal was a milestone in my decision to create this blog.  Overall though I find the failure to adopt comments (even comments moderated for profanity, vulgarity, and libel) is outdated. Mike Henry’s letter in particular runs the risk of making him appear thin-skinned. He used a lot of words to ‘correct a misconception’ where a few words would easily have done the trick. He also includes a veiled threat to sue – yet another reason why Jamaicans must call for the reform of our libel and defamation laws if he actually has a case.

However, the most disturbing feature of the cartoon and something which I am getting legal advice on, was the association of me, an individual who has always maintained almost reverence for the dignity of women, with the vulgar display of the cartoon, depicting a kick being administered to the heart of womanhood, something I would never do…

Source: Jamaica Observer

One last thing (and I would be interested in hearing from women on this; ) the Mike Henry LTE has a line “with the vulgar display of the cartoon, depicting a kick being administered to the heart of womanhood” because Clovis included a caricature of him kicking a woman in the rear. Is a woman’s ass really “the heart of womanhood”? Isn’t that statement offensive in and of itself? Is it a statement in keeping with the almost reverence he has for the dignity of women?

Wha dem say a yard: Cock mouth kill cock. (no pun intended.)

PS: I find it almost futile to have a conversation about an image without the availability of the actual image, but since the Jamaica Observer doesn’t make an archive available to readers and doesn’t use searchable tags so an advanced search yields results, I cannot make the image available in this case.

Update: Mike Henry’s LTE references Sunday June 15, 2008 as the date of publication, but the cartoon to which his letter refers is not the cartoon published that day.

Please see link: Sunday June 15, 2008 Cartoon

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9 thoughts on “To the Editor, Sir

  1. Concerning the question or issue of Letters to the Editor (LTE), I can categorically state that on numerous occassions in the past, I have submitted LTE on sundry issues regarding Jamaica and the wider Caribbean to the Gleaner and to a lesser extent the Observer, and I have never been fortunate to have one of my letters published in either dailies.Interestingly,submitting LTE to either dailies was in essence an exercise in futility and aimlessness. Ergo, I have stopped submitting LTE and have decided to utilize the internet by accessing various blogs addressing and discussing issues that/which are of concern to me. In this regard my perspectives and sentiments— for whatever they are worth—can be ventilated, and hopefully, be read ,or consumed by a diverse group of individuals, including those Jamaicans who are ardent visitors to the internet both within Jamaica and the diaspora. Admittedly,one is not connected politically,socially,genetically, or otherwise to the movers and shakers of Jamaican society,but instead a member of the hoi polloi. Also, in many instances one’s views, thoughts, or philosophical orientation on given issues do not or may not necessairly conform to the prevailing views of the Fourth Estate and the general society. Consequently,one is of the perspective that the aforementioned may be the reason(s) why no LTE of mine has ever been published by either dailies, although the necessary requirements and specifications with respect to policies for submission were generally met.Therefore,I concur that the vetting of LTE may be a heavy handed form of exercise and control.RESPECT!!

  2. I’ve made a conscious decision to avoid agonizing over the caricatured characters in the cartoons, and leave the anger to the Muslim fundamentalists and their usual reactions to depictions of their prophet.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with your position on the LTE. I read the LTE section everyday just to find the one that is not full of self-righteous quaffle (I dont even know if that’s word, but I hope it means what i intend) or preaching about the divine rightness of the status quo. I also fire them off regularly, and, having had 1 or 2 letters published – under all kind of pseudonyms (part of the game I play…) I do agonize over why they were selected. In the end, I think it was pure luck, and because the ideas I present are imagined as so far out of bounds that my letter is supposed to serve as the laughing stock counterpart to all the other “commonsense” ones.

    Mike Henry needs to get a clue, in more way than one. I don’t know who he was trying to impress with that letter, but it failed on most criteria, the most important of which is to communicate a point. And, after all these years, he apparently doesn’t know where “the heart of womanhood” is located, or that it might be capable of more than farting, defecating and cushioning a fall.

  4. If I had the money and talent I would create my own Jamaican version of South Park and offend the hell out of everybody. Everyone is so politically correct and have this American style fake outrage. We spend so much time criticizing and being offended that all of the big problems remain while we get grieve over bullshit.

    We are all so thin shinned and ready to “get advise from lawyers” . I couldn’t agree with kadene more that we should “leave the anger to the Muslim fundamentalists ” who get upset because of cartoon. Anyone in public office should expect a target sign on their back and head. Every word and action scrutinized. The job is a sacrifice. To be honest I like Mike Henry, I honestly think he is trying to do a good job, many will dispute that.

    To ESTEBAN, I am sorry they didn’t publish your letter. In a few years the big newspapers will be following the blogs/internet for news. I always wonder though what exactly is the “fourth estate” you talk about.

  5. @ Dutty Bwoy:
    Jamaica is prime for a South Park series making fun of all people. But they’d probably get sued for slander and defamation – can you imagine a “Get out of the closet Tom Cruise” rift on a public figure in Jamaica? That’s one of the reasons I blog here, too much ghost and phantom a Jamaica. I like Mike Henry among many other people in Jamaican politics, but the system they work in is sooooo corrupt that it is running Jamaica into the ground.

    @ Kadene:
    An illustrator brings something truly unique to a newspaper. One unique feature is that the illustrator is the only contributor whose work is published without modification/editing. Thus when a cartoon is published it is ALL the view of the illustrator. The illustrator started with a blank page and should be presumed to intend every element of their work to communicate something – who am I to ignore that communication? For example Clovis often includes an orange tint/patina associated with the object of ridicule in his works – this is a political message that shouldn’t pass without comment. I don’t support the violence of fundamentalists, yet in a small media landscape like Jamaica we give so much power to each newspaper columnist and reporter to shape the essence of our very democracy. We must hold them accountable for their use of that power. The silence of the Jamaican media, the many things they choose not to say, has made them complicit in every act of public graft and political violence taking place in Jamaica today. The creativity and intelligence of the Jamaican people are such that but for the public graft and political murders we would be an entirely better country in an immeasurable number of ways.

    So I don’t think people should ‘agonize’ over cartoons but they should certainly ‘analyze’ the messages deliberately encoded therein. When Clovis typecasts African features as belonging to apes and gorillas there is a correlation to one of the many young men with a broad nose and dark skin getting nicknamed “patoo” or “king kong.” Then there is a causal relationship to him bleaching his skin later on and dismissing dark skin women in search of validation from a browning. In order to avoid agonizing over the epidemic of self-hatred present in Jamaica tomorrow, I think we must analyze the messages that perpetuate that self-hate today. Some of those messages are in cartoons. Acorns become oaks.

  6. thank you thank you thank you diatribalist for initiating this kind of discussion. i’m not aware of the cartoon in question and i personally have had almost all my lte published both under strategic pseudonyms and under my own name but what is clear is that the papers publish lte when it suits them. so for instance something i sent today might only appear weeks from now when circumstances conspire to make the letter advantageous to the paper in question, in line with their particular biases etc etc….

    mike henry?? i like him, he’s the only one of the cabinet i know personally, problematic, hell yes, like any of us but look at what he’s done in the area of publishing for instance…

    anyway, that’s all for now folks…

  7. Dutty Bwoy,when I use the expression Fourth Estate, I am basically referring to the journalistic profession or its members, the press. . .The expression in essence is a nineteenth century reference to the power of the media to shape society.For brevity sake, the respective estates in essence, were those of the Kings, Lords, Commons constituting the first three estates and writers/journalist constituting the fourth, based on their influence in society.If you are interested in exploring or pursuing this in greater details, WIKIPEDIA provides an excellent treatment of the evolution of the four estates and the role of Thomas Carlyle in its development and evolution of the Fourth Estate.Respect star!!

  8. I asked a playwright the other day about the status of political theatre in Jamaica, and he looked at me like I had grown an extra head. The notion that we can, and should, readily treat politicians as fodder for comedy, theatre, etc. with the intention of making them more accountable was like blasphemy. Yuh cya’an do dem kin’ a ting deh. Yuh mussi mad! That was the response. I believe – with no evidence just a strong strong intuition – that our media did not emerge out of the kind of democratic impulse we imagine exists elsewhere, or ever had any real commitment to sustaining such a political space. In fact, I don’t think there has ever been any sensible discussion in Ja. about the roles that media SHOULD play in the context of all these social changes. Nor are citizens aware of the responsibilities that we have in holding the media accountable. I maintain that we are still crawling towards a democratic society; we have a long, long way to go. We might want to put our heads together to figure out the best way to get that conversation going.

  9. BTW, why are Clovis and Las May the only political cartoonists around? Why have we allowed them to monopolize the arena of political satire? Why have we not cultivated more folks with talents for cartooning etc.? Why aren’t there more outlets for such critique? The notion that is only one smaddy can do any one thing, is part of our problem. We really do prefer oligarchies and dictatorships, although we give such lip service to democracy…me done now.

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