there’s one thing we have going right in abundance for us” I heard a
friend mutter as he fiddled with his car radio holding his dial here and
there for snippets of talk, pausing for a snatch of a song he liked,
raising his eyebrows to a hysterical campaign ad “is a free press”.
what he means. As tiny twin islands we may provide enough Banana Republic
fodder to our home grown Nobel Laureate Mr. Naipaul to build several
mansions for Mr. Biswas, as one half of the population, striking a
stagnant pose, in a stagnant but quivering ballet led by leaders who
either can’t make up their minds or don’t declare their accounts, does
a face off with the other, but by God we assert our right to speak our
hundreds of our people, the articulate, and inarticulate, politically
correct, and ignorant, informed and rumour mongers air their unedited,
uncensored mangle of opinions over some 20 frequencies.
sift out the hysteria, the warble garble, the hearsay, even the ignorance
then we would have a lopsided image of our country, a landscape with whole
pieces missing. As one famous historian once said what people think is
going on in a country is much more real than what is actually going on
because perception is all.
to this conclusion during a phone call from an avid female listener of
talk radio who needed to vent her opinions on what she’d heard that
morning. Her polemic started like this:
one station I heard the vitriol of someone calling themselves “the
Gladiator”. This persons verbiage was spewed out to a background of the
music from the Gladiator with all its connotations of providing
entertainment to the bloodthirsty, fighting in a lions den,.
“Gladiator”, she continued “whose pitch was that of an unbelievably
crazed evangelist, whose pauses were pierced with the sounds of sharpening
knives, was calling on “his people” to rid the country of “vomit”
a term he used to describe East Indians. He made menacing references to
‘blood on the streets,’ and disparaging remarks about an activist
against domestic violence. I was shocked.”
show had turned this listener garrulous.
on another station there were these two men, speaking indignantly of the
wrongs done to “their forefathers”, making loud protesting noises
against ‘the Gladiators racism while obviously representing their own
Tribe. Their talk was punctuated with highly inflammatory campaign ads
that play on people’s tribal instincts and attempt to frighten people
into voting for a particular party with dark warnings against “becoming
second class citizens.”
you think this tribal thing should be stopped?
speaking” I said “there are two schools of thought on sensitive and
potentially inflammatory issues like racism in the media. The one is, bury
it, so people are not aware of its extent or its existence, and are not
openly exposed to its influence. The other is, let the voices of the
people be heard so we can all have our ear to the ground, so we have a
true mirror image of the dangers in our society.”
radio listeners voice could have punctured my ear drum as she shrieked:
say censor this stuff because people are easily swayed by hype. Why
don’t you call the station managers to let them know what’s going
on” she asked unreasonably in a final burst of outrage before she rang
off. I called them.
Johnson the head of news and current affairs at power 102 home of “The
Gladiator” said given the choice between repressing tribal views and
airing them he would choose the latter.
prefer to have these views out in the open. it’s hypocritical to say we shouldn’t speak of race when it is reflected in
how people vote – besides, race only becomes an issue during elections.
The country has endured a lot of shocks recently and people need to vent
– which is actually safer because you see what’s going on. I have no
fear that the country will go up in flames because there are a couple of
extremists on radio. I know some people would rather not deal with it but
it is the reality”
Kiran Maharaj, General Manager 90.5 director CL Communications admitted
that her station has been accused of racism, she refutes it.
caters for an East Indian market and interactive programmes will reflect
the sentiments of the East Indian Community.”
added that although she is a “Trinidadian first and foremost”, 90.5
belongs to a communication group that includes 97 and Ebony 104 which
share a sales team. She says the group’s talk show hosts were
“constantly reminded that we don’t want name calling and foul
thought as she spoke of the Holocaust – of how an atrocity committed by
the Nazis cast a sinister pall over all of Europe because people knew what
was going on in gas chambers, they knew of mountains of corpses, but were
either too cowardly, too intimidated or too indifferent to speak up, to
protest. I thought too of the sheer power of radio – of the fine balance
between free speech and censorship, between incitement propaganda and a
reflection of our society and hoped fervently that we had enough checks
and balances in place, to prevent us from toppling off from our bridge of