After three years of being in the political trenches, I am now accustomed to an apparent politically partisan news media. During the brief election period, many voters claim to have never heard of Solutions Barbados, and were shocked to learn that we had been active for the past three years and had 28 candidates. They were even more surprised to learn that we had published our manifesto online when we formed, on 1 July 2015.
When we announced nine candidates, we were told that it was not newsworthy. When we announced 16, we were told that it was not newsworthy. When we had 20 and held a press conference, we were told that it was still not newsworthy, but we got a critical editorial and no mention of our candidates.
The news media’s attempts to keep Solutions Barbados out of the public’s view were very successful. When we were covered, it was normally very critical and condescending when contrasted with the fawning coverage given to others. While this was a challenge for us, none of that could be categorized as fake news.
There is currently an attempt to redefine us as being adversarial to the Prime Minister. We are supposed to play the role of a bitter loser, and being complimentary is not playing their game, so they have decided to play it for us.
This is unfortunate since I have consistently been complimentary towards the Prime Minister since our first meeting some two decades ago. During the election campaign, I was critical of her party’s unnecessary austerity policies, and their intent to surrender the people of Barbados to the IMF. Her economic advisors promised that the IMF was not a first option, but we were surrendered within their first week in government, and are now awaiting terms of this surrender.
Media organizations think that having a different economic solution is adversarial, but it is not. The media asked me to provide a response to the Prime Minister’s first budget. Our response was very complimentary to the Prime Minister, because once she has decided to pursue the unnecessary austerity path, then she is doing the best that anyone could have expected. However, the media had a story to tell and my complimentary response did not fit their narrative.
The first order of business was to remove every complimentary sentence that I made towards the Prime Minister’s efforts. However, the result was still a fair, non-partisan analysis. My main conclusion follows. “In the current economic circumstances, the Prime Minister must be congratulated for a responsible effort. It is not a sustainable solution, but it does carve out enough of a breathing space to enter binding negotiations with the IMF – which is their plan.”
Here is what was published.
“Phillips said the mini Budget was not a sustainable solution for the woes of the Barbados economy, nor did it ‘carve out enough of a breathing space to enter binding negotiations with the IMF.’”
This should qualify as an exemplar of media malpractice, and I cannot blame the Prime Minister if she thinks that we are trying to be adversarial. But she can rest assured that it is fake news.
The news media are also attempting to utterly confuse the public with a campaign that we are trying to “curry favour” with her. We are expected to be as rude to our Prime Minister as opposing politicians and political operatives tend to be. They are simply not accustomed to honest, non-partisan analysis, so they write their own fake narratives.
What is not fake news is the dangerous void that has now been created when a partisan media leaves the public with no voice to warn them of what is to come, and no advice to properly prepare themselves. That is an intolerable position for the citizens of any country to be in.
I have tolerated the media’s partisan behaviour for the past three years and have done my best to encourage them not to compromise their integrity, but to no avail. With the evident plan to keep Solutions Barbados suppressed once again until the next general election is called, they have gravely miscalculated.
With only one life to live, I decided over 40 years ago to try to do my best regardless of the consequences. If I am to be criticized, then let it be for doing what is right, not what is wrong. A responsible solution to a corrupt political system was to start a political party to give the people a competent alternative. That I have done. With a politically compromised media, the solution is similar.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at [email protected]