Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.
by Guy Hewitt
The week after my son’s 11+ (BSSE) examinations we took a father-son trip. Accepting that his best was good enough, we didn’t wait on results and journeyed to Washington DC based on our shared interest in democracy and politics.
While there, we visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which resonated both for the brutality of that atrocity, but also as I hoped that a similar display of the multigenerational holocaust of slavery would follow.
Thankfully, in 2016 the National Museum of African American History and Culture, of which I am a proud member, became a reality.
One of the interesting displays at the Holocaust Museum was on the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. Soon after his electoral victory, Adolf Hitler established the Ministry under the leadership of Joseph Goebbels with the task of the “national education of the German people.”
“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth,” is a law of propaganda attributed to Goebbels. Repetition makes information seem more true regardless of whether it is or not.
I share this not only as a historical anecdote but given the concerns raised with me by some media personnel of perceived hostility shown to them by Government. One of the key tasks of the Ministry of Propaganda was to control the media. Editors and journalists were expected to follow the mandates and instructions handed down by Goebbels. It is said that history is the unfortunate tale of different people making the same mistakes.
On 1 April 2021, a seeming innocuous memorandum was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Public Affairs and Information announcing the establishment of the Department of Public Affairs (DPA). The focus on this new Department is “direct engagement with the general public, community groups, the media and other audiences to ensure that Government’s aims, policies and activities are understood and to promote civic participation in national development.”
This might have a familiar ring to it. The Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) was established in 1958 as the “official communications arm of the Barbados Government” responsible for the “dissemination of public information to the various news media and the general public.” BGIS was designed as a response to the
“need to inform and educate the public regarding
government and its activities.”
The obvious overlap and duplication should not be lost on taxpayers but I expect there is a very different function. As Joseph Goebbels wrote, “propaganda is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.”
While civil servants recruited through a transparent process staff the BGIS, ‘former’ political operatives staff the DPA. This appears to be a propaganda unit.
Pat Parris, Director of Public Affairs, canvassed tirelessly for the BLP for years eventually becoming the executive assistant to the leader of the opposition and then a director in the PM’s office in May 2018.
Tyson Henry, Deputy Director, who formerly worked for Dominica PM Roosevelt Skerrit, is part of a Henry ‘dynasty’; brother of political strategist Hartley Henry and the uncle of ambassador-designate Hallam Henry.
Dalton Lovell, a senior officer, ran for the BLP in Christ Church East Central in 2013. Christal Austin, another senior officer, ran in St James South in 2018 for the UwPP and is rumoured to still be interested in representing that constituency.
While the DPA was formed on April 1 this is no April’s Fool joke. A member of the media recently opined on the enmity to any criticism of what she described as the ‘Mottley State’ by quoting The Fly, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
Although no address is given for the DPA, might it be fair to assume that the office is located on 111 Roebuck Street – Grantley Adams House?
Guy Hewitt is committed to Barbados. He resides