Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
Political campaigns are an exercise in marketing. The incumbent party tries to convince voters that it has done a good job in office meriting a second term. The Opposition does the opposite. It explains why marketing companies get hired and paid big bucks in election years to shape and manage the message and its communication.
The 2020 campaign is in full swing, making the media even more important and why it finds itself in Dr Rowley’s line of fire. There are few accomplishments and the economy is in its fifth year of decline with at least three more to follow. Apart from the management of COVID-19, all the game changers were stillborn or discredited. Perhaps the ferries may yet save a seat in Tobago. Given the paucity of success, attacking the media is a good distraction. Rubbishing the media is a useful way of damaging its credibility and limiting its capacity to ask inconvenient questions.
Trump’s success in the 2016 campaign is a good example. By talking incessantly about political correctness, Trump established the myth that he had dishonest and powerful enemies who wanted to prevent him from addressing the difficult challenges facing the nation. By claiming that he was being silenced, he created a drama in which he played the hero. By portraying himself as both persecuted and heroic, he created an emotional appeal. It allowed people who were struggling economically or angry about the way society was changing to see themselves in him, battling against a rigged system that made them feel powerless and devalued.
Mark Landau, a psychology professor at the University of Kansas, argues that people have a basic need for coherence, for things to make sense. Enemies provide people with this sense of coherence. If we can attribute many of the ills in our lives to our enemies, then we have a stable set of schemas and expectations. We know what to expect, even if something bad happens, and we know who to attribute it to. Hence the platform attack on the press, or the “one” per cent and other racial stereotypes.
Dr Rowley plays the victim well. He made Patrick Manning his “oppressor”, skilfully redirecting the taint of corruption to Manning and the PNM (“corruption in the PNM is ten times worse than under the UNC”). He did the same thing in the 2015 campaign against KPB and the UNC.
That is why he is deliberately provoking a war of words with the media obfuscating the issues, distracting from the current requests for information, portraying himself and his administration as victims of an unwarranted media attack. Did the media ever ask, or say, he stood to benefit personally in meeting with the Venezuelans? The media asked for clarity in the rationale for the meetings. That is what media is supposed to do: to inform, report, educate and analyse, and where they are gaps in a story, to get at the truth.
Media houses have always had owners even when they supported Rowley’s actions in opposition. What is their agenda and interest now? Why do they diverge from his? Dr Rowley is familiar with the law on defamation and has pinned the badge of integrity to his chest. He well knows that he must give the details as to what are these interests, who is furthering the agenda and to what effect and how are they at variance with the country’s interest. Surely, he understands the legal adage that he who alleges must prove? In the absence of proof and details, one cannot take his statement as having any weight, even if this is his habit.
What is Rowley’s agenda? Good governance? The interest of the people or holding on to power?
Despite his integrity badge, Dr Rowley unhesitatingly attacks everyone’s else reputation without evidence. Yet, as planning minister, he says he is not aware of every approval granted by the Planning Ministry? Or, as housing minister, he was unaware of the “administrative errors” which secured a lucrative planning contract for a hitherto unknown Chinese contractor? Or that some unknown “public servant” instructed to vote against Dominica’s request for a waiver at the OAS? Yet, he is sure that special interests are behind the negative press? Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.