Thicker skin required

| 21/12/2010

Now that we know that Brent Fuller won’t be getting any porridge with his Christmas Turkey this year, it’s perhaps an appropriate time to tell our local politicians that they need to stop being so sensitive when it comes to the press. For people who have chosen the most high profile profession outside premiership football and the movie industry, we in Cayman really do seem to have a bunch of sissies sitting in the LA.

During this latest debacle the foolishness of the attack on Fuller in the Legislative Assembly was compounded by the hours and hours of handwringing and ridiculous lamenting that day of the evils of the press.

They banged on (when they should have been passing and amending important legislation to get the country’s economy back on track) about how we never write the good news, how we twist their words and misquote them and paint them in a terrible light (when, of course, they perceive themselves as paragons of virtue), how the press and these upstart journalists who come from who knows where show no respect, call them by their actual names, and fail to bow and scrape anywhere near enough.

Some managed to recall every slight or misrepresentation in the kind of detailed fashion one would normally only expect from a premiership footballer or a Hollywood starlet.

In a democratic country where the press is genuinely free it is not there to big up politicians and sell their policies for them. Politicians are supposed to implement policies and do things that impact people’s lives for the better and sell their policies through positive action. The voting public is not stupid; even if we chose to write those favourable headlines that politicians dream of, if the people are not feeling it they will not be fooled by propaganda. The press, by and large, reflects the mood of the people.

Politicians in a democracy have to earn the support of voters through good policies that work. However, even when they do they will not be supported by everyone and the job of a good politician is to persuade the greatest number of people that their policies are the best. They are supposed to believe in their policies and stand by them, so when they are criticised in the press, instead of hitting out at the journalists they should be defending their policy decisions or the comments they have made about them with gusto and determination.

We in the press are supposed to record those policy positions and draw attention to the criticisms of, or alternatives to, those policies. We are not here to assist any government – UDP, PPM or any other that may emerge in the future.

Politicians are supposed to be criticised and questioned, but they in turn are supposed to be tough enough to defend what they do and stand by their convictions. After all, they have chosen a profession in which they set themselves up for a fair amount of public attention.

Our elected representatives ask us to vote for them because they tell us they are smart enough to know what’s best for us all. Every time they go to the polls they tell us that they know what’s going wrong and how to put it right. For better or for worse, those who choose politics do so because they think they can do a better job than the ones that came before them, that they can take charge of the situation and lead the country to success.

One would imagine that it takes a certain amount of chutzpah, brazen nerve, guts, presumption and, lets face it, a little bit of arrogance to say to your fellow countrymen “Hey, vote for me! I’ll sort it.” Surely then, one would imagine these guys and Julianna (Oops! Sorry, the honourable deputy premier and minster for a lot of stuff …) would have a thicker skin.

This berating of the press and constant criticisms of the messenger isgetting to be a little tiresome. We are doing our job and they are doing theirs, for better or for worse, and we are all at the mercy of the people. If we as journalists are rubbish, people stop reading us and we get sacked. If politicians are rubbish, they don’t get voted in again. Simple really.

In tough economic times the politicians need to stop worrying about the headlines and focus on policies. The modern press provides a forum for the politicians to deliver their message, as well as a forum for the public to tell them what they think back, and the smarter politicians know it and use it wisely.

The concept of a real free press in the Cayman Islands is still relatively young and most journalists here are very gentle on the politicians by comparison to the press corps in the United States and the UK. Despite the relatively new phenomenon of bloggers, which may be taking a little more getting used to, the politicians really need to stop fretting about the criticisms, the headlines or the angle on a story and worry more about the economy, crime and jobs.

Getting people back to work and making them feel safe is what will get politicians re-elected, not favourable headlines.

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Category: Viewpoint

Comments (29)

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  1. Michel Lemay says:

    All I can say Wendy your choice of words were well said.If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen my mother in law used to say. We the people have a right to good reporting such as Mr. Fuller from the Caymanian Compass and thank you very much CNS for letting us express our opinions even though at times it gets a little out of context. Those legislators need to understand that they work fo us and not the other way around and Madame speaker is a result of that; nothing more and nothing less.

  2. Anonymous says:

     Let’s be clear: freedom of information means that the press publishes only what THEY want you to know.

  3. nauticalone says:

    Well said Wendy!

    Hopefully our Politicians will read and pay attention. But unfortunately most will likely not have the humility to take a reflective look in the mirror and see that ALL humans are sometimes wrong!

    Respect for our institutions are decreasing because the institutions are failing….like Pensions taken and not paid, insurance companies

    Esteemed Politicians, please get on with the real and pressing concerns of our Islands!

     

  4. Real World says:

    It’s quite clear the Premier pays lip service to the  "new era of open government" spoken of in his inaugural address.  Clearly, transparency is a concept the government cannot abide.  Why?  Because the Premier hates the media’s exposure his often fool fool public statements and the scrutiny of the UDP’s failing economic, poltical, and social polices.

    The Premier must try to appreciate that what he reads in the media is most often a true reflection ofthe public’s opinion of his words, actions, and deeds.  If he doesn’t like what he sees in the media mirror, he should take a dose of humility and begin to change his "appearance." 

    The Premier seems to forget he’s a public servant.  He certainly doesn’t seems to understand that those he serves are a sophisticated, educated, and tough bunch; not prone to being bamboozled by soundbites or willing to be bullied.  Those days are well and truely over.

    Mr. Bush must wake up to the fact that his old-fashioned, autocratic, totalitarian, "Stalinist"  approach to leadership is not fit for Cayman in the 21st century; otherwise this is likely to be his last term in office.

    • Anonymous says:

      Congratulations Real World, you said it like it is and needed to be said.

  5. Shock and Awe says:

    I honestly don’t think many MLA’s were as offended as they appeared to be.  What I do think is that they took the opportunity to ‘appear’ offended and outraged to give them a chance to look busy and engaged. In most cases they would be asleep, or cleaning their nails but they finally got hold of a topic they could get excited about.  But was it the economy, unemployment, crime, government over-spending, or missing accounting?  All serious issues needing immediate attention.  No it was a lone reporter that got everyone on their feet.

    But I am still convinced more than half of it was for done for our benefit, because as in politics everywhere -appearances are everything.

    • Lachlan MacTavish says:

       Shock and Awe…..don’t believe that. The MLA’s are not as shallow as you portray. They are street wise but are lost in this current situation. They wasted a whole day talking about cr-p. Silly, we need leaders.

       

       

  6. Anonymous says:

    Well said Wendy.

    How can people who choose to enter public life not be expected to be under constant scrutiny, unless they of course have unrealistic/irrational expectations?

    Too many of them believe they are our lords and masters when they become elected. It is even worse when some of them become Ministers and they cannot handle the power, as some have never clearly handled any level of executive responsibility before. Some are indeed threatening to staff, and destroy the civil service morale, making them seem like tyrants.

    Public life is all about criticism, so if one has’nt developed the ability to handle criticism then being a politician is not for you. We clearly need more professional and responsible politicians as we only seem to be getting the unemployables in politics. These people are giving politics a bad name and are discouraging younger hopefuls.

  7. pmilburn says:

    Nice wendy.Sissies is too nice for most of that bunch.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Well said Wendy – although I wish Mac hadn’t started calling us all bloggers because I for one, ain’t making no diary entries here – I am a commenter commenting on current affairs.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Well written and to the point.

  10. The Crown says:

    For real.. That goes without saying when your dealing with people who are not ever mindful of staying in power at all cost,with NO indicated bounderies as to what their subject’s rights are & how carefully it can be crafted to force careless ideas on those subject’s. Here we have a government who can decide whether a referrendum is affordable or not. This is complete “highhanded “lunacy in what we herald as a “Democracy”. & then on a whim they will throw 100 million on a airport upgrade. With these kind of details we are confident that the prolonged delay of the Bill of Rights & it’s set to take effect date(lol),to the observer,would certainly be foolish & incredibly in-experiened to think such structuring is only external.

  11. anonymous says:

    Slippery slope Wendy, slippery slope. Politicians can and should be criticized but not our institutions. Cayman being so small these two are not distinguished but should be.

    However, I agree with you the should have been passing such laws as the East End Port Law, the North Sound dredging law, the Shetty hospital required laws, the Cruise Port agreement and such. Truly wasted time on Brent Fuller when they could be moving things ahead.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why can’t we criticise the institutions? If they fail to keep in check the politicians, I believe they deserve criticism as well. When a politician circumvents the system for their gain, I would say the politician should take the brunt of the criticism, but unless they are punished for their transgression(s), then the system has failed and deserved to be critiqued/criticised as well.

      While democratic insitutions here are great to have, by no means should we ever assume them above reproach or refinement.

    • Lachlan MacTavish says:

      13:22

       

      I disagree. We had statesmen and leaders with Captain Charles, Mr. Craddock, Miss Annie, Captain Benson. In those days politicians had made their lot in life and were not looking at being an MLA as a profession. Mr. Bush and a couple of others have changed our political system. Our institutions have already lost and are rapidly loosing credibility due to the leadership and direction our country has received under Mr. Bush. Crime, no accounts, bloated CIG payroll etc etc etc. 13:22, I will respect our leaders and institutions when they have earned my respect. 

    • Anonymous says:

      You have it all wrong my friend – it is the MLA and Madame Speaker that put us on the slippery slope of suppression of thought, suppression of the press, suppression of free speech.

      CNS just turned on the light so that we can see how dangerous the LA has become.  CNS did not make the scene it was the LA members.

      We do not like what we see.

  12. Anonymous says:

    imo the press are way too gentle on the gov.

    CNS has gone along way to change that and I know they will keep up their justified criticisms….

    however i think what happened to mr fuller will have the effect of muzzling the other jounalists on island….i hope i’m wrong

    i wish our governor would stand up for something….he appears to blind, deaf and dumb

    • Mike Hennessy says:

      I don’t think we need to worry about journalists being intimidated by this incident.  There’s obviously nothing to gain for anyone who might be inclined to suck up to the government unless they simply want to sell out completely and become a house organ for the government.  Might as well hung for lion as a sheep.

       
  13. Anonymous says:

    As a British territory, I would have thought that Wendy’s reference to premiership football rather than the NFL was entirely appropriate albeit that those who play "football" with their hands in North America are their equal in the prima donna stakes…. 

  14. Mad Shad says:

    "Sissies".. haha… Good one.

  15. JTB says:

    The person with the iggest question left to answer in this affair is Speaker Mary Lawrence. According to the Compass’ report:

    She said reporting on the Legislative Assembly is a “privilege, not a right… It is a privilege that is awarded by my office and which can be revoked by my office”.

    That statement is not compatible with the office that Mary Lawrence holds. It demonstrates a complete failure to understand theprinciples of parliamnetary democracy and the necessity of a free press to hold the government to account. Frankly, the Speaker’s words are more evocative of Stalinist Russia than latter day Cayman. She should withdraw them or resign.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am actually quite surprised that the Compass did not remind her of the words she spoke on the day she took office.

      New House Speaker Mary Lawrence has urged the public to reclaim ‘their parliament’ by flocking to the Legislative Assembly to keep check of what is happening in government…..

      ‘It behoves us all to be aware that powers granted to the membership are granted by the people with the view that this assembly will serve them,’ she said.

      http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2009/06/01/People-urged-to-reclaim-LA/

      • Anonymous says:

        Madame Speaker is a wannabe politician XXXXXX. 

        As soon as good governance checks and balances begin to work politicians and now Madame Speaker want to shut them down!

        "Stand up for your rights" change the law to make the press access to the LA a right, we can no longer leave it up to government to make the decision because Brent was correct we do not trust the LA, politicians nor the LA Speaker.

    • Anonymous says:

      cayman politicians and civil servants don’t do resignations!….unfortunatly

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wendy I agree with you in everything except one thing:

    We are in Cayman, so it’s NFL footballers, not Premiership footballers!

     

    Who cares about the Premiership !?!

    • Anonymous says:

      Wendy one thing I would ask you to do is actually ask for comments from ALL THE POLITICIANS you talk about in the article. Maybe then the articles wouldn’t seem so one-sided. And maybe then the politicians could defend their comments because they will be read by everyone.

      CNS Note: Just to clarify the Viewpoint section is CNS’s opinion column thats why the articles express a specific opinion or point of view, hence the title! Clever eh? Anyway it is not customary for the author of an opinion piece to solicit the opinions of other people for their own opinion piece as that would then be a feature article or news report. Hope that helps.

    • Anonymous says:

      We are a British territory my friend so it is still football.

      How can a game that mostly relies on the hand be termed football?

      • Anonymous says:

        How can players who use only half their bodies 99 percent of the time be called athletes?

  17. Anonymous says:

    Any smart politician would have left this sleeping dog lie.