We should have known that it would come to this. Love is a funny, fickle kind of thing. What started as an admiration of OBSERVER by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, quickly turned into an infatuation which blossomed into a crush. However, more recently, the prime minister’s affections have employed a darker tone. Like any jilted suitor who cannot get the attention they desire and cannot control the target of affection, their love sours. It is still love, deep down, but not if it has evolved into anger and manifests itself in harsh, hurtful words.
This is the only conclusion that we can come up with in light of the prime minister’s recent obsession with the OBSERVER Media Group. In the most recent stalking incident, Prime Minister Browne released a statement, in which he pulled another Donald Trump move and quadruple double-downed on his assertions that OBSERVER was the source of inaccuracies in the March 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, on Money Laundering and Financial Crimes published by the United States Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
As a loyal listener to OBSERVER Radio, the PM felt compelled to write in response to what he heard on The Big Issues. He launched his release, which was signed with “Much love and blessings”, by stating, “I stand by my statement that the US INCSR 2017 report is replete with inaccuracies and that it repeated a lot of OBSERVER Media Group propaganda.” A bold statement, except he gave no evidence and there is a fact that he refuses to acknowledge: we do not publish propaganda. We detest propaganda.
By definition, propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view”. Based on that definition alone, the prime minister should easily identify that Observer does not mingle in producing or distributing propaganda.
The PM’s release went on to criticise the INCSR report and its authors, which he has previously described as “low level officials”. As we read through the release, we failed to see any connection between the PM’s attack on OBSERVER and reality. Then the darkness crept in. The PM stated, “the OBSERVER Media Group published propaganda that US $500K was stolen from our CIP. It is an unfounded, fabricated allegation by a known fabricator of alternative facts. An individual whom the OMG lauded for his mischief and assassination of people’s character, and for denigrating the image of our country. OMG is routinely propagating opposition propaganda/nastiness that hurts our country’s image. Several of OMG programmes are rabid political programmes. Accordingly, they will be treated as rabid political opponents and UPP propagandists. The unfortunate result is that many of the regional and international reports on Antigua & Barbuda emanate from the OMG publications; those reports are repeated by the international community as factual.”
Let’s dissect that for a moment, shall we? Damani Tabor is the public relations officer (PRO) for the United Progressive Party (UPP) which currently forms Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. To insinuate that OBSERVER is part of and party to any UPP propaganda machinery, is utterly ridiculous. He was strongly challenged when he made the allegation; as we would do to any guest that shows up without evidence. Then there is this notion that we lauded Mr Tabor for his actions; that simply demonstrates a lack of understanding as to what a “Person of the Year” is all about. As to the comment that “OMG is routinely propagating opposition propaganda/nastiness that hurts our country’s image”? That is simply a transparent smear tactic that is debunked by our overt patriotism and love for country of which there is ample evidence.
Moving on to the notion that “Several of OMG programmes are rabid political programmes” is the clearest demonstration that the PM or his handlers are creating this anti-OBSERVER brouhaha solely for political reasons. As a loyal listener to OBSERVER, the PM would know that none of our programmes are rabid in any way. Anti-establishment, maybe but rabid, no. As we have done before, we challenge the PM to be specific. Do not hide behind generalities. Call names and provide evidence of this rabid political programming.
Aside from laying bare the fact that OBSERVER is a political target for merely reporting news and having opinions, the release cleared up the motive for all of this misinformation. The administration wants to label us as being politicians and so that they can treat us, not as media professionals, but political adversaries. This is truly a dark plan that we cannot take lightly.
As more of the pieces come together, the strategy is apparent. The PM has already branded us as a “threat to Antigua” and that will be used as part of his justification when he attempts to extinguish our light. He speaks of a “a duty to defend our country against all unjust attacks” and says, “As your prime minister, it is a duty that I take exceedingly seriously … I will always stand in defence of my country, against the aggression of the mighty, even in the face of harm and most vile characterisation. This is an unshakeable commitment to my nation and my dear people … I shall die fighting in defence of our nation.”
As we are not in any war, we are unsure why the rhetoric has reached the level of people pledging to “die in defence of our nation” but as we have said before, we welcome anyone who will stand in defence of this country and we will stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Regardless of the PM’s misguided impression of OBSERVER or his desire to see us become an historical footnote, he can be assured that we will stand with him in defence of this country. We suspect that any right-thinking Antiguan and Barbudan would do the same.