EDITORIAL: Nastiness for politics sake

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If an alien landed from outer space and wanted a taste of our 2018 election campaign, we would need only play for him or her (if aliens have genders), a recording of a recent radio programme featuring the political leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Senator Harold Lovell, the UPP candidate for St. John’s City West and member of parliament, Wilmoth Daniel, and leader of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP), Prime Minister Gaston Browne.  
To say that the interview was nothing more than a testosterone-filled shouting match would be considered an understatement. The host(s) lost complete control of the interview and it dismantled into a name-calling, allegation-slinging, chest-pumping demonstration of male aggression that produced one clear group of losers … the listeners; and by extension, the voters and the public in general.  What could have been a great opportunity for the politicians to educate the public on their plans for the country, along with their policies and philosophies devolved into a childish shouting match between three senior politicians. 
At no time did any of the politicians debate their political opponent on the burning issues facing our country.  There was no talk of crime or the decline of the Citizenship by Investment Programme; no talk of health services or roads; no talk of tourism or investment.  And definitely no talk about the rising cost of living and plans for tackling unemployment. There was, however, talk about which politician received government land and profited from resale. And there was talk about who ‘more tief’ than who.  Apparently, whoever didn’t commit fraud was an accomplice to fraud. In the end, the interview-turned-argument was as useless as a wooden frying pan; from a voter’s perspective.  
This is what our politics has come to. Politicians, who couldn’t care less about the voters’ desire to be informed and are more concerned about who can trash-talk the best. Our election campaigns do not highlight issues and address concerns, they are now designed to elicit the most base response from party supporters. Who does this benefit? Certainly not the public. And certainly not our nation’s reputation.  We can only imagine the shock and disbelief of people observing from outside, or getting the online snippets of our election rhetoric. Actually, we do not need to imagine, we are queried about it constantly. 
This is not even the worst of it. Visit a public gathering and you will be witness to some of the most vile, and definitely uncalled-for rhetoric imaginable. Social media is abuzz with the recent rantings of ABLP candidate for St. Peter and member of parliament Asot Michael against UPP Senator Chester Hughes. If you have not seen the video, we are sure you eventually will, and you will not be the better or wiser for it. The language is crass and obviously nastiness for nastiness sake because Senator Hughes is not even MP Michael’s direct political opponent;  he is contesting St. Phillip South. 
We can complain and express our shock at how far we have fallen in our political discourse, but at the end of the day, it would appear that ‘we like it so’.  Condemnation comes only from the person or party that is subject of the distasteful language or acts. The offenders, their party and supporters stay silent or applaud, only to squeal when they feel wronged. It is a level of hypocrisy that cannot be measured (if there was such a device).
It is no wonder that the political parties can feel aggrieved when OBSERVER seeks to apply family-values and standards while adhering to the defamation laws of Antigua and Barbuda. The politicians are used to doing as they like and saying as they like. How dare OBSERVER say that they will not run an advertisement because of the risk of defamation? No one has sued them for the offensive things they have said before. And how dare OBSERVER say that an advertisement does not meet their standards for moral decency? Nobody criticized them for all the filthy and offensive speech that flows from their mouths.  But just because no one else chooses to impose standards does not mean that we must follow and allow the political discourse to sink into the mud on our radio stations and in our newspaper. We are not the standards police but we do have standards; and they must be met in order to participate in a dialogue with our audience.  
People may have become desensitised to the corrosive political banter that exists today but we have a responsibility to our readers, our listeners and the nation of Antigua and Barbuda not to participate in the dissemination of that garbage. Those who do not like those rules then do not bother to come to our playground.  It’s that simple.
 We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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