“He who controls the present controls the past. He who controls the past controls the future.” That was George Orwell in his timeless masterpiece1984. The mighty can sift arbitrarily and select capriciously to manage minds to direct a specific outcome. This is not about appearances, or speculation of what might be happening here in Guyana. It is the cold, irrefutable reality.
State owned print media, state controlled television have been exemplary in dedicating resources of space, time, and agents to highlight selectively things hoary and hateful; and to infuse new life into the fearful, acrimonious, and divisive.
It is so glaring that the Media Monitoring Unit (MMU) found cause to condemn both state owned and sections of independent media for unacceptable standards and conduct. But it was Big Brother’s recklessness that came in for particular sanction, as was identified in a Stabroek News article on April 9th, and captioned “Media Monitoring Unit flays Guyana Chronicle over two editorials.” Extracts from the two editorials are not only offensive, but chilling. In later reports, other egregious examples were to be revealed.
This is the ruling party, the government of the day in provocative action in a multi-ethnic society; a plural society that, though dominated by two races, is numerically close. In other words, the ethnic percentages are now tight, uncomfortably tight.
They are tight enough to induce desperate party controllers to hurl un-coded hate messages and incendiary rhetoric into the public domain. Through the exhumation and projection of selective history (control of the past), malevolence is cultivated, and only for the price of a cheap newspaper. This is the blatant, very visible control of the present, cautioned by Orwell. There are other aspects, too.
In the wider controlled government media environment, there is limited space for the presence, postures, and voices of the opposition on commercial terms. Repeat: some of the opposition’s messages are stymied, even on a paid basis. According to a senior opposition source, requests for space to present paid advertisements were routinely ignored by state media entities, NCN and Guyana Chronicle, until two weeks ago. Prior to this late concession, there was no acceptance of any ad. In a close election tussle, and a very closely watched one, that lost time and public opportunities, through denial, has to have had some deleterious effect.
Undoubtedly, the most flagrant example of controlling the present to influence the future lies in the realm of “free time” or “matching time” in government broadcast mediums. Yes, a formula was presented. Yes, there have been discussions. And, yes, the private sector has weighed in to support opposition access to such time on state owned media. All appeals have been honored in the breach. There has been no free access allowed by any state owned entity to the opposition. None whatsoever; including the right to reply. Sure, there has been the invitation to share in programs, but nothing forthcoming on an independent, stand-alone opposition block of time, as is enjoyed by the ruling party. It is a classic case of res ipsaloquitor; no sub-titles necessary.
As if this is not enough, Channel 69 (NTN) has refused to accept any opposition ads. Period. And to drive home the broad-based, premeditated strategy of denial and refusal, in a more nuanced form, Channel 28 (GTV) and the Guyana Times have settled for deception that follows this line: Ads are not refused outright, but they have to be paid in advance. The problem is that these two outfits are unable (or unwilling) to furnish a figure representing the cost of any ad, so that it can be paid up front. As said just now, more nuance, definitely disingenuous, but distinctly recognizable for the mischief and wickedness sown.
In all of these shenanigans, Big Brother is watching and squeezing and denying…. It has been done so before through withdrawal of ads (SN); some frivolous litigious forays (KN); and the fearful tax threat or weapon (KN et al). It all comes down to the harness of control through monopoly of space and access, and a hard tight leash. Now media friends have dived into the action to restrict access to representatives of approximately half the citizens in this nation, if not more.
In this tilted and mined playing field, control of the present has meant to deny, to dehumanize, and demonize political adversaries and their supporters. This is self-destructing. In view of the bitterness and rancor spawned the world of Guyana looks, by even the most benign yardstick, real bleak post May 11. The flimsy fragile facades of normalcy cannot automatically return, as if nothing occurred. There is the peril; perhaps, therein lies an objective too. He who controls the present…. controls the future. Or at least can attempt to do so to the detriment of all…