I have thought many times that there are two things native to humanity that are like flames of fire. They are very good but can also be very dangerous. These two things are freedom of expression and human emotion.
Human emotion in a person who does not know how to use his brain, and therefore has no interest in managing himself can turn that person into a monster on two legs. The same can be said about freedom of expression.
Freedom of expression in a country where people think that because they have it, they can say anything about anyone, anywhere, at anytime, using whatever means available to them, and nobody has any freedom or right to tell them anything because they have freedom of expression and they can say whatever they want. Such people are dangerous, and dangerous people in any country make that country a dangerous place.
Freedom is not free.
Freedom of expression must take the feelings of other people into consideration; otherwise the freedom of everyone becomes endangered. People are mistaken when they begin to feel empowered simply because they have been handed a microphone and a platform to stand on, whether that platform be virtual or concrete.
Many of us in the Caribbean believe that these islands are little spin-offs of the U.S.A., and because we hear much about the Land of Liberty, and freedom of the people there to express themselves, we get the impression that in America they can say whatever they want, and we should be able to say whatever we want as well, but it is no so. To begin with, we are not The United States of America.
Many people who speak harshly of the American President have never, and will never meet him, and even if they see him on television, they will never get close to him, not even for his shadow to cross theirs. Here in the Caribbean, on small islands like ours, things are very different. Our culture and experience have made us far more emotionally and socially sensitive than Americans are, and so when we are maligned and called awful names by people we have known all our lives, people we attended school with, and with whom we must drink, sometimes, at the same communion table on Sunday, we are emotionally ruffled; our culture has not taught us how to avoid it.
When we are lied about, or have lies suggested about us by such people, we cannot avoid being emotionally taxed in our effort to dismiss the things we are being accused of and it is not easy. Caribbean people on tiny islands, even the ones we think are large; often have to developed methods of constructing emotional fire-walls in defense of our feelings, so that we may maintain our drive to continue our work or service in the midst of groundless scandal which so easily circulate on these small islands.
Over the past twenty or so years in the region there has been a surge in the number of radio stations, all desperately trying to find their own niche in a very limited media market. Barbados alone, a tiny island of just over one hundred and sixty square miles has over eighteen radio station, all springing up in a relatively short time; and this does not take into consideration the number of internet radio stations operating out of private homes. Some of these radio stations in the Caribbean are, in essence, political mouth pieces operating under the guise of having no politically affiliation, but the barrage of attacks leveled at political leaders of these islands give the lie to their agenda.
It is clear that the Caribbean has not yet found its own way of balancing its new found brand in freedom of expression alongside the very necessary care and caution needed against slandering other person’s character and name.
This inability to balance the two is much like a baby lamb trying to find its new feet, so we find ourselves having to make public apologies, demanding statement-withdrawals and writing public letters of apology. We have bitten off more than we are able to chew with this new media proliferation along with what we feel is our newly discovered boundless liberty, and we are finding out that we simply are not as free as we want to believe: we are still deathly afraid of how the courts could rob of our time and money, but we chomp at the bits because freedom of expression sounds and looks inviting, and we believe we must use all of it without limits.
As a result of this untamed freedom radio stations have been able to cull national talk-show celebrities out of ordinary people famous for no more than calling the stations with regular rants and unsubstantiated, sometimes unsubstantial statements from which the stations attempt to distance themselves through disclaimers, like a children trying to wipe their mouths after the candy has been consumed and shared.
I have no problem with freedom of any type. In fact I think freedom is a glorious thing, but freedom to enter the airwaves without regard for reputation, respect and feelings of other people must be monitored and controlled.By Loughlin Tatem