Media trapped by trivia
By Raffique Shah
December 19, 2018
For a country that is beset by myriad fundamental problems—real, imagined or contrived—it is amazing how easily the entire nation can be distracted by trivia.
Almost as side issues in the media, two senior politicians square off over what percentage of employed persons earn less than $6,000 per month, the benchmark for bare survival; hardly mentioned are the 10,000 or so workers who have been thrown on the breadline for the year. The national debt rises higher than Mt Cerro del Aripo; the murder toll crosses 500; and potholes on our roads exceed properly-paved driving surfaces, are all relegated to lower-ranked media attention.
Yet the headlines over the past week were dominated by speculation that this country would be the venue for an internationally-advertised sex-and-drugs orgy, and a publicity-craving ex-minister who is having his jollies by publicising sitting ministers' telephone numbers with the fervour of a teenager who has just discovered self-stimulation.
This society can be unbelievably fickle, so much so it can at times drive the few sane and sober among us to exasperation.
Since I hardly surf cyberspace, especially the misnamed social media where fiction overwhelms facts, I became aware of the wild claim by some dubious entity that it had carded a weekend of wanton debauchery for some secret, private island off Trinidad only when the mainstream media made it headline news.
Having heard and read in our media salacious details of the sex-fest as reported on the promoters' website, I immediately dismissed it as a hoax, or likelier, a scam designed to relieve sex-obsessed men of ordinary means of money they cannot afford. I boldly proclaim that the scam targeted low-income fiends because no self-respecting billionaire or multi-millionaire would be caught dead attending a flesh-fest that costs less than US $100,000-per-threesome for three nights. This bogus affair, which was supposed to have taken place last weekend, was priced at $4,500. Surely, at that peon-price, they were serving "canal conchs" as the main fare, not caviar or lobster.
For my media colleagues who were all excited that they had cornered the ultimate sex story—;and journalists and editors know that sex sells—a glaring error about "a private island off Trinidad...with a golf course..." should have alerted them that this caper was as bogus as a $3 bill. None of our resort islands has a golf course, and none can be legally deemed as being "private".
From much that I've heard via the high-society grapevine, the wealthy who own properties "down the islands" also own the few jetties, and a shotgun blast or two by the elite owners keeps undesirables at bay, or completely away. I'm sure the owners host lavish private parties, although I cannot say they serve up illegal drugs and wild or other exotic meats on their menus. I did hear of one super-rich businessman hosting an extravagant, no-expenses-spared birthday bash for his dog. Yes, you read right—dog! Guests, premium drinks and a lavish lunch served up by a full catering staff were all ferried to and from the party by yachts, launches and speedboats. And yes, they all sang "happy birthday" to the pooch.
But back to the bogus sex-caper that my colleagues in the media got caught up with. "Maccocious" Trinis would have found and stormed the venue before the police swooped down on it. When the scammers realised they could not foist the Trinidad venue on drooling would-be suckers, they fell back on the island of Margarita, which also denied that it was hosting such an event.
Comrades, I think the real stories in this scam are the identities and numbers of nationals of this country, and possibly others, who parted with scarce foreign exchange that more than likely ended up in the bank accounts of notable East European or Nigerian scammers. And the 16 year-old New Yorker who claimed to have won a ticket to the party, definitely lost his virginity—to stupidity!
Regarding Devant Maharaj and his obsession with making PNM ministers' telephone numbers public, I think the ex-minister is suffering with chronic political diarrhea-cum-tabanca that keeps him number two-ing, and my media colleagues publicising his grunts.
Really, he must be desperate in the extreme to sink to such depths in a bid to grab national attention. Hell, the Keith Rowley regime has worked hard, some might say hardly, to warrant criticisms over its multiple shortcomings in just about every aspect of governance. From its prioritising of infrastructural projects to allowing the nation's roads to deteriorate to a mass of potholes, from the erratic Trinidad-Tobago seabridge to its failure to curb serious crimes, not to add rising unemployment, deficient health care services and more, the PNM Government deserves the chorus of discontent that it faces almost daily.
Also, all politicians know, and must accept, that once they take up public office, they effectively become public property.
But there are limits to how low one should go when protesting or taking other measures to highlight problems or shame ministers. And ministers' private cellphone numbers (not their State-financed, work-phones) must be off-limits since publicising them can expose the owners and their families to abuse, hostility and danger.
Clearly, Devant has no qualms about going down the low-road, and his party leader and colleagues see nothing wrong with it. Their wish is if it hurts the PNM, it's got to be beneficial to the UNC.
They'd be well advised to be careful what they wish for...
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