April 2008 Archives

Vexed is vexed, and asks a good question, but one which has a very simple answer:

It does not make sense to me that our Government invests huge sums every year in projects like the African Diaspora Trail, that are so remote from lives of Bermudians and unlikely to contribute to our community or economy, but will not make any effort to preserve elements of our own local black history.

It makes sense to me: The African Diaspora Trail is about the politicians, while institutions such as Alexandrina Hall are about everyday people. I'll defer to the Bermuda Sun's Larry Burchall, who penned what will probably become a notorious rage against the political machine on the Alexandrina Hall topic.

Vanity projects for the political elites take precedence. Plain and simple.

A trip to Alexandrina Hall doesn't generate air miles, nor does it come with a limo ride, celebrity cameos or networking opportunities. (It's not just cultural, it's tourism too).

Bermuda's historically black institutions and landmarks (and non-black ones) are little more than bumps on the SDO highway.

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The following is a an article written by columnist Gavin Shorto for this month's Bermudian Business magazine, which they have both kindly agreed to have republished here.

I felt that it deserved a wider airing, as it provides some counterbalance to the one-sided version of the formation of party politics in Bermuda that has been, and continues to be peddled for partisan political gain.

Julian Hall, and others who speak for black people in Bermuda, have recently been claiming that the birth of the United Bermuda Party was nothing more than a product of white fear of losing economic and political control.

On the other hand, says Mr Hall, the Progressive Labour Party, at its birth, was intended to “meld basic Christian principles and ethics concerning how we should treat and deal with each other, with the broader aims and goals of the Bermuda Labour Movement with a view to pursuing social and economic justice for all the people of Bermuda.”

Anyone who was around at the time knows those two assertions are an odd way of putting it, to say the very least. The whole truth is more complex than Mr Hall would have us believe, and much less convenient for those who like to portray the PLP as the flower of entirely noble instincts and actions.

The whole truth is joined at the head, hip and knees to what was going on outside Bermuda in those days, when the world was still being roiled by the effects of the Second World War.

Once, Britain had been the most powerful nation in the world...the sun never set on the British Empire, they used to say. But the war wrecked its economy. Any sliver of hope that it might somehow have been able to hang onto its Empire was destroyed by the entry onto the world stage of the United Nations.

British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan privately called it “this Frankenstein which we have created”, and no wonder, because at its creation, the UN accelerated the process of fighting against colonialism in a big way. It short-circuited the power of colonial nations to deal with often violent independence movements, by giving them a voice, and a cloak of political respectability.

At the time of the creation of Bermuda’s two political parties, the world had been watching as country after country after country fought for and won independence from Britain, France and other colonial countries. Sometimes, perhaps especially in African colonies, the struggles were violent and ugly. Very often, violence became a way of life in those countries, and the world today is still struggling to deal with the consequences.

Perhaps we now understand that many countries which opted for independence were taking a step back in order to move forward into a better future. But while Bermudians of the 1960s would have been very aware of the steps backwards, it was too early for movement forward to have become obvious.

These days, we are used to knowing more or less what the country thinks about issues because of the benefits of modern polling techniques. Now, it’s easy to extrapolate backwards and surmise that a big majority of Bermudians in the 50s and 60s would have been dead set against independence. They would have seen the idea in the light of what had happened in other countries – communities and economies damaged and sometimes destroyed by the process – and would probably have thought of independence as reckless in the extreme – an absurd risk for an Island in our fragile line of work.

But in those days, it was a guessing game, and the founders of both political parties would have constructed their platforms on the basis of what they guessed (and no doubt hoped) the voters would find attractive.

The founders of the PLP knew all about post-colonial politics. Given Bermuda’s segregationist history, the fact that power had always been in the hands of a tiny white oligarchy, the gap between rich and poor, the absence of social services, and so on, Bermuda seemed the classic case of a colony that should be gasping for sweeping and rapid political change. The PLP’s founders must have thought it would be easy to take power simply by opposing everything Front Street stood for.

But the character of the Bermudian population turned that assumption on its ear. The PLP’s founders fell afoul of the same thing that drove Dr Gordon to despair of the labour movement – the fear and the lassitude that kept Bermudians from taking action to turn their hopes for a better society into reality.

That wasn’t the only political mistake the PLP made. They proclaimed themselves in favour of independence. They went over to Britain and had tea with the Russian Ambassador.

They hired a political advisor named Geoffrey Bing, whose reputation, to a conservative, was only slightly better than that of Beelzebub himself. He was as far to the left as you can get and still be called a socialist. As Attorney General of Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast), he helped its first president, Kwame Nkrumah, deal with the very high level of political unrest that characterised his time in office. Bing was AG when the infamous Preventive Detention Act came into effect, legislation that made it possible to arrest and detain anyone suspected of treason without reference to the courts.

So the formation of the UBP was far from simply a result of white fear of losing power, it had to do with the fear of both races, given wings by the nascent PLP’s apparent left-wing radicalism, that political change was going to be the apple that got us cast out of Paradise.

It also had to do with the realisation by Sir Henry Tucker and others that Bermuda had penetrated more than half-way into the 20th Century with a society that owed more to feudalism than contemporary best practice.

No one in Bermuda at the time, in politics or not, had any accurate idea whether change might be accompanied here by the kind of violence seen elsewhere. But it was a cast-iron certainty that failing to do something about improving Bermuda society would be the very best way of encouraging radicalism and violence.

For Sir Henry Tucker and his supporters, it was time to get with it...time for sleeves to be rolled up, and for action to be taken to ensure the sweeping changes that were necessary were managed by capable people of both races who had Bermuda’s best interests at heart. They saw the alternative as being torn apart by that peculiar political maelstrom that was destroying countries the world over.
It was something of a miracle that they actually managed to do it – the task was no less than a complete re-engineering of Bermuda’s society and its infrastructure. The list of things to be done was thoroughly daunting: A Constitution had to be negotiated. The remnants of segregation had to be swept away, and a platform created on which an integrated Bermuda could stand. There was no labour legislation, no hospital insurance. Even the poorest families had to pay for their children’s education. There was no planning department, no central bank, no financial assistance and no guarantee of any kind of human rights.

That Bermuda, led by the UBP and pushed by the PLP, managed to cram a century’s-worth of progress into a generation, without falling apart at the seams, is an extraordinary tribute to the resilience and good sense of the whole community – something to be shouted from the rooftops. Denying it is a mean-spirited, outrageous assault on the truth.

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I'm pretty much out of commission until Thursday, so updates will be sporadic if at all until then.

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A reader contributes a very reasonable and astute take on race, racism and ultimately classism in today's Bermuda:

The whole concept that racism requires power has grown in popularity primarily in the US, where not only are blacks disadvantaged socially, economically, etc. but also where they are an overwhelming minority.

Attempting to use paradigms from the US and its problems with race makes little sense in Bermuda to me, where we currently have a black government and a population that is predominantly black.

The biggest problem I see in Bermuda is that white people are unable to comprehend institutional racism and the legacy that slavery has left. Many white people will say "Why should I be sorry for something that happened 300 years ago," or some such nonsense. The painful truth is that segregation was not so long ago, and to think that the cumulative effects of slavery/segregation, etc can be nullified in a couple of generations is disingenuous. Real measures need to be taken to make sure all people are on a level playing ground.

On the flip side, it seems the black community is taking it to heart that they can not be held accountable for racist behaviour because they have suffered in the past, and have an exemption based on the "racism requires power" card. This thinking may be correct at a large systemic level, but doesn't account for what can happen on an individual level. If a black person is beaten by five white people in a dark alley because of his colour, that is racism. The same holds true if the tables are turned, period.

All the squabbling takes away from the real "ism" that we face today, which is classism. Rich black Bermudians golfing at the Mid-Ocean club have a lot more in common with other rich folks, regardless of their colour. Poorer working white folks have more in common with their fellow black workers than with the CEOs of the island. Now, the wealthy have power, and they're looking out for themselves and each other, while the rest of us are focused by this "conversation" on race. Rather than the big conversation, I'd call it the "big distraction."

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Vexed (which you should be reading) has picked up a letter from the Inter American Press Association to the Premier calling for greater press freedom after the removal of government advertising and subscriptions as a retaliatory measure for media independence.

This is a huge embarrassment for Bermuda and hurts our reputation internationally. As Vexed points out, this is a PR nightmare.

Bermuda is bigger than the PLP's grudges.

The International Freedom of Expression Exchange and Caribbean Net News have also picked up the story.

The IAPA release can be found here and the letter is below:

April 15, 2008

H.E. The Prime Minister of Bermuda
Dr. Ewart Brown

Honorable Dr. Brown,

On behalf of more than 1,300 print publications belonging to our organization we are writing to express to you our deepest concern at the complaints made about your government with regard to the use of government advertising as a means to reward or punish the news media, a matter that we deplore as being contrary to freedom of the press, as enshrined in the Declaration of Chapultepec and in the Organization of American States? Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression.

The IAPA understands that every government has a duty to use the resources of its citizens in the most efficient way, although we would request in such actions transparency and the employment of purely technical criteria, so that there may be no doubt that the media were being rewarded or punished by reason of their editorial policies.

Following the public announcements made by your government there has been no indication of the kind of methodology used in the placement of official advertising. In view of this, and of the fact that discrimination in the placement of that advertising severely restricts freedom of the press, we would respectfully ask you to review the action taken by your government against The Royal Gazette and other media in your country.

With the hope that freedom of the press will be observed, we remain,

Your sincerely,

Earl Maucker
President

Gonzalo Marroquín
Chairman, Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information

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Former Republican Speaker of the US House during the height of the Republican majority, Newt Gingrich, dispenses an assessment on what got his party to the position they are in today:

Q: What happened to your party over the last eight years?

A: They went off the rails. That's it. They took a majority that took 16 years to build and they destroyed it....

There was a fundamental misunderstanding about how to govern. The concept of red versus blue is a tactic, not a strategy. In the long run, in order to mobilize your base, you tend to become more intense and your positions become more vitriolic, and you drive away the independents. Then you are no longer a majority.

"They took a majority that took 16 years to build and they destroyed it."

It took over 30 years for the PLP to build their majority.

"Red versus blue is a tactic, not a strategy."

Nor is black versus white.

"In order to mobilize your base, you tend to become more intense and your positions become more vitriolic, and you drive away the independents."

More vitriolic? Check. Drive away the independents? Not yet.

"Then you are no longer a majority." Time will tell.

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Just in case anyone was confused by today's Gazette headline, the "TB" in "Waterloo House hit by TB scare" isn't referring to Tony Brannon, but Tuberculosis.

I'm not sure which is more dangerous.

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This Obama/Hillary parody is worth a few laughs:

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A reader dissents:

With all respect, I disagree about the 'anachronism' statement. The Queen is still the Queen, still the head of state here (for now at least), and there is nothing anachronistic about having a holiday to celebrate it. The US has President's Day, after all. If we're only interested in having public holidays for recent things, let's do away with Cup Match (as emancipation was a long time ago), Veterans Day (as the world wars were a long time ago), Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Easter (...you get the point).

I agree that swapping a day off in June for one in October is a daft move, but I also find it unappealing to cease a long-standing tradition in favour of celebrating the latest 'hero' (an overused adjective these days). That is, unless we can call it 'David Beckham Day' next year...

It's a fair point (except the Beckham bit), particularly the overuse of the word 'hero'. That is spot on.

Whether the holiday itself is an anachronism, the change was meant as a dig at the UK that's for sure. It's also part of the broader move that is constantly chipping away at any acknowledgment of the UK's formal role in Bermuda's life and formation.

I think most people see the holiday less as a celebration of the Queen herself, but more one of our history generally. The petition itself is has far too much of a Royalist tone for my liking, but I understand why people are signing it.

I think that we can celebrate both our distinct Bermuda heritage and our historic ties to the UK on Bermuda Day, rather than have a specific "Queen's Birthday" holiday, which is the celebration of a random event that doesn't actually occur on her birthday anyway.

I still think we should keep the June holiday date anyway. The days are longer and the weather's better.

I must say that I'm intrigued to see how the 400 year celebrations of Bermuda's founding are conducted next year, because they'll be very reluctant to give much recognition to the UK's role at all, not to mention that history goes against the political folklore being peddled with the use of terms like 'indigenous Bermudians'.

Of course Bermuda was colonised, and colonialism has a very ugly side, but there wasn't anyone here so it has to be viewed in a different light in our case.

Others have commented that the removal of the Queen's Birthday holiday threatens traditions like the Dinghy racing etc., but that argument isn't going to go far with the powers that be.

That's the wrong kind of heritage to be celebrating.

And finally, I, like my dissenter above, find the whole idea of a "Heroes Day" to be pretty silly really.

If we're honest, it's little more than a political ploy to profile partisan figures for short and long term indoctrination purposes, just as the naming of buildings etc. is both here and abroad. Wake me up when a building is named after someone in the UBP, or a non-PLP affiliated figure is honoured as part of National Heroes Day (throw in the "National" to drum up nationalistic sentiment to be exploited when the next inevitable push for independence occurs).

It's an exercise for politicians to adore their partisan predecessors and hope that the favour is returned later.

As if getting into politics is 'heroic'. It's a noble pursuit (or should be), and I strongly advocate more (and better) people spending part of their time in public life. But 'heroes'? In most cases, not.

Parties in power do this in the US all the time, and I find the idea of putting partisan political names on public facilities to be inherently distasteful.

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A reader sent in a link to a petition that's circulating calling for the retention of the Queen's Birthday Holiday. Right now it's received over 1800 signatures.

In the spirit of Walton Brown's break from his Party's intimidation tactics with a welcome defense of free speech, I figured I'd pass it along.

Personally, I'm not too bothered about celebrating the Queen's Birthday as a holiday; it's an anachronism really.

I just think it's a bad trade.

What bright spark thought that giving up a holiday in June for one in October was a good trade?

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After my previous post about the misuse of the term racism, a number of people responded in person and by email with the “I was just talking to someone about that myself” and then subsequently Jonathon Starling continued his series on race and racism and weighed in on defining racism.

I actually think that blogs (particularly ones without the noise of hysterical comments on race) can be good places to have this discussion. In Bermuda the topic of race traditionally produces more heat than light, but in this medium all sides can get their thoughts out uninterrupted and not fall prey to the heat of the moment in intense discussions and get sidetracked.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, we don’t need to define race and racism, we need to use the existing definitions, and not so much dictionary ones as sociological ones.

I think that the problem we have in Bermuda is that we're trying to put a political definition on a sociological concept. Race and politics have become completely intertwined - and when you mix race and politics all you get is politics.

The result is that race has been hijacked as a political construct, rather than a sociological one. (On this front I feel a certain amount of qualification to discuss it rather than just bloviate like usual, as my degree is in Sociology and Political Science, where I studied both social and political theory. It was a while ago, but I'm not that old.)

The concept of racism is well defined and quite simple and doesn’t need to be redefined. But here’s what Jonathon says (read the whole post as well):

Christian defines ‘racism’ as ‘not an action, but a belief system.’ The action, according to him, is called ‘racial discrimination.’

Christian and I, apparently, have different interpretations of this word ‘racism,’ which adds to the importance of having a discussion about definitions - and yes, I’m fully expecting a flood of dictionary quotations in response to this post…

To me the belief system, the ideology, of ‘a belief in a racial group’s intrinsic superiority over another (or others)’ is what I call ‘racialism’ or ‘racial supremacy.’ Racism however is the action of discrimination, racialism/racial supremacy in practice. Racism can be overt, as it was in the days of segregation and organised repression, or it can be covert and largely unconscious. This covert form is what I consider institutional racism, and can be in the form of unintentional media or in hiring practices or so on.

Ok, let’s take this one piece at a time.

Firstly, an ‘ism’, is absolutely, 100%, by definition, a belief system. Ism’s don’t need power, just someone with a pulse and brainwaves. ‘Isms’ denote an ideology, and ideologies absolutely do not require action. They’re just thoughts. I can’t say this enough, or strongly enough, but I don’t want to bore you.

In Jonathon’s case, his idea of racism is properly referred to as racial discrimination; what I described in my previous post as the continuum from prejudice, to racism, to discrimination.

I don’t want to beat this to death but it’s important to get this right, and not redefine it in a way that feeds into divisive political agendas (not that Jonathon is doing that, but others are).

Jonathon goes on to argue that racism is active discrimination while racialism is the belief system.

I don’t mean to be flip, but that’s just wrong.

Wikipedia covers it well, and has perhaps the most straight forward definition and history of the term ‘Racialism’ and ‘racism’ (which used to be flipped in their connotations). Now they’re often used as synonyms neither require action, (because they’re –isms, see above), they’re beliefs.

Racialism has a subtle difference than racism, in that racialism doesn’t posit a hierarchy of races whereas racism does, but does see race as indicating certain traits for example (ie. mental, physical abilities etc.).

As Wikipedia currently defines it:

Racialism entails a belief in the existence and significance of racial categories, but not necessarily in a hierarchy between the races, or in any political or ideological position of racial supremacy. One racialist position is the controversial claim of a measurable correlation between race and intelligence, or race and crime. Less controversial observations on correlations of e.g. race and height, race and disease or race and penis size are strictly speaking also racialist positions.

This distinction between racism and racialism is less important to me than debunking the idea that racism requires power and denotes an action.

It quite simply does not. And I think in Jonathon's conclusion he underestimates or largely ignores the massive influence of Government power economically, which seems to be his focus. With a billion dollar budget, and a large bureaucracy and tight immigration controls, Government power (both economic and regulatory) in a small place like Bermuda is massive.

Jonathon goes on to say that “Prejudice by the way is a related form of racialism/racial supremacy. I connect it to a combination of the ideology with limited power.”

Again, prejudice doesn’t need power, limited or otherwise. You can be prejudiced but lack the power to act on it.

The reason I’m harping on this is because in Bermuda, and elsewhere, but I’m most interested in Bermuda, we can’t have a conversation about race if the discussion begins with complete misnomers.

It is important, as Jonathon rightly says and attempts, to get on the same page with definitions, but let’s use the correct ones and not the ones that have been thrust on us by politicians whose careers are dependent on maintaining their gatekeeper status on anything to do with race.

As I said some time ago in a Royal Gazette column, I have very little interest in participating in political directed and driven discussions on race, because they are completely incompatible.

Reaching some understanding on race, both historical and current, requires understanding and compromise. Politics too often involves the complete opposite. Politics is a zero sum game and is ultimately about winning.

As long as we continue to permit discussions on race to be politically directed we won’t make much progress, because political parties - particularly ones that heavily engage in appeals to group identity - have little interest in reaching a genuine understanding or compromising, the goal is to drive people into certain camps based on some common trait.

Many politicians have as far, if not further, to go on this topic as the general public.

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It would be helpful, if we're going to have a discussion about race and racism, particularly a 'Big Conversation', if some of those placed with leading the discussions actually understood the terminology and concepts.

Consider the following exchange:

Meanwhile, panelist and president of CURB, Lynne Winfield, was challenged by a white audience member on her views that black people cannot be racist because "racism comes with power".

She responded this way: "By definition blacks cannot be racist because as a group, even though there is a black political party in power now, as a group that do not have the power of the whites have over blacks."

Setting aside the rather confusing final sentence, either a poor transcription or a clumsy spoken response, the audience member was correct - Ms. Winfield is misusing the term racism.

Racism is not an action, but a belief system. Racial discrimination would involve power, racism in itself does not. It is quite simply a belief in a racial group's intrinsic superiority over another (or others).

The term racism seems to be being expanded lately, with it common in Europe to hear acts against Muslims for example described as racist. Religions span races.

By definition, power is not required to hold a belief.

There is a continuum that begins with prejudice and ends with discrimination, racism lies somewhere in between and is certainly not exclusive to one racial group.

Everyone prejudges things in their lives (not just racial), but not everyone translates that into racist beliefs and not all racists engage in active discrimination (or hold the power to do that).

The idea that a whole racial group cannot have members who are racist is a very destructive concept to float around as it excuses or encourages racist acts or statements by members of that group and actually promotes a lack of tolerance through a feeling of immunity. In fact, believing a racial group cannot itself be racist IS racist.

And, as a final note, racism is about individual acts as much as group actions - if not more so.

If Ms. Winfield doesn't believe that a 'black political party' (whatever that means) has power to engage in racial discrimination against whites for example, may I suggest she have a chat with Jim Butterfield - who through the exertion of Government power against him because of his race - had his business forcibly taken from him and ironically handed to a white ally of the 'black government' (or at least the Premier of that 'black Government'), a Government that immediately dropped the previously non-negotiable terms.

Constructive dismissal is probably the best characterisation of what occurred.

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I'm not sure if anyone's noticed, but the Bermuda Government has gone green, just not in the way many would have hoped; they've gone PLP green.

There has been a definite shift, slowly at first but now I think they're all in, in producing Bermuda Government materials (as opposed to PLP party materials) in the PLP's party colour of green.

The Bermuda Government's colour has been blue as far as I'm aware. I'm not sure if there is an official statement or anything to that effect, but the green that is everywhere now is without a doubt new to Government publications, and is clearly intended not just to blur, but obliterate, the separation between party (PLP), and The Bermuda Government.

This is an important separation that must be respected. The line where politics and policy crosses is a bit of a grey area, but there's been some serious creep.

During the election we even saw the Premier's Press Secretary making overtly political defenses, invoking party, when he represents the Premier of Bermuda not the PLP's Party Leader.

As ridiculous as it looks, I can tolerate the green ties and dresses that were clearly ordered for the opening of Parliament, at polling stations on election day etc. (It just feels like a high school election to me not a national one).

But just for one day, particularly ceremonial ones like the opening of Parliament, it would be nice to remove the overt politicking and subtle messaging.

And I HATE the party pins, of either side, UBP or PLP. I also dislike the Bermuda flag ones as well on politicians, because, as Barack Obama so adeptly noted, the American flag pins on politicians have become a "substitute for true patriotism".

This is all about branding, marketing and subliminal messaging, and the infusion of party branding into official Government materials absolutely goes too far.

I'd picked up on bits and pieces prior to the election, but it really jumped out to me with the budget, the cover of which bore a more than passing resemblance to the PLP's 2008 Election Platform document cover, heavy on the green with light and dark green arc's, and was a complete departure from the 2007 Budget cover.

Then, just the other day, I received in the mail the Community Education Spring Term Registration document, that was again heavy on green for the first time I can recall (I seem to remember it being an orange insert in the past) with, identically to the PLP's platform, green headers and footers on the inside pages with interchangeable black and green font colours on the text.

It reminded me of those cheesy Election Progress Report documents as well.

It really is striking how similar the documents look. This is clearly not a coincidence, and there is clearly a shift towards infusing the PLP brand look and feel into Official Government materials.

It's not just in materials either. There has been a real creeping politicisation of the civil service over the PLP's term, which ramped up massively in the past year or so. This crested, or so I thought, with Government vehicles driving around on election day with PLP flags in the windows and civil servants holding signs and wearing bandanas and t-shirts into work. This went on for a few days after the election as well.

That is a terrible breach of protocol by civil servants who are sworn to act in a non-political manner, but know that this is all about proving your loyalty now, and are watching their work pushed out to PLP affiliated consultants and contractors. It's either get in line or get out of the way.

Historically there has been a fair amount of respect given to the line between party and Government, but to have Government materials now printed with PLP branding is a real tipping point and doesn't bode well for further erosions of separations between party business and official Government business.

It shows a real lack of respect for the institution of the Bermuda Government, and undermines the checks and balances built into the Westminster system.

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With the escalating assault by the Government on the free press and independent media, I thought the following quote - delivered by comedian Stephen Colbert in his brilliant roasting of the Bush Administration and the press who covers it - could do with a re-airing.

It's as applicable to our own local Bush Administration/Rove political impersonators as it is to the Bush Administration itself:

"Here's how it works. The president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home ... Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know -- fiction!"
Just as the Republican-led Congress engaged in an agenda of absolute right-wing partisanship while talking about bi-partisanship (translation: Democrats lie down), the PLP's constant drumbeat about media bias is really a demand for reporters and journalists to become stenographers and become totally biased in the PLP's favour.

This isn't just about The Royal Gazette. It's about independent media and a Government that resents scrutiny and dissent.

Other media, a la Tony McWilliam at the Bermuda Sun with his head in the sand statement (come on Tony, you know it's more than just a battle against the Gazette), surely know that they're next; they've opted to do nothing but bide their time. (Yours will come. Better to get in front of it.)

Apathy and short-sighted short-term survival tactics will be the death of Bermuda.

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I've mentioned identity politics a few times lately, and have been meaning to flesh out the concept in more detail on the site as it is a staple of the PLP's politics, going into overdrive during election periods, but it hasn't been scrutinized in the scheme of a broader political analysis.

A reader recently sent me a paper authored in 2004, which included the PLP's 2003 election campaign in a study entitled "Social Identity, Political Speech, and Electoral Competition".

The incidence of identity politics practiced by the PLP in the 2003 election was described as follows:


Levels of group-based appeals in this election while not intolerant or threatening were nonetheless significant. It was the rhetoric of the incumbent PLP, the party of the plurality group, for which group-based appeals were most evident.18 The PLP reelection campaign was based on emphasizing the party’s accomplishments in government and appeals to racial solidarity. The form of these appeals ranged from implicit messages focusing on the party’s history as an advocate for blacks’ full participation in the political and economic life of the island to explicit messages that instructed voters that casting their ballots was an affirmation of their identity as blacks. The party designated July 24th, the day of the election, “Affirmation Day” and organized several well attended “Affirmation Rallies.”

A look at a few examples of the rhetoric at the rallies and in the campaign generally makes it clear that voters were being asked to make an affirmation of their identity with their vote not simply returning an incumbent government to power or making a statement of party loyalty. The party’s leader and the country’s premier Jennifer Smith told the audience at the campaign’s culminating rally that “On November 9, 1998 (date of last election and first PLP win) we liberated ourselves and Bermuda. On July 24, we will affirm that decision” (Greening 2003).

PLP Transport Minister Dr. Ewart Brown rallied the same audience with “We must not go back, we must go forward ... Have you ever heard of any people on the planet who have voted their way back onto the plantation?. . . ” (Greening and Johnson 2003). Smith, in an open letter during the week of the election in one of the island’s most read weekly newspapers, wrote “We brought unprecedented passion to putting the Bermudian identity first, as demonstrated by last year’s inauguration of the trans-Atlantic African Diaspora Heritage Trail . . . When we meet voters on the doorsteps, they look into our eyes and see themselves. This is what sets us apart.” (Smith 2003). These types of appeals were central to the PLP’s campaign strategy and indicate a clearly higher level of group-based rhetoric than what we have already described for recent elections in Belize. This pattern is consistent with the prediction that increasing independents tends to decrease levels of group rhetoric.

The rest of the paper goes into the practice of identity politics in more detail, and is a good read.

You don't need to be a political scientist to know that this was practiced much more aggressively in the 2007 election, and also in the lead-up, primarily as a defence mechanism against the allegations of political corruption leaked in the BHC Police files.

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Just getting back into the groove, but in the meantime, may I suggest some required reading:

Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You Against the Media

Attack the Messenger is an objective look at the loss of public trust in the news media-and the resulting threat to American democracy. Biased, sloppy, and sometimes deceitful reporting is partly to blame, but this book primarily examines how politicians declared war on the media's role as an honest broker of information-and won. Craig Crawford takes readers who crave truth in news through the power struggle between the government and mainstream media, as well as directs them on how to avoid political propaganda and find the most reliable news sources.

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Classic typo in a Gazette's front page headline today (just corrected online):

"Bavarian Int. to build hotel at Club Med"

The Bavarians? Really.

The rest of the article gets it right...."Bazarian".

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