In Guyana, the Fourth Estate, in its many media faces and masks, struggles with maintaining an even keel; one that is a temperate, objective, and neutral presence. It is very testing in this time of national truth.
There is trouble with facing that truth: bias, coarseness, falsehoods ascend. The prestige and principles of what was won at great cost, and which should be part of the local press aura, leak both in public and from underground responsibility and maturity, the great sensitivity called for now have to be hunted for to be found.
There is the mainstream press, mainly printed, that has garnered varying degrees of credibility and standing. Much of it has been earned after long, costly campaigns. Though widely read or followed by different segments of society, there are neither enough of such stalwart presences; nor are they the ones that tarnish the media image.
For there is also the government press, and an opposition press. Both expend little energy to be other than what propagandizes, presents in the darkest light, and skewers those with whom there is disagreement. There is endless targeting; fodder for political and racial heat. Political and party interests drown national interests.
Though the government’s press arms have shown that there are no amateurs at the underhanded publicity games, the opposition press brigade has mastered the terrain, without any intentions of taking the high ground. Anything that sells a certain kind of message, paints the crudest picture, and agitates the already raging will do. It is an easy sale: receptive minds, long memories, hard prejudices. This is the nature of the political press in this country: uncaring, strident, combustible.
Things would be bad enough, and unacceptable enough, if that was the sum of the exploits, the rivalries. But there is an extension that proliferates by the hour: the destructive weeds and poisoned thorns of something that is a mixture of yellow press (reckless); anonymous press (vicious); and electronic press (dangerous).
And in every one of those silos, there are the cyber groupies that congregate to reconstruct narratives so that they appeal to the worst impulses and sharpest passions. The practitioners are good at spreading the bad and ugly, as identified and defined and exaggerated by aggressive secret social media loyalists.
Like sports groupies, those who practise these dark media arts have no qualms about selling conscience, self, and ultimately soul.
In the anonymous cyber press, there is complete disdain for holding the journalistic lines that once were deemed sacred, hence unapproachable, therefore unbreachable. If it were only partially so, and scantily so, there may have been room for the thoughtful and wise among the citizenry to harbour some regard. But this is made highly unacceptable, when the intents are to use one transparent subterfuge and deceptive posture after another to poison and disrupt truth.
Crafty press presences denied opportunities by the cleaner, mainstream press entities seek refuge in the electronic haze for the vulgar and incendiary; there guerilla tactics take root and flourish. It is the perfect habitat: Names are changed, authorship disguised, sponsorship compartmentalized, but the hit-and-run tactics intensify.
The poet, Petrarch, described Avignon during the papal wars as “a sewer where all the filth of the universe has gathered.” That is the shadowy world of powerful parts of the anonymous Guyanese press.
In its sprawl and reach, its angles and weapons, the tainted segments of the Fourth Estate have become a microcosm of tortured and tormented local society. There is neither responsibility nor answerability to any authority, hence, the freedom to fabricate.
When sections of the press, established or gutter, allow themselves to be so corrupted by politics, race, money, and malice, then that sets (partially, but influentially) the tone and degree of discourse that courses through mind and land.
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