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Double standards and inflammatory rhetoric

"There are not many young people interested in becoming farmers these days and it's important for us to encourage a change in that mindset.

“As minister, I will do all I can to ensure that the Government will do whatever it can to help farmers and fishermen.” — Marc Bean, Minister of the Environment, Bermuda Sun, January 17, 2012

Last week, I stumbled upon a bernews.com posting about a Workers Voice special edition on the “State of Employment for Bermudians under the OBA Government”. The report was published online on Thursday, February 4, the date of the Constituency 13 by-election, which is interesting. What really caught my eye, though, was the inflammatory headline on the last page: “Back to the plantation?”

The commentary was about remarks attributed to Michael Dunkley, the Premier, in a recent Royal Gazette article. The Workers Voice implores: “This article should be an insult to every Bermudian that is awake! The Premier of Bermuda is suggesting that Bermudians struggling to find work should look to traditional industries that have serviced the island for decades for employment, insisting that farming and hospitality sectors could provide opportunities for those willing to diversify.”

And to really drive the point home, the Workers Voice proclaimed: “So to all our qualified Bermudians, young and not so young, with all your schooling and degrees, you should know that the OBA government is in many ways telling you, you will never be good enough to work in corporate Bermuda.”

The Workers Voice was not alone in its condemnation of Dunkley's remarks. C13 candidate Diallo Rabain had the following to say just two days before: “While the Premier and his government are content to solve our employment problems through pointing our youth to careers in farming, the PLP stand for economic diversification through attracting industries such as FinTech, which will provide opportunity for our people.”

Hmm. Given that there is a very long record of persons/organisations taking One Bermuda Alliance comments out of context and leveraging them to maximum effect, I figured that I would look for Dunkley's comment to find out what exactly was printed.

In Dunkley's own words: “As Bermudians look for opportunities I would urge them to go back and look at these traditional businesses.

“If you are out of work, look at hotels, restaurants and the farming industry; work your way up and, when other opportunities come, grasp those opportunities.

“We can do more for agriculture, and the Government and the community can work together on this. Farming is tough work, but good work, and we are willing to work with farmers as much as we can.”

Having now confirmed that Dunkley's comments were twisted, I still had a feeling that I had heard something very similar before. In no time at all, I was able to find Bean's remarks from 2012, which pretty much offered the same advice to Bermudians.

We must now ask ourselves, why is it an insult for Dunkley to say this, but not an insult for Bean to say that? Also, why is it that Rabain is so willing to contradict the words of his party leader and demean farm labourers in the process?

The short answer is the general public's short-term memory.

And, I believe the long answer can be found in Progressive Labour Party MP Walton Brown's inflammatory, initial response to the OBA's immigration proposals:

“The OBA government has completely lost its mind ... There is one word to describe it: bulls**t ... This is the time for direct action. Civil disobedience.”

The very next day, Brown published “a more considered response to the new OBA immigration proposals”. But for the purposes of this column, I want to focus on his first point:

“1, This is not an issue about citizenship rights.

“There is no such thing as a Bermudian citizen. International human rights issues pertain to citizenship.”

OK, pause. Now imagine what would have happened if OBA senator Georgia Marshall wrote that?

Well, the record quite clearly shows that Marshall would have been demonised, just as some are now trying to demonise Dunkley comments about farming.

To clarify, I've yet to see a single disparaging remark from those who happily, and repeatedly, attacked Marshall for her birthright remarks.

Succinctly, a double standard is at play, and obviously it is amplified through the use of inflammatory rhetoric.

Clearly, inflammatory rhetoric is the result of an emotional response and/or it is intended to provoke one. I can only hope that the more we are aware of our double standards and emotional responses to inflammatory rhetoric, we are less likely to be duped by those who want us to have an inflammatory response.

Bryant Trew can be contacted atbryanttrew@mac.com

Facing criticism: Michael Dunkley, the Premier (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 12, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated February 12, 2016 at 7:50 am)

Double standards and inflammatory rhetoric

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