George Davis | Lazy and loud on Alkaline
I am struggling with understanding the views expressed by the Jamaica Observer editorial of Wednesday, June 28, 2017, headlined 'Those ill-fated Alkaline, Vybz Kartel videos'. And because of the difficulty in comprehending the line of argument, I am still unsure whether I should reject as nonsense, or accept as sensible, the points made.
Unusually for an Observer editorial, the artiste Alkaline, born Earlan Bartley, was given a wrong name, Earlan Bartlett. By the Observer's established, high standard, it was a grave error and served as a litmus of the muddled thinking that went into the commentary.
The Observer is right that the Alkaline video for his song, After All, and the video for Infrared performed by Vybz Kartel and Masicka, are indeed controversial. Both videos depict the dark side of life in a Jamaica where blood runs freely daily and where everyone either has a gun, illegal or licensed, or knows someone who can give them easy access to same.
From the overall message in the editorial, I can understand and accept the Observer bemoaning the country's high homicide rate, even if I am unclear about the effect on the situation caused by music videos such as the ones highlighted by the piece.
Sometime ago, I wrote that journalists and public commentators often feel pressured to always have a solution in our pen or on the tip of our tongue for every problem, especially the major ones affecting this country. We are often guilty of writing and talking about the same solutions, the same approaches to fixing the country's problems, even as we slate politicians for talking about the same solutions and same approaches to fixing the country's problems.
Perhaps it is that the Observer has run out of things on which to blame the skyrocketing murder rate and the high incidence of violent crime in the country. In that context, this half-hearted attempt to again kick that old football, dancehall music, can be understood.
According to the editorial, "the subject of the videos was callous and insensitive at a time when the country is reeling from violent criminal acts and a skyrocketing murder toll that have left the nation on edge".
Is there a good time?
It's tempting to ask if the Observer, by that line of reasoning, is suggesting that there is a good time for those videos to be produced. But I do not want to transmit any flippancy in my reasoning of this issue.
The editorial, perhaps sensitive to any criticism that it is again bashing dancehall music, only suggests that the subject of the videos contributes to the murder situation in the country. And because it only makes a suggestion, I will not jump to demand the data that gird this argument.
I could understand if the Observer were saying that scenes depicted in the videos are what contributed to the murder rate in 2017. I could also understand if the commentary were saying that for every year since 2002, the first time that the aggregate number of murders reached four figures in this country, violent music videos featuring local artistes must take some of the blame.
I could also understand that line of argument if children and those vulnerable of understanding had no shield from these videos and that Alkaline, Kartel, Masicka and company were free to poison young minds with the help of free-to-air television and radio.
The Observer draws the conclusion that "it is, of course, unfortunate that Mr Bartlett (sic) and his management team could not have foreseen the deleterious implications of their actions on the wider society before turning on their cameras and rushing to promulgate what, to us, seems to be another obvious attempt to gain popularity".
What deleterious implications? How many men have killed other men or are planning to kill others after watching the music videos?
I can't say the editorial is off the mark, for I know not what mark was being aimed for. All I can say is that the analysis in the piece is base, perhaps even lazy, and appears scripted to tap into public rage about the crime situation in the country. Not only do I expect better from the Observer, I am demanding it!