Lighten up, Madam PM

Published: Monday | December 23, 2013 Comments 0
Glenn Tucker,  Guest Columnist
Glenn Tucker, Guest Columnist

Glenn Tucker,  Guest Columnist

In the United States, a roast is an event in which an individual is subjected to a public presentation of comedic insults, praise, outlandish true and untrue stories and heart-warming tributes.

This is really a mock counter to a toast. The understanding is that the 'roastee' is able to take the jokes in good humour and not as serious criticism or insult. Some see it as an honour to be roasted. The White House Correspondents Association and the Radio and Television Correspondents Association have annual dinners that feature a comedy roasting of the US president.

Two decades ago, a US president was caught with his pants down and was impeached. He remains one of the most popular presidents despite the fact that his activities are still used by comedians for laughs.

I mention all this because of a strange development in our country. Assorted members and supporters of the People's National Party (PNP) frequently bemoan what they see as disrespect to the prime minister whenever cartoonists or anyone else makes a joke at the prime minister's expense.

On the rare occasions when the prime minister speaks, she never fails to complain about those who criticise her. Last week was the most recent case of this. It reminds me of my years as a young child when my siblings would whine to my parents that I was teasing them, when all they had to do was hand over the toys I wanted to use.

PNP targeted

The prime minister claimed that the criticism was mainly because her party and not the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was in power. Now, that's really funny. Funny because the media is frequently criticised for being partial to the PNP and neglecting to ask them the hard questions. I also remember that JLP Prime Minister Bruce Golding had a programme on radio in which anyone could call in and ask him anything. Even he did not escape the cartoonists. It's just that he did not seem to be crushed by the jokes.

Could all this have to do with the fact that those around the prime minister have erected this huge, high wall around her and carefully insulated her from questions by the media?

Some say she won't answer questions, others claim she can't answer them. Whichever is true, it must be acknowledged that this strange situation provides fertile ground for rumour, speculation and mischief, all of which would be reduced or removed if the PM were seen to be more forthcoming and accessible to the media. She does not need to be protected from them. They are not going to harm her.

The prime minister is a public figure. She holds the highest public office in the land. In every country, such a person is the butt of jokes. Mrs Portia Simpson Miller has what I call the 'Roger Clarke effect' - no one dislikes her - to be constantly peeved by parody and wounded by anything other than praise, to view the comments of comedians, cartoonists and crackpots as degrading, offensive and impolite and deserving of public response is sad. Really sad. Would I be offensive if I asked that we just lighten up? If so, I apologise.

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