It’s really all fake, in Jamaica: new news for old wives’ tales

I wanted to write something about the trend of fake news that is sweeping many countries. Social media and the spread of Internet access has made sharing information and misinformation as easy as breathing in and out. I am not going to rationalize why some people would want to spread things they know to be false. They’re mischievous at the very least, and downright nasty and malicious at worst. But, there are many things that go on in the world that are plausible, and unless one knows a lot about a lot, then it’s easy to be caught out.

So, I’m not going to town on people who believed the USA was going to ease visa restrictions on Jamaica, when we have a new US administration that is dead set against most forms of immigration. I will not lampoon those who thought the story of Jamaica becoming a part of the USA like Puerto Rico was real. Some of these stories pander to what people hope would happen to ease lives that are perhaps set in a fragile way regard their legality.

Let’s not knock it! Elvis lives!

Just looking around what passes as ‘news’ in this island is baffling enough. I decided to just look at random at some of our daily papers, especially those known for more exotic stories. Look at what I found as the main story in one–the ‘star turn’, one might say.

The Star: Condoms being used to apply make-up – Jamaican beauticians reject new trend. Should I believe the report? Do I care? If I had a stock of condoms, would I be concerned that they may start disappearing as the lady in my life strives for more beauty? In the absence of a major loss of memory, would I start to panic if my supply, stored in a discreet place, started to dwindle? Would I wonder if I had wandered a bit too much? Let’s leave it there, with a look at the lovely image the Star put with the story.

Condemned to ugliness unless you use these to rub away the warts?

When the rubber hits the road…


What about last summer’s story that wasn’t, of Elaine Thompson being dated by Prince Harry? That was too silly, especially as the pictures used were always of the two ‘lovers’ side-by-side only in two separate pictures. You never noticed?

Princess Elaine of Banana Ground?

We were so besotted by the thought of our new sprint queen being in line to become Queen of England? Princess Elaine of Banana Ground. Let’s invite the Royal Family for a tea party…’Ganja tea, anyone?’ 🙂


Then, we had our own ‘fake food’ story just a few weeks ago, with rice ‘made out of plastic’, which seemed to be a rehash of a well-known hoax, but all of a sudden, Jamaicans were finding reason to believe the island was awash with bendy and stickier-than-normal rice. We banned imports. We tested batches of rice. But, nada. Not a grain of truth? But, maybe people just didn’t know how to cook rice! My suspicions were raised when I heard the lady from Manchester utter that well-known Jamaican word ‘spatula’. Yes, the rice stretched…the imagination…for sure 🙂

People are often unsure about news coming from other countries, that seem plausible. Imagine waking to read headlines like ‘Trump wins!’ After sucking back in the mouthful of cereal that morning, how many thought this was a true story? How many thought it was–surely–a hoax set up by the so-called ‘alt right’? Time to pinch yourself and open your eyes. Surprise! Now, anyone who watched the new US president’s first, impromptu, solo press conference this week–which lasted over an hour–will be rubbing their eyes and asking ‘Is this real?’ It quickly became the stuff of highlight reels. 

“It’s all fake news…The BBC…Quiet!…I’m not ranting and raving…This administration is running like a fine well-tuned machine…”

But, the Chinese, who are often the butt of fake news stories are only one silly story away from being blamed by Donald Trump for the flood of fake news that seems to be sweeping his new administration off its ‘well-oiled-machine-machine’ way.

Jamaica, of all places, though! This is the land where people are making new grief out of old gullibilities, by telling mainly older people in the USA that they have won money in lotteries. How more fake can you get? Well…Our Minister of National Security invoked the spirit of his uncle, whom he claims is an Obeah Man–call that a ‘Witch Doctor’ in standard English–in his fight (or is it ‘fright’) against crime. For real?

Maybe, like The Donald, we should just keep yelling “Your organisation’s terrible…Quiet!…Dont be rude!…You are fake news!”

Heaven help us the next April 1.

Jamaica, land we love

Jamaica is known as the land of many things. In our most romantic moments, we talk about the land of wood and water. If I were to be in a cynical mood–and it does take me, sometimes–I might say that it’s the land of ‘would’ and ‘wait here’, as in ‘Wait here, would you, I’ll go check in the back…” Living in Kingston, I also know it as the land of wood clogging up the water in the gullies.

We love studies, especially expensive ones done by foreign consultants who are very expensive. We love them even more when they tell us things that locals have known for years, but did not have written for them in glossy, bound reports. Last week, Jamaica started down the road of another of its characteristics–the land of nine-day wonders. People got excited and upset about the correlations in a study of crime and education. Criminals went to schools (admittedly, many of them did badly there), so schools must be remedied. I bet all of them went to the bathroom too, so I hope no one will come to our houses and rip out our toilets. Hot on its heels, I hear that a number of other studies are likely to be launched in recent weeks.

One study of a stratified sample of prison inmates shows that the last meal most (67 percent) of them ate was a beef patty. Many others (25 percent) had eaten chicken foot soup; while the rest had eaten a variety of other things. The correlation coefficient was over 95 percent and the margin of error was just 2 percent–whatever all of that means. The government will now be looking to deal with the issue of what breeds criminals by regulating what patty shops sell.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA These will be ‘refurbished’ so that only soy or callaloo patties are sold, knowing that the consumption of red meat is related to an upsuge of anger (not forgetting its harmful health effects in terms of heart disease). So, in one bite the government will eradicate crime and improve national health. Chicken patties will soon be for the chopping block, too, as they have been suspected of being behind the spread of salmonella outbreaks. Three cheers for the government!

Jamaica has a place named the ‘Land of look behind‘. This could easily have become the nation’s capital, not least because it fits well the people’s real nature of being ‘difficult and inhospitable’. That is a finding in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, so it’s almost as good as if it were from Wikipedia. I side with that interpretation, because it helps me understand why it is that some commentators marvel at what Jamaicans do to make it through each day.

Jamaicans are nothing if not creative about the obvious. Yesterday’s papers included a few articles about extortion. The kind of thing that was featured was how people are offering ‘parking’ near the US Embassy in Kingston for the many applicants who go there trying to get visas. Jamaica’s not like the USA or UK, where parking illegally will get your car clamped; it may be towed, occasionally. But, people like to park cars where they think it’s convenient–usually, just for them, despite obvious inconvenience to others. In rural areas, parking on blind corners, or the crest of a hill, are common tricks. In town, parking on sidewalks or driveways, or alleys is common. Good parking means good blocking of someone else, and if it means double parking then that’s double fun.

I digress. Some youths take people’s money, park their cars, sometimes wash them for another fee, make sure the cars are safe for the persons while they spend a few hours with Auntie Samantha hoping to get a pass to the Promised Land. But, this piece of entrepreneurship is scorned. Jamaicans call it ‘hustling’ or ‘exaction’. It seems, in good look-behind fashion, that we’d prefer if the young people sat on street corners, smoking and drinking and just being good and idle–having been prepared for that by schools (we know). We’ve 40 percent unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds, so let’s get that figure up above 50 percent. We can do it!

Of course, we don’t have the snazzy parking lots that festoon many American cities, where people can park their cars, have them broken into, be mugged or molested, or engage in illicit information exchanges under cover of darkness. We have that to look forward to. Of course, because the US Embassy offers no parking and nowhere in the area was designated as public parking for the many applicants, we’d prefer it if people drove around for many minutes, searching for parking, missing their appoitments, getting visa rejections, and having to go through the process again after the lapse of some months. Progress is only hard if you try to make it.

Jamaica is also the land of “In God we trust”. It must be so. Last week, we read about police ‘death squads’. Yesterday, I read that 60 percent of those arrested for corruption are police officers. How else could I go forward with the exhortation I saw in the press to “Help Cops End Extortion“? Look, if the love of statistical analysis has taught us nothing, we should be able to understand the spiral unlogic of asking us to help the police-crooks to be uncrooked. As many Jamaicans suspect, the ‘brains’ behind many schemes happen to be people who are supposed to be upholders of the law. Would you sit down with a crocodile and share a plate of grilled ribs?

Stones set to mark parking spots, for which payment will be 'requested' (courtesy of The Gleaner)
Stones set to mark parking spots, for which payment will be ‘requested’ (courtesy of The Gleaner)

The good, the bad, and the ugly

I have a strong dislike for things that seem easy to fix but go unattended. Not that I’m up and down ladders doing jobs. My dislike focuses on social and economic problems. In the same vein, I look happily on examples of ‘jobs well done’.

I’m going to try to keep my eyes and ears tuned keenly so that I can share examples that fit these ‘bad’ and ‘good’ labels. But I also want to add a category for what I think is just despicable, or ‘ugly’–physically, tonally, morally, I’m open to being appalled.

Each week, on Sundays, I will share my catalogue. That’s my day for the calmest reflections, so my bile from earlier in the week should get tempered.

I was in Miami part of this week, and you’d think that city of excess ought to feature. Let’s see.

The good:
A man named Horace Prince, who is a staff member at the Edna Manley College of the Visual Arts and MC-ed the summer camp show. The man was FUNNY, maybe the best stand-up comic not doing that for a living. I felt for my in-laws, who couldn’t keep up with the rapid-fire patois. Added to his routine was the strong and positive messages he gave all the performers.

An honorable mention goes to the official at Miami International Airport, who promptly responded to my Twitter comments about poor signs. Our last exchange yesterday was around midnight and he was clearly doing his job on personal time. Trust me on that.

The bad:
In the realm of justice, the cake goes to the US legal system and the seeming travesty that was the trial and verdict given on George Zimmerman. The pain was worsened this week by the juror who voted to acquit but then stated she thought he “got away with murder”.

The 15 year-old who was in charge of selling tickets to me but did not know how much change to give from J$1000 and selling 3 tickets at J$250 each. Bad for the education system, whichever it was.

Fountainebleau hotel in Miami Beach may be THE place at night but it gets a prize for some of the poorest front desk service I’ve ever seen. Too much going on and slow seemed to be the only gear. After checking out from my room why would I want to join a line of over 30 people to get a copy of my bill. I loved the ‘light bulb’ moment when my wife suggested having an email option on the TV check out. Priceless. I suggest to a manager that they do some serious time and motion studies.

The ugly:
The ugliest was the story about a young man in St. James who was chopped and stabbed to death after party goers discovered he was cross-dressing. Jamaica’s homophobia reaches a new milestone.

The very ugly has to be the latest sexting scandal unleashed on himself by Anthony Weiner. I really couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about what does or says as a politician, but as someone who claims to want the public’s trust I ask myself “What is he thinking?”

An honorable mention goes to Jamaican MP, Dayton Campbell, for his unflattering comments about a Miss Jamaica World contestant. Good that he apologized quickly afterwards, but check yourself next time the finger reaches for ‘send’.