Shapers at work
Nelson Mandela had the fortune of being cast as a “terrorist” by US president Ronald Reagan (a status he held from 1962 to 2008) and lauded by Barack Obama. How could that be? It is all a question of framing: what messages you wished to shape the image of the man.
Today we are witnessing the same game being played out in our country. The judiciary has been a bulwark for the society and remains one of the most important pillars that people have unshakeable confidence in as per the polls. We have witnessed through the last decade a continuous attack on this institution, but the intensity has been increased in the last few weeks.
Patrick Manning was clumsy in his attempt to remove Sat Sharma, but this latest approach is subtle and more devious. It tries to get the public to share the “new” values. The approach is an old one: Aristotle, a wise Greek, said “persuasion may come through the hearers when the speech stirs their emotions”. This is what we are witnessing.
Here is the scenario: a legal challenge for delayed judgment, then the floated idea of impeachment of the Chief Justice, then leaked documents on the Chief Justice’s travel, coupled with the unproven assertion he is seeking a job in the Middle East.
This is then followed by the suggestion we move to pay on the basis of judgments delivered timed with the release of the Salaries Commission and the identification of the Chief Justice’s housing. An unverified disclosure is published that the Chief Justice, in a meeting with the judges, claimed a personal attack. All of this is taken against the background that specific politically sensitive judgments have been long in coming. The capstone is the seeking of opinion from three prominent lawyers with regard to the reporting of the events.
What is the position? The Chief Justice is being framed in the court of public perception as a lazy man who flies about and does not do his work but wants cushy perks. Indeed he wants more money now, and when we complain about justice delayed he is defensive.
Like Mandela, he is being framed in a specific light. This framing plugs into the perspectives of the society: we wish for people in authority to work as hard as we do, we have undue delays in service at all places and we suffer while the country splurges. He, the Chief Justice, is now painted as part of those wicked people in the society who oppress us.
I wish to draw the attention of the country to a document written by Lewis Powell in 1971 (Google “Lewis Powell memo”), and see if we are not all being taken for goats. It shows how the plot is more subtle and dangerous than Manning ever was. It says “the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change…the greatest care should be exercised in selecting the cases in which to participate...”
This comment is couched in a complete approach to dominate the minds and hearts of people for a political cause. It speaks to the need to use full-page ads, to issue strong and prompt complaints in the media, the use of bloggers from the campus, the infiltration of the campus. In fact, there is a particularly interesting point with regard to graduate schools of business—“need for rapport with the increasingly influential graduate schools of business”.
It is required reading to understand the stop/start enquiry on the recent “comess” at UWI. In fact, it is necessary for us all to read the document to see how since 2001 with respect to UWI’s appointments we have been unwitting victims of a larger plot. How the game plan to change our country’s thinking has progressed for more than a decade.
We are witnessing the rise of the use of language we have not seen before: have you noticed one adjective is no longer sufficient? Have you observed the pictures placed almost every day of particular personages giving gifts to poor children? What is that? It is the shaping of images, a framing of the dialogue in the nation to make us like some people more and their political opponents less. We have to be on our guard since the guardians are complicit with the shapers who are at work. Be warned.