"Living Guyana" will fight another day

Screen capture of Blogger response to searches for the blog "Living Guyana" which has now gone to ground.

The story goes that Guyana Bank For Trade and Industry(GBTI) had released the police hounds after the blog "Living Guyana's" February 29 publication of a report that they claimed to have been confirmed by "a highly placed source in the financial sector." It stated that GBTI was "in dire financial straits and has applied to the Bank of Guyana for a GY$1billion bailout." The blog has since been taken down, but the cached version of the post in question begins:

Economy comes crashing down...
...Clico, Hand In Hand, GBTI who's next?
Thursday, February 26, 2009
BREAKING NEWS: GBTI Applies For GY$1Billion Gov't Bailout As Economy Begins To Nose Dive

Living Guyana has just confirmed with a highly placed source in the financial sector that the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry is in dire financial straits and has applied to the Bank of Guyana for a GY$1billion bailout. However there may be much greater troubles below the surface.

The bank, which is controlled by the powerful and highly influential Beharry family, and which is in the midst of constructing a massive new headquarters in Kingston has been known to issue thousands of loans on very liberal terms and it appears as though their lack of stringency is turning back to bite them very nastily on the backside.

Experts tell Living Guyana that it is surprising that GY$1billion would be considered a bailout when GBTI's 2007 financial statements put total assets at GY$43 billion. The billion dollar question, experts say, is whether GBTI lost money in the aftermath of the Stanford or Clico collapse. GBTI should have been able to divest some of its treasury bills or other investments or even tap the very rich Beharry Group for a short-term advance (although one wonders if their investment portfolio is also reeling)."
Whether the brouhaha is orchestrated or spontaneous, only time will tell, but I won't be paying attention beyond the time it takes to write this post because for me it's another case of the flea being held accountable for its farts while the elephant is given carte blanche to defecate on peoples' heads. I agree with the comments that the "damage" is being exaggerated and I think that "Signifyin' Guyana" at least is not running with the pack and is taking the time to ask the right questions. Now, if the "misinformation" should become fact, then GBTI would have provided for themselves a tidy scapegoat for their crisis - the goat mouth of the omnipotent "Living Guyana" of course.

Sometimes all "the rest of us" have are the leakers and the whistleblowers. The same things are whispered to insiders and they are given the opportunity to protect their interests ahead of the perspiring hordes. Until I am told that the major players in these failing companies are now living out of cardboard boxes on the pavements, I will continue to assume that they've always had access to information that allowed them to take very good care of themselves.

By the way, how is publishing that piece of information more irresponsible than the broadcasting of the following story as reported in the Trinidad & Tobago Express of March 4th 2009?:
"Panic gripped citizens across the country yesterday, as news spread like wildfire after midday reports carried on two television and six radio stations claimed that 75 children were found in a 40-foot container, bound for Cuba, at Shed Four of the Port of Port of Spain on Wrightson Road."
The Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday reports
"After a thorough check of the Port of Port-of-Spain by police officers, port police and officers of the Customs and Excise Division, the Commissioner confirms that all these allegations are just rumours."
He described the radio and television reports as 'unsubstantiated'." The Port Authority also confirmed that the reports were false.

Since that incident, the The Telecommunications Authority (Tatt) has launched an investigation into Monday’s unsubstantiated media reports to determine “if and to what extent” the reporting of the “false and misleading information” by several media houses “may have been as a result of a failure to take reasonable steps to verify the accuracy of the information prior to transmission.”

Is this ethical "mainstream" news reporting? Putting aside my empathizing with the very real trauma that would have been experienced by relatives of the many missing children in Trinidad and Tobago, the additional stress that would have been placed on their already stressed fellow Trinbagonians and the potential for injury, both physical and emotional, from the panic that such a report would have caused, I couldn't help but compare the situation to that of "Living Guyana's". Let us see if the police will be sent to hunt down the "mainstream". Maybe these news outlets, like "Living Guyana" should also close up shop?

I don't know, just a idea, but what if this whole hoax was deliberately instigated, not by some idle prankster flea but by the same elephants who ordered the massacre of the trees ahead of the Summit of the Americas? What if... [and a blogger is allowed to post "what if's' if he/she clearly identifies them as such]what if the elephants were trying to see if the "mainstream" could be relied upon to suppress rather than broadcast with gay abandon, any panic-inducing rumours which could possibly be spread by malicious malcontents during the Summit?

At a time when the country must guarantee the safety of the many visiting VIP's and when it especially does not want to portray itself as Mayhemville, wouldn't conducting such a test occur to those in charge of Security?

Well, if it was a test, the results are in. The "mainstream" media threw caution to the winds and lunged with mouths agape for the hoax. They swallowed it - hook, line and sinker and now TATT is going to have to instruct them in no uncertain terms about how they are NOT going to be repeating the same mistake next month...OR ELSE. Not so sure if they'd be as vigilant after the Summit has passed but as I said, it's just a "what if"....and I ain't taking down my blog.

Over at Slacker's Chronicles, that blogger, out of concern for his fellow bloggers and not wanting us to find ourselves in the same position as "Living Guyana, posted the video clip which I have reposted below. The speaker is Devin Stewart of the Carnegie Council.


It is part of a longer presentation which I have not viewed but addressing just the clip, I am not certain whether the main concern here is the "ease" with which the technology allows bloggers to publish both truths and falsehoods, or a lingering uneasiness felt especially by the "mainstream" with the democratization of broadcasting? If it is the former, we know that all technologies have their uses and misuses, no news there, and that people will continue to act as honourably or dishonourably as they have always acted, only instead of at a snail's pace, they will now do so at lightning speed.

If it is the latter, I also recognise that discomfort. The good news is that independent thinkers who in the past would have been shouted over by the minority's control of the "mainstream" media, are taking to this more inclusive platform like fish to water. These are the disturbing arrivants.

If the "mainstream" would be honest, they would admit that although some of these voices can be quite unethical, as unethical in fact as those in the "mainstream" have been allowed to be in their presentation of reality, they are actually not the real threat. The real threat is the army of bloggers who ARE proceeding ethically but who are considered problematic because they do not owe any allegiance to paycheck-dispensing bosses or conventional myth-making and preservation and are therefore free to explore perspectives which are not rehearsed or directed by others.

To make this clip relevant to the real world, we should situate the concerns expressed here within the wider context of unethical publishing and that will include the often invasive and dishonest publishing of commercial advertising, the mind control of religious proselytizing, and political and economic propaganda, and the unquestioned "mainstream" with their "acceptable" forms of communication.

As far as I am concerned, all unsolicited information thrown at me is oppressive but if I need some of it to survive, I prefer to digest information that is not driven by agendas that only pretend to include a desire for my advancement. So am I advocating "unethical" blogging? Apart from the argument that could be made that "ethicalness" is in the eye of the beholder, I must respond with a resounding NO!. I am certainly not supporting lack of regard for the rights of others in any activity, whether done in private or public. Though the largely unregulated arena of the blogosphere might be mistaken for a free for all Carnival and some might be tempted to puh dey blogs in de air and wave dem like dey jus doh care, no one can in good conscience support the fabrication of information with the deliberate intent to cause damage. If this is what "Living Guyana" did, then they do not have my sympathy...but did they?

Facts are facts and most of us "citizen journalists" who choose to blog about facts, are aware of the responsibility that comes with the freedom to express our views. We usually quote our sources and provide links when they are available. We sometimes discuss the topics that are glossed over or ignored by others, we provide updates and corrections, we respond to the concerns and inputs of the readers who provide feedback and we contribute to debates by providing alternative and/or unpopular views. But since there is so much dishonesty crawling about on the information terrain, both sanctioned and not, there is no excuse for any consumer of information to leave the regulation solely in the hands of the providers. It is up to us as individuals to develop the survival skills of vigilance and discernment. Next time we must follow the shining example of our Prime Minister. He also heard the rumour but he didn't jump to any conclusions..."because I'll tell you this, the minute I heard the report I made one check and found out it wasn't true," Good for you, Sir. This is intelligent consumption!

I conclude with an excerpt from a March 2nd letter to the editor of the Stabroek news which responds to the fallout from the "Living Guyana" post:
If ever a country needed a blogging community it is this one
..."But this incident goes to a bigger point about Guyana, a society where no one is held accountable for anything, ever. Where information that is routinely public in other countries is withheld... it is better to speak one’s mind anonymously than have to stay silent while all around you see the absurd injustices and corruption of a society in fatal decline. The blog has been shut down but another will take its place."
Statement published by the Guyana Government Information Agency denouncing the baseless allegations:
Gov’t denounces mischievous statements on financial system.
Georgetown, GINA, February 27, 2009

"The Government of Guyana wishes to denounce comments carried on a blog and repeated by the Evening News last evening stating that the Guyana Bank For Trade and Industry (GBTI) has applied to the Bank of Guyana for a G$1 billion bailout, along with comments carried on a blog regarding Citizens’ Bank.
Government views these unsubstantiated and baseless comments as highly irresponsible and mischievous and wishes to state categorically that GBTI has not applied for any financial support or bailout in any form from the Bank of Guyana or any Government agency and does not face any issue requiring Government or regulatory intervention. The comments made on Citizens’ Bank are, similarly, completely baseless and untrue.
Government has noted that the Evening News has since retracted its comments and apologised for its actions, and it is hoped that other media houses and citizens will act responsibly in these matters.
Government further wishes to condemn what appears to be a coordinated attempt to cast aspersions on the strength of its financial system. Such an approach is reckless and completely inconsistent with the practice of responsible journalism by knowledgeable professionals. As has been reiterated by the Central Bank, Guyana’s financial system continues to be stable and the financial institutions operating in Guyana remain well-managed and financially sound."
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!