The Independent Broadcasting Authority Amendment Bill voted last night adds new ammunition to the arsenal of the bourgeois state’s control over society. The MSM once again resorts to repression as a response to all “ills”. The repressive state is now that much worse.
The ID Card Biometric photographs taken together with the Surveillance Camera network hanging, branch full of vultures, over us now have added to them the new restrictions on private radio companies. If, that is, the President of the Republic signs the Bill, which we call on him not to do, and if it is promulgated.
The IBA as amended will be able to give orders to radio companies to do something – yes it is as vague as that – and if they don’t obey, fine them up to half a million Rupees. It is as though an administrative body like the IBA, nominated by the executive, just replaces the judiciary. The IBA has to re-grant a company its license every year rather than every three years, so there is a kind of sword of Damocles hanging over them. And judges will get privileged access to journalists’ sources for news. This makes it more difficult for journalists to get information. So, the IBA amendment brings more repression. And still, of course, the MSM government has not come up with in a Freedom of Information Act.
The Opposition walked out of the National Assembly in protest at the IBA Bill, but it was passed.
All this comes against a background of repressive laws, ranging from the Public Gathering Act to the Prevention of Terrorism Act that former President Cassam Uteem bravely refused to sign and resigned instead, and draconian bureaucratic controls on trade unions through the Workers’ Rights Act and Employment Relations Act, as well as the new Quarantine Act and Covid-19 Act that make strikes illegal in the Port, Airport and health sectors, make much “work” fall into a largely unprotected category called “atypical” work, as well as giving the police more powers still.
So, the arsenal is huge. The bourgeois state is taking advantage of the relative weakness of the working classes – as we are replaced by electronic devices and while we are under epidemic control restrictions – and changing the balance of forces in favour of the bosses.
And all this is happening in times when worldwide and in Mauritius, the social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, jet propel fake news, and turn shop-verandah gossip into industrially-propagated lies. And where there is a kind of symbiosis between fake news on the social networks and parts of the mainstream media like, in the USA, Fox News and two or three other extreme-right wing outlets.
So far, there is no way to control the false news on the social network platforms. So, a large wedge of people in the USA genuinely believe that the elections of 2020 were “stolen” from Trump. In Mauritius, too, there are still people who believe that the elections here were “stolen” – even after the exposure by an excellent journalist of the fake claims contained in the Ramgoolam electoral petition, the cascade of withdrawn cases, struck out clauses, and complete collapse of other challenges. There is a fair percentage (maybe 5% of Mauritians? maybe 25% of Americans and French people) that genuinely believe all the fake news against vaccines – even while vaccination is perhaps the finest part of modern medicine – and many even believe in harm done by “barrier public health”, i.e. they are against masks, social distancing, and limits on gatherings when an epidemic flares up – these methods are not only a good aspect of modern public health medicine, but often, until vaccines are developed, the only way to slow the spread and thus preserve the health care services that “serve” us all, and preserve society against what can be fatal attacks from viral infections. On the social media platforms, there are layers and layers of intentionally falsified documents to make people afraid of vaccination. Many people are so indoctrinated by capitalism that they only see the individual, and do not see society as a whole as well, while vaccination helps the whole of society, as well as the individual. There is even a kind of intellectual terror-spreading, where individuals, especially anonymous ones, threaten people, as if putting jinxes on them, with getting Covid. It is strange times we live in. Cruel. There is an air of a kind of dark ages that threatens us.
The state becomes more powerful and repressive, and at the same time, harmful lies spread as if jet-propelled and with total impunity. We have to deal with both – oppose the repression and oppose the lies.
We urgently need a national debate on both issues: Repression or freedom? And how to place legal responsibility on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, for everything they publish i.e. convert them from being a kind of postal service to being a kind of newspaper publisher. And maybe we should be working on creating proper democratically-run media, instead of state-controlled or profit-making ones.
But the problem goes deeper.
Mainstream media print and publish, and give voice to, the very conspiracy theories popularized on the social media. So, a kind of symbiosis operates. Even the respectable Week-End newspaper last Sunday gave two pages, once again, to an interview with Dr. Henrion Caude. She makes crass statements in it like “interrogeons-nous sur le lien tres fort de concomitance entre vaccination et augmentation des cas et des décès,” and she still proposes worm medicine and even putting anti-septic somewhere or other into your body, as Trump notoriously proposed and has never lived down. We must remark on the interview not being signed by a journalist because this means the owners and controllers of Week-End take full responsibility for the crack-pot stuff this former Mauritian government nominee on the Economic Development Board spouts. She is someone with a lot of clout including “capital”, and the influence that gives you. Her husband is a Sun Resorts boss, and together they own a laboratory in Mauritius. She also lectures in the Institut Cardinal Jean Margeot. She is known world-wide as “the muse of the Covid conspirators”. As we said in a previous article on our site on 19 June this year, “In France, she used to be a respected researcher who, instead of remaining in the logic of science, followed her political ideas as a right-wing Catholic. It is important to put on record that the Pope, by contrast, encourages vaccination. He calls it an ‘ethical obligation’. Strong language. He makes the point of opposing the line of high-profile Catholics like Ms. Henrion- Caude who say, in order to manipulate believers, that human foetuses are supposedly used in vaccine manufacture. She is a slippery character to make that suggestion. Le Parisien thinks so too: “Pendant 1 h 20, ce vendredi ... [Dr. Alexandra Henrion-Caude] expose au Parisien son parcours et ses convictions, brûlant de convaincre de sa légitimité. Le lendemain, elle refusera par mail (avec copie à son avocat) que ses citations soient publiées.” (Le Parisien 30 Mai 2021). Le Monde says of her, “Mme Henrion-Caude est installée depuis plusieurs années à l'île Maurice, où elle a lancé, en 2017 avec son époux, un mystérieux laboratoire de recherches ..’” Yahoo Style France, says on 15 June, ‘En effet, elle vit depuis 2017 à l'île Maurice où elle a fondé, avec son mari, un laboratoire dont le but est ‘d'établir le lien, qui fait actuellement défaut entre la médecine traditionnelle et la science innovante’”. She was also in contact here with disgraced former President of the Republic, Ms. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, also a scientist with a traditional medicine bent, and who resigned after the Platinum Card scandal in the Alvaro Sobrinho affair; she and Sobrinho, ironically, had announced jointly that Bill Gates, who finances vaccines and who is the anti-vaccination campaign’s scapegoat, was to finance them – by the billion in dollars!”
All this to say, the working class of the world has a lot of problems to address: the cruel reign of capitalism, its increasingly repressive state apparatuses, the lies that are spread on an industrial scale via social and other media, not to mention the now increased threat of nuclear war, as well as ecological disaster looming, via species collapse, climate disorder, and other pollution-weighted tipping points that also threaten. Not easy. The only way to tackle all this is by organizing politically, and this means on the basis of a program, and it has to be one that starts where oppressed people “are” right now i.e. from a place they recognize.
And even as we have to continue working for the capitalist bosses or for their state apparatus, or in some fragile little enterprise of our own or someone else’s, we have to be preparing to overthrow the system underpinning this way of working. It divides us into classes, and it separates us from what we make or do, while cutting us from the natural environment we are part of.
And even as the burden upon us seems heavy because we live inside a system we work to overthrow, we keep our awareness alive of the small things in life, and we share the little pleasures of being alive and conscious. From seeing with wonder the bright red Cardinals swooping down to a neighbour casting a handful of rice for them every day, to sharing a meal where the salad is a few shiny, even redder, rusay from the garden on top of a lettuce leaf with a bit of roket from a flower pot. From thinking how we miss seeing people’s smiles hidden by the masks we must for now wear, to imagining how society, once changed, might one day be. And to noticing the caring of others – the old, old lady who was leading a blind neighbour all the way from inside Cite La Ferme across at the robot and up to the Stad Germain Commarmond to get her Covid vaccination, tiny step by tiny step.
These are all small pleasures: a bird, a berry, and an act of kindness.
Lindsey Collen, for LALIT