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THE CASE OF OSCAR WILDE—SOME THINGS BEST LEFT ALONE

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viagra usa times, discount viagra serif;”>Description: Oscar Wilde Sarony.jpgOn February 28, 1895, Oscar Wilde, the well-known Irish writer and raconteur, went to his social club in London. Upon arrival, the porter handed him a small envelope bearing the name of the “Marquess of Queensberry” with a note inside which read: “For Oscar Wilde posing somdomite (sic).” That was a public accusation of homosexuality which in the day in Britain was punishable by 2 years in prison.  The accusation was made by the Marquis of Queensbury who was annoyed at the relationship Mr. Wilde had with the son of the Marquis Alfred Douglas.   Instead of leaving well enough alone, Mr. Wilde challenged the assertion in the courts.  In the end, he failed and he himself ended up in jail for two years at hard labour and died penniless at the age of 46 in Paris.

In the classes of public ethics and public conduct, this story has been used as an example of when judgement ought to be exercised to leave well enough alone.  Some things are not worth pursuing in public even if they are false.  The truth always ought to out, but for public figures it doesn’t always work out that way, depends on how things are constructed and in the end the public figure may get the worse of it.  Winning the battle but losing the war.

During the past week, the police took the unusual step  of announcing that an investigation was being conducted into what one can only guess was an allegation of criminal libel against person or persons unknown for a “ song” which was posted on the internet.   The “song” was pretty nasty with some bar room language and accusations against the Prime Minister Perry Christie and his family including his wife and child and the Leader of the DNA Branville McCartney and the PLP MPs generally.    The usual accusations which are the last refuge of scoundrels: false accusations about sexuality and mental state and just nasty stuff.  The writer of the song and singer is a fucking jackass.  That much is clear. Maybe even an idiot.

The first it came to the general public’s attention one supposes was on Thursday evening 11 August at the close of the House when the Leader of the Opposition Dr. Hubert Minnis got up and denounced it and said that the FNM was dissociating itself from that level of conduct.  He went so far as to say that even though he was opposed to Perry Christie, the man, Mr. Christie was the Prime Minister and as such as his (Dr. Minnis’) Prime Minister too.  Rapping on the desk thunderously all around.

The Leader of the DNA Branville McCartney also denounced it and said that his party completely dissociated itself from the sentiments and the tactic.

Even the wild and uncontrollable Andre Rollins MP posted on Facebook a denunciation and rapped on the desk on Thursday night. This was a rare moment of unanimity in the House.  They all looked like they meant it. Misty eyed in the face of the brutishness and crudity of the public audacity of some rascal who had breached the public face of the game.

Except that in every barroom in Nassau and around the country, there are no doubt scores of people who say the same thing, use the same language and it simply evaporates into thin air.  Just drunken talk.  The question and the judgement is whether or not that is where it should remain and whether the “song” should simply be treated as hot air and leave it there.  When you elevate something to the level of a public denunciation, do you in fact help to spread something which would die a natural death?

It is not an easy judgement to make.  But one remembers when Lionel Dorsett was the Editor of The Torch, the newspaper of the Free National Movement.  He carried a headline: The Chief Is A ‘Tief”.  This was interpreted by Paul Adderley’s Attorney General’s office as a criminal libel, referring to then Prime Minister Lynden Pindling and Mr. Dorsett was prosecuted for it.  The case went down in flames with the jury delivering a not guilty verdict.

Mr. Adderley defended the prosecution on the grounds that it would send a signal out to others that you don’t do and say that kind of thing because you could end up in jail, even if the prosecution failed.  This is what you call the “chilling effect”.  The other side of the coin is that in prosecuting, you end up engendering more hate about the government for bringing the case and you bring the matter more prominently in the public domain causing more damage and loss of reputation to the very person you’re trying to protect.

In today’s dispensation then, many people are seeking out the song that never heard of it. The police launched an investigation and arrested from all accounts one PLP and one FNM. Both have since been released.   The residual bitterness of that, who knows.  The police discussed the case publicly in the press, which was a bit strange. We are simply concerned that again in matters of free speech, that the police have not embroiled the PLP in being on the side of interfering with free speech rights.  In other words, even though the language is clearly objectionable and nasty, does it rise to the criminal?

There is one other dimension to be considered and that is getting to the bottom of this might in fact be a security concern, not a criminal concern. So this is in our view is properly the remit of the Security and Intelligence Branch, to find out who did it, and where it came from because clearly that person who has such animus toward political leaders needs to be put under a microscope.  This kind of casually said stuff is irresponsible.

It has been brought to the attention of this column that one of these similarly scatological songs has been written by Kirk Bodie, aka KB, about Fred Mitchell and Jerome Fitzgerald, no doubt because he is annoyed that his pay cheque is being threatened by the exposure of the source of his money from and the amounts from Save The Bays.  Some have urged action against him.  Again, the question is for what. Mr. Bodie’s songs have no traction.  Few people pay attention to him now that he is known as a fellow who writes political music for a pay cheque.  It does not yet rise to that.

So all politicians should do well to remember the Oscar Wilde story and apply their hearts unto wisdom in these matters.

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