Tuesday, June 5, 2007

So you don't like me? It's ok!

Food For Thought 2-16-07

Hi friends, this is Harry Blalock; General Manager for radio stations KZMI & KCNM. It’s that time once again to take a look at the issues of the week, and to offer some Food For Thought.

I find it interesting that I have had a number of people come up to me in the past few months and tell me that my popularity is slipping or that people are saying bad things about me as a result of what I talk about in my commentary. Honestly, that comes as no surprise at all, nor should it. During the Babauta years, many people were thoroughly disgusted with the way the former governor operated the government, but were afraid to publicly speak up about it themselves for fear of retaliation. He was known for being very vindictive and carrying grudges, therefore most people were afraid to voice their opposition or to speak up about their concerns. But because I simply didn’t care whether he liked it or not, and chose to simply talk about the issues as I saw them, a lot of people were behind what I was saying and were very supportive. Nothing wrong with that situation, it simply was what it was.

Ironically, there were also those who had online columns and were very supportive of me and what I was saying as long as I was only talking about Babauta, and pointing out his shortcomings. But the minute that I voiced any concern about their particular candidate they turned on me like a pack of hungry dogs and went on the attack, saying anything they could come up with to try discrediting me and embarrassing me. Fortunately I don’t embarrass very easily. What this pointed out to me though was that popularity, friendship and camaraderie, in some peoples minds was limited to when you only talked negatively about those they considered their enemies. The minute you say anything negative about their candidate they will stop at nothing to discredit you. It has nothing to do with issues in their minds, but is really just about what benefits them and their particular candidate.

When political commentary is driven by loyalty to a certain candidate or party, it becomes nothing more than propaganda, which should be discarded along with last week’s leftovers. It fails to take an objective view of the issues, because everything is tainted with their party or candidates views on the matter. Now there is nothing wrong with people being loyal to a candidate or to a party, but they need to view and label themselves as supporters at that point, and not claim to be unbiased political commentators, for in reality they are spin doctors. That’s what public relations is all about, taking a situation and spinning it as favorably as possible for the candidate or party. Spin-doctors will generally always be very popular with their party or candidates supporters, because they are saying what everyone wants to hear.

Political commentators will some days be in favor with one group of people, but can just as easily be on the outs the next day because of what they had to say about the issues at hand. In other words we can be best friends as long as I am attacking your enemies and not saying anything negative about your candidate or asking any hard questions, but the moment I bring up anything that you view as questionable, then the easiest thing to do is to attack the messenger, and ignore the issues. After all, it’s much easier to call someone names that you don’t agree with, or to make up stories about them to try discrediting them, than it is to deal with the issue at hand, especially if you have no good explanation for your stand on the issue. We saw more examples of that last year than I’d care to recall. And when people choose that method, it not only exposes them for what they really are, but it also takes away credibility from whatever side of the issue they happen to be on.

Now there is a perception that I have changed or gone soft on the Fitial administration. Of course I expect that view is from supporters of former Governor Babauta or by supporters of other candidates who plan on running against Governor Fitial in the next general election. The truth of the matter is, I can’t imagine how Governor Fitial is coping with the mess he was left with. For the record, no, I don’t agree with everything he has done. I feel he has made a few fairly big mistakes in judgment, and I have publicly commented on them every time. For example, appointing his nephew Melvin Faisao as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Community & Cultural Affairs, reducing the qualifications to serve as the Executive Director of Commonwealth Ports Authority so that Clyde Norita could get the job, and promising the get rid of the fuel surcharge on our power bills as soon as he took office. Governor Fitial is not perfect and has made some mistakes, and will no doubt make some more. However the mess he inherited was unprecedented, and trying to figure out how to cope with it and what the best course of action was is something that no one would have been prepared for. Because of this, I feel we had to give him a certain amount of time to come up with a plan, and see what he would do.

Even though I have taken this approach, I don’t think my comments have been appreciated by the present administration. Before the last election, Ben Fitial was on my Food For Thought e-mail distribution list and would forward on my Food For Thought to literally hundreds, if not thousands of people he knew. That’s because it served his purpose as long as I was attacking Babauta’s policies and pointing out what he was doing. But sometime during this past year, Governor Fitial stopped forwarding my commentary to those on his e-mail list. That’s fine and it’s certainly his prerogative and I don’t take it personally at all, but I have heard from dozens and dozens of people asking me why they don’t receive my commentary anymore. They say they used to get it forwarded to them from Ben Fitial, but haven’t received it in months now. I am always happy to add them on to my e-mail distribution list if they request it, or I refer them to www.chamorro.com where you can find all the archives of my commentaries going back to the very first one. You go to the Community link, and then go to Island Commentaries. I bring this up because I believe it points out the fact that when you deal with issues, and not personalities, you will not be pleasing all the people all the time. In fact, you will most likely have nearly all of the people mad at you at one point or another. That’s what happens when you speak your mind and stick to the issues as opposed to following parties or politicians.

So when I have people come up to me and say they heard so and so saying something about me, or telling me that people aren’t happy about what I’m saying, it really doesn’t bother me. I can pretty much tell you who the people are who aren’t happy by taking a look at the last few topics I have talked about in my commentary. Believe it or not, but this is not a popularity contest, I’m not running for public office or trying to win the title of Miss Teen or Miss CNMI. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have the legs for it. When you’re in a popularity contest you may want to tell everybody what they want to hear, it’s usually the best way to gain support, which also seems to be the standard operating procedure for our politicians. When you’re in a beauty contest, it doesn’t really seem to matter what you say as long as you’re pretty enough, so we won’t even go there.

The purpose of opinion or editorial columns is supposed to make you think. The writers shouldn’t be as concerned with convincing you that they are right as they should with giving you something that spurs you to think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. Sometimes the facts make it very difficult to come to any other conclusion other than the one presented, but not always. Two people can look at the exact same situation with all the same facts and come to very different conclusions, especially if one will be benefiting from the situation or stands to gain. I have been criticized in the past for asking a lot of questions in my commentaries, and using the questions to make people question just what is really happening. But by asking the questions I feel that it is forcing you to ask yourselves the questions and to come up with your own answers based on the information you have available to you.

If I wanted to be popular, I wouldn’t do a political commentary, that’s the fastest way to make enemies I can think of. It’s also easier to just have all the politicians and politician wannabe’s happy with you, because they are much more likely to spend their money advertising with you before the elections, and you get a lot less death threats that way. That is the easy road, and the most convenient road. But I believe we have more of a responsibility than to just entertain. I think we owe it to ourselves and to you to ask some of the hard questions, and to take a look at the issues we are all facing. If you just want mindless entertainment, and no thought whatsoever, there are radio stations out there that offer that for you. You may never hear anyone talking negatively about anything they had to say about politics or issues, but you’ve probably heard several people complaining that their music or their language is off color and distasteful. My point here is that you’re never going to please all the people all the time, and I’m ok with that. I’m not worried about being popular, being able to run for office, or winning any congeniality contests in any pageants. I think we are all faced with some huge issues at this point in time, and frankly we all need to be thinking about them and discussing them. Whether you agree or not is really not the point, it’s whether you’re aware of the issues, and whether you’re talking about them and thinking about them.

I’m Harry Blalock, thanking you once again for giving me a generous slice of your valuable time, and allowing me to share my Food For Thought.

1 comment:

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My commentary that airs on radio stations KZMI - 103.9 FM & KCNM - 101.1 FM