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MSNBC, rape and US elections

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While Karib Cable must be complimented for providing sporting fans comprehensive coverage of the recently-concluded 2012 Olympics, its actions in blocking access to international channels via the NBC network aroused the ire of many local fans. Both on the radio and in the print media, fans openly voiced their displeasure and even challenged the legality of the cable-provider’s actions. Sadly, those complaints seem to have fallen on deaf ears and the practice continued right to the end of the Games.{{more}}

The dissatisfaction of customers in this case and the failure to achieve redress brings to light a fundamental weakness in consumer relations. At the official level, we have a Department of Consumer Affairs, but even its biggest supporters would admit that it lacks the teeth and drive to make it as effective as it ought to be. On the part of too many businesses, customer satisfaction does not appear to rank as highly on their scale of priorities as one would imagine, given the old adage, “the customer is always right”. But, above all, the biggest share of the blame must be shouldered by us all as consumers.

It is all well and good to get on the airwaves or write in the press, exposing areas of dissatisfaction with service, but it is not enough. If we want a reliable mechanism to ensure that we get justice, whether from a cable-provider, a public utility or an individual firm, there is really no substitute for ORGANIZING. As far back as the mid-seventies, efforts were made locally to set up a Consumers’ Association, with the late Bertram Nicholas, one of the early foundation stones of the New Democratic Party, being a central figure. Dormancy and revival, but especially complacency, have characterised the fortunes of organizing efforts in this area over the years. Nominally, a local association exists, but how many of us, we all, give it our full support and ensure that it is a vibrant defender of consumer interests? After all, every one of us is a consumer; there cannot be a more common basis for organizing.

Having made the plug for local consumer organizing, and I exhort the local leadership to make renewed efforts to revitalize the movement, perhaps I can return to another aspect of the consumer complaint re the blocking of certain channels during the Olympics. One consumer was very specific in his/her complaint, speaking of being denied access to week-night coverage on MSNBC of issues relating to the US presidential campaign. He/she has a point, for MSNBC presents a more enlightened discussion of the relevant issues, as opposed to the regular crap aired by other sections of the US media networks.

This past week, for instance, a lot of attention was devoted to statements made by a contender for a seat in the US Senate, Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri. He ran afoul of even his reactionary political bedfellows by making statements supporting his opposition to abortion rights for women who became pregnant after being raped. Akin, a Republican Congressman, is on record as a co-sponsor, along with Republican Vice-President contender Paul Ryan, of Congressional legislation aimed at restricting women’s rights when so sexually abused.

He exposed his backward, anti-women’s rights nature by not only coming up with some ridiculous distinctions of supposed categories of rape, including “legitimate”, “illegitimate” and “forcible” rape. What arrant nonsense! Worse, Akin went on to raise some crazy theory of there being scientific evidence that a woman cannot get pregnant during forcible rape, for her body has a mechanism to reject such sperm forcibly implanted. This is by no means a view confined to Akin, but widely held by the rabid crowd who now dominate US Republican politics. In fact, one of their leading spokesmen is reported to have said on public radio that being raped is like being caught in bad weather, over which you have no control, so you might as well make the best of it and, supposedly, “enjoy it”.

So strong was the public reaction to Akin’s statement, however, particularly from women, a key factor in President Obama winning the White House four years ago, that all of his prominent colleagues and the Republican leadership were forced to denounce him and even call for him to withdraw from the Senate race. The Missouri Senate seat is seen as critical to Republican hopes of winning a majority there, so the concerns are more politically opportunistic than based on fundamental abhorrence of such a backward anti-female position.

That arch-reactionary platform is not restricted just to women’s rights; it is fundamentally anti-working people and racist as well. It is a platform which poses even greater danger to the people of the Caribbean and other developing nations the world over. It covers itself in the garb of a warped and intolerant version of Christianity and manifests itself in implacable opposition to a black man being President of the United States of America. It is a right-wing ideology which cannot be encouraged in our society and which must be combatted vigorously. It is something that those political parties in the Caribbean which had been drawn into the Republican-led Christian Democratic Union, would do well to review and to distance themselves from, for their own good.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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