Monday, April 22, 2024

THE LOWDOWN: Lying on a Dick


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A FEW MONTHS ago I made comments about an individual which I considered a reasonable interpretation of his oft expressed views. The Nation’s legal eagle indicated that I would be guilty of defamation.

The comments had to be deleted forthwith.

We columnists walk a fine line between reasonable assumption, conjecture, malicious invention, hyperbole, deliberate distortion and defamation. I have been sued by a lady in Jamaica whose name I had not mentioned, of whose very existence I was totally unaware. My crime: quoting a line from another published column.

However, in the case mentioned earlier, I rewrote the column using quotes from the individual’s own writings. Commented the legal eagle: “This is fine… by quoting (X) directly he makes the same point with perhaps greater force and free from defamation”.

As I understand it, therefore, it is okay to quote someone, dangerous to make assumptions about him. To misquote him or put words in his mouth, I assume, is unpardonable.

Eminent fiction author and retired career diplomat Peter Laurie, apparently annoyed that I don’t share his views on a future government, attacked me in a letter entitled: “Stick to your goats, Mr Hoad” (Nation April 21). Instead of defending his position, Laurie made claims which we must now address. And compare with the known facts:

Fact: I wrote that our former headmaster opined that the best form of government was a “benevolent dictatorship”. Note the word “benevolent”. I mentioned Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew as a benevolent dictator and intimated that our former great prime ministers functioned as such.

Laurie’s version: “(Hoad) has a well established love for dictators like the late and unlamented Qaddafi”. And he adds Mussolini and Hitler for good measure, three of the most brutal, unbenevolent dictators ever. I mentioned none of these. Isn’t that kinda, like, dishonest?

Fact: I have consistently called for Barbados to remain a monarchy with a local king or queen. As recently as April 10 I wrote: “No one has yet explained why go for a republic rather than a monarchy with a local king or queen. As Comissiong himself revealed, there is precedent for this: had the 1675 revolt succeeded, Cuffy, a slave, would have become King (not president) of Barbados. Why not make that dream come true?”

At times I have suggested King Clifford, Queen Alison and others. Moderator Tricia Watson seems interested in the post and why not? I like her talking ways. It is because to me Bajans are special, I feel our local head should stand way above any president and rub shoulders with the crowned heads of Europe, Arabia and Africa.

Laurie’s version: “He (Hoad) prefers Barbados to remain forever with an English monarch since no Bajan, in his eyes, is worthy of being our Head of State”.

Fact: In 1966 I was at the Garrsion cheering wildly as our flag was raised for the first time. No writer has more fiercely defended our independence and pushed for these fields and hills beyond recall to be our very own.

Laurie’s version: “No doubt, he (Hoad) would prefer Barbados to have never been independent…”

Fact: I have repeatedly lauded the estate workers as my “heroes” (April 10).

Laurie’s version: “ He (Hoad) harks back to … when all the workers knew their place”. (Words I’ve never used nor implied.)

Finally, Laurie says I’m “fond of goats”; liked plantation life where “there were plenty of quiescent animals around” (another Laurie invention, by the way); and that I should “stick to my goats, speaking metaphorically, of course”. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what he’s implying here.

Okay, I’ve been battered and bruised by Laurie’s onslaught, publicly humiliated and ridiculed. He has portrayed me as a white plantation anti-independence colonialist, a fan of brutal dictators, possibly a fornicator with animals. From comments I’ve heard, readers don’t imagine an eminent person would make up such grievous claims.

Readers are asking why the undisguised venom in Laurie’s tone. Could it be PMS? (Prime Minister’s Syndrome – it causes eminent people to bully critics into submission with brutal personal attacks.) Or is this the outline of a new novel? In which case I can suggest a title.

Round 1 to him. The old Dick is down but he isn’t out. Round 2 coming up. Stay tuned.

Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email


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