This addictive social networking site is no place for the leader of the nation to be wasting his time. It is a necessary evil that helps the rest of the country’s workers to get through the day (except those who have had it blocked by their IT departments along with Hi5, Myspace and messenger applications).
No, this had to be someone with a sense of humour pretending to be the PM. Yet he challenged me to visit his blog if I didn’t believe him. ttblogs.com/patrickmanning has to be the most clever site I’ve come across in recent times.
Okay, here’s the premise. The PM wants to get in on the Web 2.0 movement so he sets up a secret blog with the help of his son to document the ups and downs of his powerful position. Some of the more entertaining blog entries include:”It shoulda been a $100,000 breakfuss,” “About those house photos…” “So much to spend, so little time…” and just recently, “Where were you when the lights went out.” Unfortunately, the PM’s blog is not so secret and keeps getting hacked by a certain Hazel Manning. “Doo- doo, you really thought you could keep this blog secret from me?” And a Mr Basdeo Panday leaves comments on the blog as well. “I hate you because I AM you.” Man, this thing had me literally laughing out loud.
And now the “Prime Minister” has a profile on Facebook where he joins two other Patrick Mannings, two Basdeo Pandays and two Winston Dookerans. All of these, with the exception of one of the Winston Dookeran profiles, seem to be practical jokes.
The Dookeran page actually lists upcoming COP events and contact information and encourages persons to get registered and vote. The others merely poke fun. And the Dookeran page is teeming with comments from young people encouraging him to keep up the good work while the others include streams of profanity from disgruntled Trinis; so I assume there’s someone affiliated with the COP who edits and updates the page.
This whole phenomenon goes beyond the novelty of adding a political leader to your friends list. There are serious groups on Facebook devoted to the UNC, PNM and COP that hundreds of persons have joined, although once again young people seem to overwhelmingly favour the newest political party.
Beyond party politics, Trinbagonians are joining political groups such as Trinidadian Revolutionaries, Youths for a Better Tomorrow, Persons Against the Smelter Plant in TT, and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights TT, where they share ideas and plan activities.
The (probably) fraudulent Mr Manning is among a host of other Trinidad and Tobago bloggers who are taking advantage of technology to make their different takes on political issues available to all. “The Manicou Report” offers up biting commentary on current events and is self-described as being “Like ah Police Boots on yuh Corn.” Jumbie of “Jumbie’s Watch” makes smart and funny observations about “dunceys” in the news, among other things, in charming dialect.
Like the PM’s secret blog, these spaces are providing alternative spins on what is going on in the country. On the local site www.islandnoise.com, interspersed with threads about music and general ole talk, are those devoted to sustainable economics, the budget, the education system and the voting behaviour of young people.
Persons who are sometimes not even old enough to vote are weighing in with precocious opinions and innovative solutions to the problems plaguing our society. All of this is enough to make me think that the population is really politically savvy and educated despite the lack of structured civics education in our school system.
What I worry about is whether the online community, with ready access to computers and the Internet, is an accurate representation of the general population. What about the political opinions of those on the other side of the digital divide? And it may be that the Internet is just the latest forum for Trinis to do what they do best, talk.
How much this translates into action is another question. Like a friend of mine, wary of all the online talk that has been taking place, recently wrote: “While we, ‘the future’, sit and occupy our time amusing ourselves with all these…discussions, the true leaders in the real world are doing as they please.”