Of public disagreements and character assassination

By Titus Boye-Thompson  :

Many a time the good name of people in public life becomes fodder for malicious and damaging attack to shock and awe the public by sensationalism. The perpetrators do not need to have their facts right nor is there any compunction to act in a professional manner. Some people would tend to defend their good name and take these urchins to court, but in most cases, the damage is already done.

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The mere headline that engulfs you as the newspaper lambasts your life long achievements and tear your reputation to pieces is sometimes enough to make a preacher say a swear word. The libel laws in Sierra Leone are some of the most draconian but yet still, Newspaper editors allow their medium to be used as pedestals of immorality.

There is now growing evidence that the character assassination and damage to hard earned reputations are being done with impunity, guarded by any protection that a parochial system of sponsorship can muster or otherwise by a dastardly desire to defame others for political gain. There is also a sensational headline grabbing portrayal of ordinary events that does tend to overshadow the real truth behind the story. Where there is a semblance of genuineness or concern for the public good, it is a duty of the Press to disclose actions that are inimical to the sanctity of our way of community, respect for others and the general expectations of good social and moral order of our systems of family and interactive engagement. Alas, this sort of advice goes largely unheeded.

Some may argue that there are certain unspoken rules of decency not to talk of the requirements of professional conduct that sensational news that is yet unproven should not be published because the greater damage to the individual is far more grave than the immediate gratification of inquisitiveness that may result out of eavesdropping on the lives of those in public domain. The mere fact that a sensational story would be given wide currency even beyond its normal trajectory or ambit of a less well known rag, the effects of such exposure more than often destabilize families, reshape characters and in some instances affect the political aspirations of certain victims. It is true because it is reported in the news is an oft repeated maxim. The falsity of that is unmatched by the truism of letting a man have his day in court and prove himself amongst his peers as to his guilt or innocence and by dint of the preponderance and efficacy of evidence against him.

A recent story expatiated on a very personal allegation against an eminent person in society and in such ways as to drag other senior persons of status and authority into the milieu. Such reporting is gutter press at the least but the provenance of source and material yield much more concern than the message itself. There may be some semblance of political brinksmanship being outplayed and to the extent that counter allegations of political envy, the destabilization of a family unit and the defamation of a well-managed character and reputation comes up for attack at a level so low that it is unfathomable that action against such drivel would remain challenged. In the event, legal advice do caution against extending the currency of such attacks because more often than not, it is the act of defense that causes wider circulation of what is otherwise to be ignored.

The ongoing attacks on certain individuals in Government and high political office even if such attacks tend to emanate from their very own colleagues smack of jealously and envy. Why would people who work together for the same leader, are supposed to subscribe to the same principles of probity in public life go so veraciously at each other’s throats as if they are diametrically opposed to each other is a matter only for conjecture.

The result of such public spats not only leaves much to be desired but the simple principle of seniority should have been adhered to in a more rigorous fashion. One cannot address the conduct of another simply because there may be public approbation but only if any such attack is warranted, in the interest of public safety and security or tantamount to a defense of the sanctity of the smooth administration of public functions or office. Give it whatever dimension possible, certain people have assumed office by dint of their own calculations. Luck and the manifestation of superiority in the exercise of their duty and not chance may determine that they stay in office despite prevarications against their continued tenure. Nonetheless, when someone of cabinet rank is being publicly parodies for exercising authority or forthrightness, then something is very much wrong with the exercise and conduct of public functions.

Public disagreements would lead to disengagement from the focus to govern, especially when such public disagreements tend to be condoned in some ways. Someone should take some of these matters up and draw the line within the realms of respect for authority and to warn those who are invariably junior in rank and status not to openly castigate those who are above them. If it is the prerogative of the overall leader to act in matters that bring the administration of public functions to disrepute. That being said, we cannot continue to live in a state of personal emergency wherein an attack on a person, true of false tend to determine their acceptance or suitability for a position in Government or even outside of it. There have always been standing orders and rules governing behavior and conduct in public life. Inconsiderate judgment by the press, gossip, innuendo and passing diatribes has never been acceptable dictums of professional conduct.

Political envy is a multi-faceted . There are those who would attempt to bring another down because they have ingrained mistrust of the rationale that got others to position of political power and authority. What if some people have attained prominence by their own convoluted means or even by sheer genius. To bring down others because they are there while you are here is unproductive and uncharacteristic of good social order. To challenge genius is like attempting to clean the Augean stables. Some things are going to be hard to accomplish and some people harder to copy. The guiding principle is if you cannot innovate, emulate. It takes nothing away from you to learn from those who know rather than attempt to upstage them with inferior knowledge. Some are masters in their craft and people should be made to understand what that means. To assassinate another’s character believing that yours will be lifted up high is mischief. Remembering that pointing a finger at someone necessitates that at least three others are pointing back at you must be enough to deny the you the temptation to undo those who have surpassed your station.

Personally, this author would not engage with political enviousness because it has been demonstrated in so many ways that any rise to prominence has been by cause of intelligence and superior craftsmanship. I know my stuff and so have nothing to fear. Those who fear me are plenty to  name and the more they do, the more creative they allow me to become. They that attack me do so to their own detriment. I put myself wherever I have managed to be and in all circumstances, I have always been at the top of my career environments. I am a very hard worker and it is always those who do not know or have experience of my workmanship who would dare cross me. I doff my hat to someone like Sylvia Blyden because she has shown temerity when needed and compassion when called for. Her rallying call for attention to the Kissi people at Kailahun rained invectives against her but as time has unfolded, she is now known to have been right all along. They who attempted to boride her now scatter like pigeons at the sound  of the Baskerville hounds. This has been a strained piece but it is felt that some of this ought to be said. For one, it is debilitating when displays of unprofessionalism impinge on your liberty and freedoms by haranguing you with false news and attacks on your person. Many have suffered this in silence but it is high time that this dastardly act is held at bay. Secondly, it is undermining the state mechanism when two senior colleagues get engaged in an imbroglio that tends to do nothing but harm to a government that I have worked hard to secure. There are also the ramifications of attacks on persons of high estate. Such rambunctious nonsense and indiscriminate invectives obfuscate the potential for respectability even for the country let alone its effect in challenging the sanctity of family life. This sort of thing must stop.

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