Media Monitor: UNC’s arresting image and Maraj’s masterclass on Kamla’s figures of speech

If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, we have heard a million times, bamboozle them with bullshit. Ralph Maraj is the exemplar par excellence of that message.

On the post-4pm news segment of the i95.5FM afternoon show early last week, Maraj leapt to the defence of UNC Political Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
(via UNC)

Darian Marcelle had expressed horror at the completely indefensible equivalence made by the good lady between slavery and the plight of the 10,000 citizens awaiting exemptions from the Minister of National Security to return home.

It was, Maraj explained in response, mere hyperbole.

For those who missed Maraj’s magnificently scholarly exposition on the meaning of the term, hyperbole (pronounced (high·puh·buh·lee) comes from a Greek word meaning ‘excess’. It is ‘a figure of speech that uses extreme exaggeration to make a point or show emphasis’.

It was not my dictionary but my experience that told me it is also a figure of speech that uses extreme exaggeration to try to win votes in an election. As an elector familiar with the UNC’s Election 2020 campaign, I was immediately put in mind of KPB’s promise to create 50,000 jobs.

Did she say in the first 100 days or in the first year? There’s time yet and the desperation level is clearly rising…

There has also been a promise to re-start the Petrotrin refinery. And to revivify Caroni. The good lady is quite clearly a hyperbolophile. And Maraj a well-placed commentator with all the right qualifications to be an unqualified defender.

Photo: UNC supporters on the campaign trail in Moruga.
(via UNC)

However, his wonderfully elucidating definition stopped short of making what seemed to me a very obvious link when you’re dealing with the good lady who leads the UNC. There was no mention of litotes (pronounced lie-toe-tees), a not uncommon type of understatement—the opposite of hyperbole.

Litotes, says my trustworthy dictionary, are ‘a form of understatement the intentional presentation of something as smaller, worse, or lesser than it really is’.

Do tell, which self-respecting big word man with a genuine interest in educating would mention hyperbole and not mention litotes? It is no small matter, particularly in the context of Mr Marcelle’s issue.

So busy was I musing on the incredibly surprising response that I missed Marcelle’s indisputably genuine enquiry about what figure of speech is ‘blank man’? It was, I suspect, an attempt to catch the former PNM minister with his pants down.

(Ah! Maybe that is why litotes never came up.)

But Marcelle, a declared PNM-ite, reckoned without the supreme erudition of the man who, like Brian ‘I-didn’t-take-any-vow-of-poverty’ Kuei Tung, holds the rare distinction of having held a ministerial portfolio in both a PNM and a UNC Cabinet.

Maraj was ready for him. Again.

Photo: Former PNM Minister Ralph Maraj (right) and veteran journalist and editor Sunity Maharaj.
(via Bocas Litfest)

“That’s a metaphor,” he crowed.

Here’s what my subsequent check with my trusted dictionary told me a metaphor is:

  • a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.
  • a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else.

The ex-thespian of Bim fame produced a splendidly cogent explanation that reminded me, resplendent in red, of Gary Griffith and of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Not his ‘a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more’ but ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

En passant, Marcelle induced Maraj to concede that KPB’s styling of PM Keith Rowley as ‘an oreo’ was, although also a metaphor, ‘unfortunate’.

Frankly, I was hoping one of the two eminently distinguished gentlemen would go on to bring up 2008. That was when another political leader had dubbed one of his then recently exed senior ministers, whose late October birthday made him a Scorpion, an out-of-control Taurean. He might have called him ‘a hyper bully’ but I really don’t trust my notably unreliable memory.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (centre) and Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly at the opening of a community centre in Bagatelle.
(via PNM)

Alas, however, that 2008 showdown never came up.

So every afternoon/evening this week, I shall not move from in front of my radio for one second. After all, Maraj will surely not pass up an excellent opportunity to continue his education of us unliterate, at best e-literate i95.5FM listeners.

Ex-future UNC Political Leader Roodal Moonilal provided the opening towards the end of the week. He publicly warned the current PM about the probity of giving away the Petrotrin refinery mere days before his impending defeat in the August 10 General Elections.

It may well be my completely unreliable memory that is misleading me again but I seem to recall talk of a flurry of governmental activity in the days leading up to the General Elections in September 2015, a slew of appointments made and a zillion contracts signed—some of them not small.

What figure of speech are we dealing with when the pot warns the kettle about getting blank? It is impossible to be more impatient than I am to hear Maraj’s exceedingly informative, very balanced dissertation thereon.

Photo: A UNC 2020 Emancipation Day advertisement.

To close, a confession: having already in this space pointed to Maraj’s ritually manifested gargantuan (thanks again, Vinod) biases, I strive manfully, à la Eric Williams and Chalkdust, to ignore them.

Yesterday, however, I happened to see the UNC’s Emancipation Day message. Appropriately, it shows two hands breaking free of their chains. However, instead of being tightly squeezed into a Black Power salute, the ten digits stand alone and free, every finger for himself.

A powerful, powerful, powerful subliminal message. Let’s see what powerful post-election message November brings.

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About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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