Where is Trinidad?
Thanks to rapper Nicki Minaj, that question topped the Twittersphere recently. This came about after Minaj tweeted that her cousin’s friend had taken the Covid vaccine and ended up with ‘Swollen Testicles’.
Her tweet led our hard-working, super-busy minister of health to admit that he and his medical team spent all of 24 hours trying to verify the accuracy of the ‘swollen testicles’ story. He then announced to the whole world that they had found no evidence to support the claim that the vaccine causes testicular swelling.
Scientists the world over have identified and documented the Covid side effects. But not even among casual Covid followers and conspiracy theorists has there been any mention of swollen testicles. Until now…
So why go down that rabbit hole? But then, this is Trinidad and Tobago; here, common sense often seems to be not all that common.
My reaction to this particular ministerial statement was two-fold. First, it caused me to wonder what was the anticipated outcome of the announcement of this disclaimer and what was the thinking behind the advice to respond? Secondly, it spawned a few questions in my mind.
What was the process used to ascertain the veracity of the story? Was there a physical examination? Who conducted the examination? Was the examination completed merely by observation or was some kind of measurement necessary? The examination having been completed, what measures were put in place to ensure that all necessary protocols were followed and who verified the results?
Whatever the answers to these questions, the fact is that our country provided global comic relief to several talk show hosts and their millions of followers for at least 72 hours. And the memes continue still.
So if we are seeking an example of a recovery effort, we need look no further than the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Though steeped in controversy, the Dove reaction has ultimately been very successful.
Thus, as a response to this global clap back, it is clear that we have a choice. We can either run for cover and hope that the issue will be forgotten. Or we can put our creative minds to work and mount a global social media and traditional media campaign to answer that Twitter question about where in the world is Trinidad.
I thought of the book Where’s Wally? (called Where’s Waldo? in North America) which is a series of children’s puzzle books in which readers are challenged to find a character named Wally hidden in the group.
We do not have to go that route. But a proper—and timely!—answer will provide us with an opportunity to sell our tourism product to the world with the tagline ‘…and the birthplace of Nicki Minaj’. For example, a social media post could be: ‘Trinidad and Tobago, the land where the only new musical instrument of the 20th century was created and, of course, the birthplace of Nicki Minaj. #superballs.’
The 19th-century American showman and circus owner PT Barnum is often credited with the statement ‘Bad publicity is still publicity’. Maybe we have to see this as an opportunity for us to make lime juice when life provides us with limes instead of oranges—for us to turn an embarrassing reference into a positive campaign.
Maybe it gives us an opening to shine a spotlight on Trinidad and Tobago as a prime tourist destination, a great place to visit. If we are clever and act promptly, we may even be able to strengthen our bond with the rapper to bring global attention to our tourism product.
A few months ago, when American actor Michael B Jordan of Black Panther fame launched J’ouvert Rum, we failed to make capital of the opening. After the social media backlash, he quietly withdrew into the shadows, leaving us, some of us, to quietly mourn the squandered opportunity.
This is another big break. We cannot let it go to waste. As a country, we have the creativity. All that is needed is for us to have the cojones to take a bold step, strike while the iron is hot, seize the time and try to jump on the horse’s back instead of finding ourselves bidding frantically to close the stable door long after the horse has bolted.