Politicians, Press and People

By what logic ‘female dog’ is an insult to all women in the country while ‘a dog’ is not an insult to all men?

Negative solidarity springing from political correctness from all corners has been on display over the incident of a journalist who is perceived as the victim of a politician’s verbal abuse. The press body almost unanimously raised an outcry and demanded apologies. Opposition opportunists claimed the MP’s resignation, no more no less, and their women’s wings flew noisily to the rescue of the innocent female journalist and had everyone believe that all women in the country have been insulted. At the, the PM reacted too quickly giving the matter undue importance. In the face of such media built-up uproar, the accused MP himself gave in to the hue and cry and apologized to the women in his household and Mauritian womenfolk of all ages. Journalists, opposition permanent electoral campaigners, female MPs and selected feminist banded together to give the public such a grotesque show of negative solidarity. This is not the first time that media-orchestrated hysteria boosted by partisan blogs gives the impression that their outrage reflects the sentiment of the whole country.

As much as the political class, media people live in their own world and are imbibed with a sense of absurd self-importance and impunity. It is generally accepted that the code of civility and appropriate language should characterize verbal exchanges and writings among civilized people. Is there a reason why journalists feel exempted from the code when they address others including politicians? Or do they feel free to use any terms they want when they target some politicians? All the dictionary explanations and meanings to try and minimize the intention of the journalist fall flat. Not only one but two female journalists refer to the MP as ‘a dog’. One journalist called him ‘aboyeur’, a barking dog, and the other one used the saying le chien aboie la caravane passe’ to refer to the same MP.

This is outright aggressive, insulting and vulgar language! In any country, politicians would have sued them for insults and abusive language. Instead of reprimanding the journalist, the editorialist defended her by proudly recalling using the same words in reference to the MP last year! And he repeated the word ‘aboyer’ three times in an editorial! It is absolutely offensive to call someone a dog in any society. The two journalists must have been emboldened and inspired by their male colleague’s vulgar language last year to feel safe enough to venture into such cowardly linguistic mimicry. This does not equate to emancipation, and does not honour women.

To top it all, some voices try to minimize the intention of the journalist, saying that the Creole word ‘zapper’ is commonly used by Mauritians. Really? Whenever it is used, it is considered vulgar by any sane person who has still has a sense of decency and respect in the use of language. In everyday intercourse, do we sit down and converse with people who call their wife, husband, neighbours or co-workers ‘dog’? Or dumping them in the category of animals and reduce their speech to futile gibberish?

This is precisely how the journalists treated the MP. What makes them think that criticism levelled at politicians can be expressed in any terms of their choice without being accountable to anyone? The same sense of unaccountability common to some politicians. There must surely be other expressions in the French language to express disapproval than resort to ‘le chien aboie…’, a saying which 12 year-old girls and boys become familiar with in public schools and French lycées in Mauritius. If we go by their logic, Mauritians’ common use of ‘zapper’ justifies journalists joining in the chorus and exempts them from blame. A case of the public having the press that it deserves, a mirror of its own standards. But an MP cannot be warm-blooded as all Mauritians and the press. He is supposed to be stoic and send a garland of roses with a thank-you for the compliment note to the journalist who insulted him. The journalist, surely, will not like her name to be twisted into doggy Médor.

When the MP flew into a rage and called her ‘a female dog’, the mainstream press were so suffocating with outrage and fury that they did not even bother to inform the public about their colleague’s writings which led to the MP’s outburst. One has to find out the cause of all this hurly-burly from other sources. At least, the press should have published the content of the MP’s speech and let the public judge its futility or not. It all boils down to personal animosity towards some MPs and verbal assaults instead of honest reporting and in-depth analysis to inform the public.

By what logic ‘female dog’ is an insult to all women in the country while ‘a dog’ is not an insult to all men? The MP should have dragged the journalists to Court for abusive language, as politicians did in France to the overtly biased left-leaning press till the Socialist presidency in 1981. Public opinion largely supported erstwhile President Mitterrand for stating that his Prime Minister Pierre Bérégovoy committed suicide because of ‘the dogs’ in the press which hounded and harassed him.

The intellectual make-up of a big chunk of journalists in Mauritius goes through French language, especially those hailing from Lycée Labourdonnais, and France remains a constant reference for them. To such a point of identification that some people ended up believing they are the big boss of the French language. Yet you never find lowly vulgar language in the French press despite ideological divide.

Is the hype simply because of the identity of the journalist involved?

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