Let me, at the inception, say that the title of this column refers specifically to those claiming to be members of the “reading public” who spend their time denigrating journalists and columnists who are in any way seen as critical of the Rajapaksa Regime.
My choice of yet another animal analogy is because it is most apparent that the individuals performing this service for our current regime completely fill the role of those canines that, on several continents, are the primary camp followers of the larger predators, picking up the scraps from the large felines’ tables.
While checking on the comments made about me and my columns has certainly provided entertainment and amusement of an unparalleled level in a country which is reaching a level of humourlessness that will soon put North Korea to shame, I am particularly intrigued by the emergence of a pattern that suggests recent orchestration of this barrage by someone relatively sophisticated in the employment of dirty tricks.
While some of the work of these characters follows an art first practiced by the late-unlamented Senator Joseph McCarthy, taking random samples and making sweeping generalizations, others are deliberate, fabricated lies. This is the tried and proven tactic of using incendiary rhetoric which hits the headlines while the rebuttal arrives only after that headline has been consigned to the bottom of the bird cage! The effectiveness of this approach is enhanced by the fact that, in a (misguided) effort to ensure that “democracy prevails,” moderators let through stuff that should really be consigned to the waste-paper basket by reason of it being a tissue of blatant lies or because it conveys nothing but insult and abuse of a personal nature.
The drive-by smear is in a tradition that was very effectively practiced by the Republicans in U.S. elections, achieving its mastery in the matter of public disinformation. A notable instance was where the character of an acknowledged war hero, John Kerry, was successfully impugned at the time he ran against Dubya Bush for the Presidency and, before then, when Michael Dukakis was victimized when he ran against George Herbert Walker Bush.
Sri Lanka had, some decades ago, the tradition of the “Kalay Paththaray” and I recall being shown one of these obscene epistles attacking President Premadasa shortly before his assassination.
The campaign that has been launched recently is certainly more, if not better, orchestrated and not simply abusive and insulting.
As background to the central theme of this piece, I am compelled to make reference to the journalistic elements that are not the central issue, but without a reference to which the whole picture would not be complete.
We have a sycophantic English language press owned and operated either by members of the ruling government or their very close relations and the so-called Lake House lot which has turned sycophancy into a new art. The former does the “official disinformation thing,” with one of their “senior journalists” writing half-truths of all kinds, constantly quoting “sources,” none of whom are ever named! Some of the others in this category are hardly deserving of mention given the nature of the abuse and invective heaped on one journalist or another whom they see as holding opposing views. The Lake House lot simply lie interminably.
What is sinister about the recent electronic letter writing campaign against those critical of the government is the use of the deliberate lie. For instance, I was accused of being the “Colombian” beneficiary of the founding member of my family in this country. That family-founder was described as being murdered by a peasant from whom he had stolen land. Dramatic indeed, except that my grandfather, the first van der Poorten to arrive in Sri Lanka, lived to be nearly 90 years of age, dying of natural causes! In case this liar was in any way confused as to who the “original” van der Poorten was and thought it was my father, my dad spent the last days of his life at the Maharagama Cancer Hospital for reasons that should be obvious. In addition, the plantation lands on which my grandfather and father lived were described by this “critic” as being in Wariyapola in the North Western province where neither my father nor his father owned so much as a square centimeter of land, the plantations on which they resided all their lives being in Galagedera in the Central Province!
More recently yet, there was an extensive diatribe making reference to the fact that, had I been critical of the Canadian government while I lived in that country, I would have been picked up by a white van which, according to the writer, was common practice in that country! This fabrication was so stupendous that it could have only come from someone who expected to sell it by virtue of its outlandishness and the ignorance of his readers. This wasn’t the usual grammatically- and syntactically-challenged contribution one would expect from your common-or-garden village idiot with the I.Q. of a billy-goat, either, but was obviously part of a new, better-written and sophisticated contribution to what is obviously a campaign orchestrated by a professorial type who has provided ample evidence of his TOTAL lack of anything approaching principled or ethical conduct and whose disingenousness while representing the government is now legendary.
Yet again, when I spoke about the “cleansing” of Colombo neighbourhoods, I was taken to task with the question of why I hadn’t done anything about the gentrification of a Toronto neighbourhood recently, ignoring the fact that I had lived more than 2000 miles away from that city for better than thirty years, since 1975! This was again a red herring intended to divert the attention of readers from the fact that a so-called People’s Government was appropriating the homes of city residents without so much as a “by your leave.”
All of this is typical of the lackeys – some with the benefit of half-baked educations and some not – that are employed in efforts to destroy dissent, public discourse and the residue of democratic practice in this Land Like No Other. They need to be relentlessly exposed even if they cannot be stopped.
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