By MALCOLM STRACHAN
TALKING politics can be a passionate business. When I sit down and talk politics, it can get heated. People believe strongly in their viewpoints. But at the end of the day, we win or we lost at the ballot box. How did we get to a place where death threats are part of our new political landscape?
On Friday, the Prime Minister’s office received two anonymous calls making death threats against the incumbent Philip “Brave” Davis.
An urgent briefing was called, with Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander in attendance. He said there were not one, but two calls, shortly after noon, about 15 minutes apart, threatening to kill Mr Davis.
He was blunt and clear in his assessment, saying: “We, as Bahamians, it shouldn’t happen. When you’re talking about threatening the nation’s leader and we as Bahamians, how we got to this level in threatening individuals, and you can go beyond the Prime Minister and individuals and we take this very seriously.”
Was this out of the blue? Well, it might not even have been the first threat to the Prime Minister last week.
During a protest outside Parliament with members and supporters of the Coalition of Independents in attendance, a man in the crowd can be heard shouting about the Prime Minister, and using the word assassinate.
What does the Coalition of Independents leader, Lincoln Bain, say about that? He went on a livestream on Friday on Facebook, during which he noted the incident and said: “He made some comments that were to the effect of … all of these police out here for Bahamians, it’s like they want to kill us, they need to go kill them. He did not say who the them was or identify who the them was.”
I sat and listened to the video and the words Mr Bain heard are not the ones being shouted. Granted, quite what the person was shouting is a little unclear – but let’s not be making up what was said out of whole cloth, Mr Bain.
Mr Bain did find his way to a criticism of threats. He said: “We want to make it categorically clear that we do not condone threats against any Bahamian in this country, especially the Bahamian who is our chief servant and who works for us and on our behalf, or who is supposed to work for us and on our behalf.”
Notice there that even in his condemnation, Mr Bain manages to undermine the target of the threats by saying they are “supposed” to work for us, implying that they are not. Also, he criticises threats only against Bahamians. Threats should be criticised against anyone. The place of a person’s birth should not make them open to being threatened.
Mr Bain went on to muddy the waters by describing a reporter asking questions at the briefing as being “of Haitian descent” and then went further by suggesting without presenting any evidence: “We believe that a PLP supporter or supporter of the government was instructed to make that call to the Office of the Prime Minister.”
He then went on to speculate that perhaps it was one of the people Mr Davis had represented in his time as criminal attorney or their associates. Again, without any facts offered to support such claims.
Instead of outright condemnation, we get outright conspiracy theories.
There should be nothing but complete condemnation across the board for death threats against anyone, no matter who they are.
The irony of the shouts at the protest is that this was a gathering of people who claim to be proud patriots – yet among them is someone using the word assassinate about the Prime Minister. What kind of patriot wants to kill the nation’s leader?
Now maybe it’s all just talk, some might say, and no one will really follow through with it. We need only look across the water to the United States to see how such talk can lead to unhinged individuals trying to cause harm.
Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in an incident that killed six other people by Jared Lee Loughner, who fell down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories before deciding to try to kill the politician.
The man who attacked the husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, David Wayne DePape, was similarly obsessed with conspiracy theories and extreme politics.
These are not the only cases – and, of course, there was the incident at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, where a riot saw people attacking the building, with 138 police officers injured in the process.
When we introduce the language of violence into our politics, we start the fire – and who knows what will get burned along the way?
If we permit such behaviour, if we encourage the behaviour of the mob, we cannot be surprised if they show up with torches and pitchforks. And who knows where it ends?
The only acceptable response to these threats is outright condemnation across the board. No ifs, no buts. Every political leader should say so as loudly as they can.
You may well disagree with Mr Davis – plenty of people do – but you disagree in your words, you disagree in your arguments, and you disagree with your vote. You do not threaten his life. You do not threaten the life of anyone, in politics or out of it, it is far beyond acceptable.
If political leaders cannot simply say no, this is wrong, and if you say this you are no supporter of mine, then that is a fundamental failure of leadership.
It is very simple to draw a line here. A simple no. Not a no, but …
I am glad to hear Mr Davis is planning to continue with his normal duties. That’s the way our nation should be.
No one who threatens harm against our nation’s leaders can claim to be a patriot. And anyone who does is doing more damage to any cause they claim to believe in than any words of opposition possibly could.
It is simply wrong. As a Christian nation, the very least we should be able to do is say as much.
birdiestrachan 1 month, 2 weeks ago
The former PM Mr Minnis was his usual self he was dimissive of this threat to Mr Davis , what he had to say was disgraceful , but it shows him for who he is , all threats should be taken seriously
M0J0 1 month, 2 weeks ago
threat to life is nothing to take for a joke.
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