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Battleground Instagram: the Jamaican Reggae Artiste vs. the Youth and Culture Minister

Chronixx Live at Reggae Sumfest 2013, photo by beaveronthebeats. CC 2.0.

Chronixx Live at Reggae Sumfest 2013, photo by beaveronthebeats. CC 2.0.

Reggae artiste Chronixx drew the ire of Lisa Hanna, Jamaica's minister of youth and culture, over his comments about the government's lack of support for the arts. Their online exchange has attracted great attention, not just because Jamaicans are passionate about their culture, but also because many were surprised that a government minister would respond to criticism using social media.  

In a note attached to a picture he posted on Instagram, Chronixx chastised the current administration for not doing more to support local culture, particularly reggae music:

I'm laughing at the Jamaica government! And the poor people who applaud them and hang orange and green flags outside their board houses and on trees planted on ‘capture land'! I'm laughing at this dumb government who have never erected a live music venue in honor of reggae music even though it is the only reason why people is still visiting this beautiful island of bankruptcy…I'm laughing because I know something that ‘they don't know’. Miss Hanna and Mr…I can never remember his name. I think it's time we sit and listen what the artistes have learnt from the rest of the world. #linkup

Hanna, who also sits in the national parliament, representing St. Ann South East, responded on her own Instagram account, seeking to correct what she felt was Chronixx's unfair characterisation of the government:

I love your music and your passion. However, I want to remind you, that both yourself and other artists are benefitting today from the trade agreements now in place for cultural and creative services. Just a moment ago I concluded a meeting on foreign trade for cultural services as already many of our cultural goods have zero tariffs for international trade. What we need is more young people to get involved in the business of culture. I have been putting the resources to train our young people. Over 9000 this year. I have personally called you and left messages on your phone and never got a response.Because I would like to hear your ideas that can be implemented. Stop blaming and lumping all politicians together. It’s unfair and untrue. Blessed love 

On Twitter, Hanna later posted a screenshot of her response to Chronixx:

Her reply started a heated debate on Instagram, where some commenters wondered if the makings of an Internet flame war might sour further discussion about support for the arts in Jamaica. On Twitter, the reactions were more mixed: some supported the minister, while others thought it was a mistake for a state official to respond to Chronixx (on Instagram, at any rate).

On The Jamaican Blogs, Paul Tomlinson argued that the issue wasn't so much that Hanna chose to respond to Chronixx, but rather how she responded:

Instead of using the criticism as an advantage and use positive language to solicit a remedy, she has opted instead to throw some of her colleagues under the bus when she says…“stop blaming and lumping all politicians together…” and literally trying to start an argument on social media, one that she will never win.

After reviewing various alternative ways Hanna could have responded, Tomlinson analysed what Chronixx probably meant in his original Instagram post:

Miss Hanna, Chronixx is talking beef and you pork. […] What Chrinixx is saying is our Reggae is not just music that our artists create for people's listening pleasure on iPods, but like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland and other European countries to which he has travelled, have used Reggae music to boost their economy, creating jobs and other industries […] Now is not the time to duck criticism but use it constructively and move forward.

Tomlinson concluded on a note about the role reggae music plays in Jamaica's tourist offerings:

The pilgrimage called Tourism has changed Miss Hanna and your ministry has not done anything in modern times to do something different. France has the Louvre, Britain has Big Ben. […] We have, amongst other things, Reggae. Build on it. Transform it. Market it. Own it. Your ministry is at the centre of changing the perception of Jamaica's existence as a modern island proud of its culture and using it as the centre of rural and urban development and image enhancement. Work with the innovators in the country and make Jamaica proud, not just your flag waving party supporters. This is what Chronixx is saying. Now let's see you make the right move, Madame Minister.

A few months ago, another government minister, Damion Crawford, drew wide attention for comments made on Twitter. The misadventures of Crawford and Hanna are just two recent examples of how social media are changing the way Caribbean politicians interact with the public.

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