READ IT by Bruce Mason
• “Anybody” won the federal election – as in “Anybody but Conservatives” (ABCs) and “Anybody but Harper.” But almost everybody lost something. The Greens were temporarily stunted and shunted and the NDP either misread or misplaced their ticket to “destiny.” Ultimately, we avoided a Conservative train-wreck, relieved to have less baggage to claim. First-class passengers either jumped early or were thrown off a switched track to a changed landscape along a transformed national information railway. The corporate media – a big loser – appears to have been left back at the station, diminished and even disgraced in some eyes, certainly increasingly irrelevant and ignored.
I’ve never paid for a National Post, including October 17th’s last-ditch, pre-election keeper, handed out in the hotel where I was staying. “The Case for Harper” headline shouted below a sketched portrait of the man, airbrushed in the style and content now abandoned by Playboy magazine. A deceptive “Canada’s Team” Blue Jays promo, emblazoned on top, championed another hoped-for cause. Far beyond an endorsement, the entire first section was full-blown propaganda, up until the last sentence on Page A17: “We really cannot have another four years of government by a sadistic Victorian schoolmaster,” wrote our best-known former press magnate, arch-Conservative, ex-con and ex-owner, Conrad Black.
I saved that copy, but not the ubiquitous other samples from Canada’s largest newspaper publisher, including more than 50 Postmedia rags, big-and-small city editions in every market outside Atlantic provinces. More than half of Canada’s English-language newspapers were wrapped, garbage-like, in yellow, costly front-page ads. The headline, “Voting Liberal will cost you,” was one message among many, previously considered unprintable, if not unthinkable. They must have missed the memo we don’t like to be told how to vote.
The bleak news tsunami – which went against the tide of public opinion – included the unprecedented, bizarre endorsement by the Globe and Mail, which touted the Tories, but not Stephen Harper. Few were fooled by the absurd, almost farcical, cheer-leading. Tweets included, “Globe endorses BLT: hold the bacon, hold the lettuce, hold the tomato,” “Gone without the Wind,” “Seinfeld, without Jerry” and “Globe, without the Mail.”
As the election fog lifted two days later, at a Postmedia shareholders’ meeting, a net loss was announced for the quarter ending August 31st, of $54.1 million, compared to $49.8 million for the same period in the prior year. Black spoke to the slow learning old boys who hadn’t been enlightened by the goofy endorsement of right-wing Jim Prentice in the Alberta election. He pleaded with shareholders, suits and deaf hedge funds, now in control of Postmedia, “Please return to quality,” in a bid to counter plummeting cash, credibility, brand value and a tenuous, almost irresponsible, grasp of new reality.
The same mainstream media that played a near-consensus role in the 2011 Conservative majority – shilling for a leader who insisted it was a “Harper government” rather than a government of Canada, during a campaign he foolishly characterized as “not all about him” – failed miserably in their fundamental responsibility to truth and credibility.
In contrast, the National Observer is part of a growing news alternative. Contributing editor Sandy Garossino’s October 18 opinion piece on corporate newspaper collaboration argued, “The stain of this shameful moment in Canadian journalism will never wash completely clean from the Globe and Mail and Postmedia. Not only did they tolerate the ugliest political episode in Canada’s post-war era, they signed their names to it. They sold their front page to it.”
In Common Sense Canadian, Rafe Mair added, “The news is going to come strained through the establishment sieve and we must all know that and take the credibility of all the mainstream media as one would a declaration of innocence by a child with sticky fingers and jam all over his face.”
Truth may be slightly more accessible now and somewhat easier with a PM who not only doesn’t duck hard questions, but also acknowledges that’s the job of journalists. Justin Trudeau promised, “I’ll be back” – after hosting what is only the third press conference in the press theatre in a decade – to a pack that had taken it on the chin, sucker-punched and conned into throwing the game.
In the meantime, the Centre for Law and Democracy, in co-operation with Madrid-based Access Info Europe, reported that Canada’s standing in Freedom of Information legislation – a world leader when introduced in 1983 – has “stagnated and sometimes even regressed,” falling to 55th place of 93 countries, behind Mongolia and Colombia.
The neglect and wilful destruction of the Commons will be uncovered and faced by our new government after – hopefully and blissfully – our last first-past-the post election. The mess and rot extends far beyond the barely inhabitable 24 Sussex Drive. Take your pick: war, the TPP, growing inequality, Bill C-51, C-24, last-minute cushioning of climate change, tardily transitioning to clean energy, restoring Canada’s tarnished image, rusted infrastructure, tattered social safety net, and on and on. It’s a long, hard to-do list. But a torch is being passed, a light in a tunnel in which corporate media crashes and burns while more Canadians – including additional youth and First Nations – vow to hold feet to the fire.
“Sunny ways, my friends,” says the promising PM. Hmm.
A broader, wider, better vision and aim are being set, beyond the spectrum and coverage of politics as usual. Cyberspace beats column space. Obsessing over races, voodoo fast-food polls and staged TV drama is becoming as passé, laughable and recognizable as tax mantras, economic mumbo-jumbo and toxic partisanship. Finally dumbed down to the point of a TKO. Debunked and de-railed.
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Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic. firstname.lastname@example.org