Thursday, January 17, 2008

Spinning 101

For 2 days now, we've been treated to a story that the Conservatives glommed on to in an effort to distract from what is going on as they attempt to present government in this country.

The story, and I use that word with the definition of fiction in mind, is of course what Stephane Dion said vis a vis Pakistan and NATO.

Peter MacKay wasted no time in distorting Dion's comments yesterday.

We have this:

"Mr. Dion can't be serious to suggest NATO "intervene," in another country while simultaneously saying Canada should abandon its United Nations-mandated NATO mission in Afghanistan," he said in an e-mail.
"He has to explain to Canadians why he wants an "intervention" but wants to turn his back on Afghanistan, which has asked and continues to ask for Canada's help. It's inane."

Then this:

"This is ludicrous," Defence Minister Peter MacKay told CTV News yesterday. "Mr. Dion seems to be suggesting that we now invade Pakistan as opposed to continue or further our mission in Afghanistan. ... To suggest that we should now go into Pakistan is absolute lunacy and I'm surprised that a leader, somebody who's just visited this country, would make such a suggestion."

So, it's obvious that he was told to torque the story. Grab that little granule of untruth and spin, spin, spin.

Harper too had to jump on the bandwagon stating unequivocally that Dion is suggesting that NATO invade Pakistan. Go to the 5th vid on the right under Mike Duffy. It's BS of course, but facts don't matter.

If you were a member of the media at that press conference with Dion and you heard his comment wouldn't your first question be, do you mean that NATO troops go into Pakistan? We of course do not know if that question was asked because we only see that short clip. If it wasn't asked, the media are really showing their need to get headlines.

Rather than look at media bias in the traditional right/left prism, let's look at it in terms of what they are trying to accomplish and what they provide us with.

Leading stories and headlines rule the day. Accuracy, depth and considered opinion or argument seem to have disappeared. Am I showing my age? Likely not because it is difficult to think back and have experienced that level of reporting. There are historical documents that give you a taste of that though. In my opinion what we see, hear and read today is difficult to differentiate from Entertainment news. It's all about who they can draw in.

Obviously there is a need to be competitive and I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is how this need ("market forces") has reduced the discussion. The omission of fact seems not to bother most of us. We accept the pap, which tells me that we just don't care. We're allowing the media to dumb us down and we cannot be bothered to demand more. Perhaps we no longer think we have a voice. I think it's time we start demanding more. It is time for media to stop trying to shape our opinion.

Of course the argument could be made that people are tuning out more and more. Media may be making themselves, not obsolete, but certainly their credibility and irrelevancy come to mind.

To get back to Dion and what he said but was not carried.

"If they (Pakistani leaders) are not able to do it on their own, it is something we could consider with NATO, how to help Pakistan help us bring peace to Afghanistan," Dion said just days after returning from a trip to Afghanistan.
But the solution would not be a military one, stressed fellow MP Denis Coderre, sitting next to the Liberal leader during a news conference in Quebec City on Wednesday.
"It would not come about with a military intervention, it would be a diplomatic solution," Coderre said.

You see? Coderre was right beside him when he made the comment and he expanded on it. Was that reported outside of this story? No. That is pretty disturbing to me. Clarification was provided at the moment that Dion made the comment, yet the media chose to remove that from the equation. After all, it's not a story unless you focus on the headline. It would be a non-story, a waste of time, so they stretched it beyond reality and seemed fine with that.

We have a big problem here. There is no question that the media are setting the agenda but it's so damn insidious, I'm not sure we notice.

The example I've given is one of the most obvious but you have to dig. Who is going to that? I will, but my voice is meaningless in the grand scheme.

I'd love to hear some suggestions.

Let me make this clear. I am not bashing journalists here. I'm looking to what they must deliver to their masters and those are the one's who have it wrong. How do we fix that?

In his own words.


Jason said...

Fact is that Dion stuck his foot in his mouth. It's pretty sad that the day after he makes a stupid comment all the prominent Liberals are on TV trying to explain what Dion 'meant' to say.

Gayle said...

I watched "At Issue" tonight and both Coyne and Hebert agreed with Dion, which is the first time I have ever seen that!

If this had happened a couple months ago it may have been the top story, but Harper's anger management problem and control freakishness has pushed this story back - and because of that I do not think this particular twist of the media is going to carry this story too far.

I do not know what Liberal TV interviews Jason is referring to.

R.Bobak said...

Peter Mansbridge's Jan.17/08 CBC interview with Stephane Dion was another knee-slapper. Mansbridge tried to give Dion the opportunity to clarify his muddled 'Pakistan-NATO-intervention' idea, but all Dion could do was summarize by saying there were no easy answers and no magic bullet.

It was embarrassing to watch...Coyne and Hebert were just kindly trying to avert the Dion-trainwreck which preceded them.

Also, can anyone believe that Stephane Dion is still saying that "The war against terrorism is mainly a police matter"? (Canadian Press, Jan.17,2008) How naively pre 9-11.

Dion's dismal, bumbling performance this week demonstrates two things: he's the perfect Liberal leader; and, he's not fit to lead this country.

Anonymous said...

"Terrorism is a police matter" is precisely that. Only police intelligence can prevent the Madrid train bombing and 7/7. The War on Terror increases the chance of terrorists blowing up the TTC.

Dion and Coderre should know better with regards to the role of NATO. It is a military alliance made up of generals. Try telling them to negotiate with the Pakistani ISI to stop the Taliban infiltrating Afghanistan. This is worst than Layton calling for immediate withdrawal.

Getting the Spaniards, Portuguese, and the Norweigans to play a more militaristic role in Afghanistan? They will be on the first plane home and Canadian soldiers will be idiots if it does not follow.

Dion has no option but to insist on getting out of Afghanistan by 2009, if not sooner. Trying to salvage so-called peacekeeping by dreaming of special operations conducted by CSIS is the wet dream of Tom Clancy novel readers. Not the fantasies of a future progressive PM.

RuralSandi said...

I find it disturbing that the right wing partisans are playing games with this "misrepresented" statement.

The Afghan mission IS NOT working so it would seem appropriate to me to look into other ways to deal with it. I fail to see a problem with discussions, etc.

Musharuff is either playing both sides, inept or lying and he's very determined to keep people out - why?

He wants the money, but isn't co-operating like he should - why?

This truly needs to be addressed.

Gayle said...

When you sad this:

"Coyne and Hebert were just kindly trying to avert the Dion-trainwreck which preceded them."

you proved how desperately you are trying to spin this.

Neither Coyne nor Hebert (the latter who is clearly no friend of Dion) would ever do such a thing. In fact Mansbridge was a bit off the way he was interrupting rather than allowing Dion to finish what he was saying.

I realize you people are desperate to get the spotlight off Harper's massive mismanagement of, well, pretty much everything and back on to the "Dion is not a leader" thing, but you might as well face the fact that people are getting bored of that tactic. Harper is actually going to have to stand on his own rather than portray himself as simply "not as bad" as Dion.

We will never accomplish anything in Afghanistan if we ignore Pakistan. A leader admitting that there is no easy solution does not make him weak - it makes him honest. Our men and women are dying over there. It is our obligation to ensure those sacrifices are not for nothing.

Anonymous said...

KNB this is exactly what Mr.Dion will have to expect during an election campaign whenever that maybe. His communication skills in english is terrible. I realize that that this was said in french. All day here in Montreal the media were all saying that Dion said that maybe NATO should expand into Pakistan. Of course the other parties jumped all over this to make political points.

If you notice KNB I didn't do a post on it on my blog.

The other mistake that Mr.Dion has made his to suggest NATO should be involved in a diplomatic effort is a big mistake to if you ask me. NATO is not a diplomatic organization. He should have said that the UN should be involved in Pakistan. They are the diplomatic body.

But going back I have said it before when Mr.Dion speaks in french the french media and people don't listen to him. When he speaks to english Canada well we just got just a taste of what he will have to deal with during a campaign.

Something that was supposed to be a bonus for Mr.Dion the Afghan trip,has now been overshadow by this. The statement from Pakistan has only added oil to an already burning fire. We have the now Liberals strategist going around trying to set the record straight, but the damage has already been done.

If we were in a campaign right now this is what we would be talking for the next few days not the governments record. So there you have it.

Anonymous said...

KNB not to change the subject,but are you a hockey fan? I will explain latter if you are.

Jay said...

The story has very little legs and will dissappear quickly. Every article I read clearly mentions the conservatives misquoting and in the last couple weeks I have noticed the media starting to turn on the Harperites. Every column section with comments is clearly indicating that other than the usual neo-con trolls spinning from the fear factory, the REAL commentors acknowledge Pakistan is part of the problem and actually get the jest of what Dion said. The Harperites are in a tizzy because Manley will be basically saying close to the same. Chantal Hebert made me fall of the couch last night when she backed up Dion. That lady despises the man yet she gets it as well.

The current government in poll after poll has benn shown to have failed on this file like every other one. They turned it partisan and people no longer support it. Mr Dion may be the only one who can salvage this mission because people know and understand that military force alone will not accomplish much. No country in history has succeeded this way. Liberals know that, the Canadian population does, but for some reason conservatives just don't get it still, hence the support for the mission has fallen to the point a majority wants out now.

Harperites are wrong on this but in typical fashion will run the mission into the ground in the name of ideology rather than actually make it work. They need to start to accept that they like anyone else CAN be wrong and fix something.

Plowing ahead without regard for the population is how governments defeat themselves.

knb said...

I missed At Issue last night Gayle and it's still not up at their site, but I look forward to seeing it as soon as it is.

Hebert backing up with Dion? Unbelievable.

I added a link to the post. It's an audio of a meeting with Dion and the Gazette's editorial board.

wilson said...

Liberals have used the war in Afghanistan as a way to 'get Harper',
keep the govt on the defensive over Afghan prisoners, repatriation ceremonies....the list is endless.

The first time Dion actually steps into the Afghan war issue, outside the immunity of parliament, he causes and international uproar.

Ignorance as to the NATO being a war machine,
ignorance as to the highly sensitive Pakistan position,
ignorance as to the media and messaging.

You Libs elected a dud, by accident and by Orchard.

Time to quit the 'media did it' and get his resignation, and have a policy convention so as the next guy doesn't have to wing it on policy.
Or not.

knb said...

Mushroom there is no question that more pressure must be placed on Pakistan. I see no problem with NATO nations dealing diplomatically with that nation. If there is a resistance from Pakistan to discuss effective military strategy with us, I'd say that is pretty telling.

Dion is insisting that our military mission ends in 2009. He will not take us out before then.

knb said...

Sandi I find it disturbing that the right wing partisans are playing games with this "misrepresented" statement.

I agree Sandi and in fact I'd go further and call it dangerous. You cannot as PM and Minister of Defense go to the media and suggest that another political party in this country intends to invade Pakistan.

Think of how fundamentalists would react to such a statement.

Indeed Mushareff must be confronted.

knb said...

John, that anyone, media included, believed that the man who wants to end our mission in Afghanistan in 2009 only to invade another country, is ludicrous.

This is nothing more than a diversion on Harper's part.

True, it would have a brief impact during a campaign, but surely Harper has learned his lesson about lying about your opponent during an election.

As for his english, this is yet another canard that the right keeps insisting on. It's not perfect for sure, but listen to the link I added. Anyone who cannot understand him, but could understand Chretien has a problem. His french is beautiful, unlike Mr. Harper's.

Sorry, no I'm not a big hockey fan.

knb said...

Jay:Plowing ahead without regard for the population is how governments defeat themselves.

True enough. If Harper and company keep repeating the lie, that too will be pointed our more clearly I suspect.

I imagine once the House sits and we're back to Mulroney, AECL etc., this will be off the radar.

knb said...

wilson he causes and international uproar.

Being taken out of context did not cause an international incident, repeating something that he never said as Harper did is what caused the problem.

Harper yesterday said that Dion said "he'd invade Pakistan" as did MacKay. He never did of course.

Reaction to those words was swift, but as usual your boy way lying because he is so all consumed with destroying his opponent at any cost. He obviously failed to have any foresight into how such a statement would be received.

He's a dangerous man and the sooner we are rid of him the better.

Jay said...

I am not complaining about the damage they are doing to themselves here. This spin has been picked up on and called what it actually is by most. Combine this with how the government mistreated Linda keen to deflect responsibility and you can expect some decent polling numbers for the liberals in the coming weeks. Mulroney-Screiber has already been proven to damage their numbers so I am giddy with the prospect of the committee reconvening and the future public inquiry.

I still can't believe Chantal Hebert backed Dion up. I would imagine somewhere outside my window a pig is flying.

Jay said...

Wilson says
"Liberals have used the war in Afghanistan as a way to 'get Harper',"

You are sadly mistaken. Liberals, unlike conservatives, don't politicize things of such importance. I don't remember Support you Troops decals, red fridays or any such symbols being imported into Canada by liberals to deflect criticism of this mission.

The liberals would make it work. Conservtaives on the other hand employ an ideology, stand back and wait for it to correct itself. When it goes wrong and people ask questions they point to "support your troops" and call you a terrorist sympathizer and continue on without fixing the situation. Now a majority want us out of the mission altogether.

Only mindless fools don't see through this little game.

Anonymous said...

"As for his english, this is yet another canard that the right keeps insisting on. It's not perfect for sure, but listen to the link I added. Anyone who cannot understand him, but could understand Chretien has a problem. His french is beautiful, unlike Mr. Harper's."

KNB in politics a lot of it is perception of the individual. Why do you think that most headlines were that Mr.Dion thinks NATO should expand into Pakistan? Not the exact words,but you get the picture.

What makes you think that this would be any different in an election campaign?

In any election campaign the media has to be your friend. If the media work against you you then have a problem that would be hard to over come in my opinion.

When Jean Chretien was running the right was split between the old P.C. party and Canadian Alliance.The Liberals benefited from the split.

Just look what happened ever since the right united under one party "minority governments."

knb said...

Well now. Do you know who actually said we should go into Pakistan?

This guy.

The article is behind a firewall, but the important sentence is there.

h/t to Big City Lib

Jay said...

"Well now. Do you know who actually said we should go into Pakistan?"

And you don't have to go back 10 years for this information. I wonder if O'Connor remembers it. The rest of the neo-conservatives and their lackies don't seem to.

Anonymous said...

"there is no question that more pressure must be placed on Pakistan. I see no problem with NATO nations dealing diplomatically with that nation."

Then why read out a five paragraph release statement in Quebec City in French via a media conference? He should have done what Obama did and gave a speech at some university campus highlighting what the Liberal view of foreign policy is and how Canada should perceive itself. Note that Obama's speech at the Wilson Center was criticized by the Democratic candidates, but was praised by his supporters as a bold vision of foreign policy.

Dion could highlight that there is no military solution to a conflict and that it is time to get tough with Pakistan. If he wants to saber rattle, he can threaten to suspend CIDA aid to Pakistan and impose trade sanctions. These are mechanisms Canada can use to deal with this so-called problem. This creates an impression of making foreign policy on a fly after returning from Kandahar.

knb said...

While I take your point mushroom, I think in essence he did do as you suggest and has been for some time. Not cut funding but focussing on the futility of a military solution alone.

The point remains that he did not say what he is being accused of. The right can try to make it what it is not all they want, I just don't think he's said anything new.

I respect your view though.

Does anyone have a link to the press conference?

j said...

NATO's new strategic concept (1999) says that:

"the fundamental role of NATO is to safeguard freedom and security of its member countries by POLITICAL and MILITARY means," furthermore adding, "The Alliance... recognizes the importance of political, economic, social and environmental factors in addition to the indispensable defence dimension."

It also emphasizes the notion of "common commitment," stating that "The fundamental guiding principle by which the Alliance works is that of common commitment and mutual co-operation" and "no single Ally is forced to rely upon its own national efforts alone in dealing with basic security challenges."

Hm. Sounds a lot like Dion's position.

knb said...

Thanks for that j., really interesting.