Friday, September 12, 2008

The Week that Was and How the Press Saw It

I watched Don Newman's Politics tonight and was both intrigued and put off by the press gallery's take on the week that just went by.

They saw Dion's week differently than I did and I think differently than most Canadians who saw him did. Obviously, I'm a supporter, so I'm going to see it in a different light. That is not to say that the press don't have a built in bias too.

Now, I'm not referring to a political party bias. I'm referring to a bias of expectations to see politics and political leaders play the game in the traditional way. You have to know that these people have been avid political observers for some time and are junkies for the stuff just as we are, more so in fact. They look for the big traditional moments and gauge a campaign on that.

Paul Wells made an interesting comment and said that 'politics is a craft'. He's right to an extent, except with that statement he infers that it must always remain thus and models of the past are the only ones to go by. I disagree.

Oddly, the panel all nodded in unison at how May was doing things differently and it was a good thing, but they didn't say that about Dion. I grant you, May has a quirkiness about her and she's a good orator, but she's not status quo. Nor is Dion. Why is that not discussed? May is not going to be PM obviously, but they are putting out different standards for what makes news.

Dion is far more animated in front of groups than is Harper, yet they see Harper as solid. He's not evasive with the press, and while Harper has been more open this time around, he still ducks the issues and throws out patent nonsense. Yet they give Harper credit for his handling of the press. Bizarre.

It's very curious to me that not once during the discussion did they speak to the substance of what each person is offering this country. They did mention the Green Shift, only to reinforce the ridiculous cliche that it's complicated. This on a day when Dion offered Canadians:

A Liberal government will invest $575 million over four years to:
double direct financial support to $10,000 for any household that invests in energy-saving measures like insulation, weatherproofing and efficient heating systems;

provide interest-free green mortgage loans of up to $10,000 per household to help Canadians pay for the up-front costs of major energy-saving home retrofits; and

create a $140-million Low-income Homes Retrofit Partnership Fund to help upgrade low-income housing across Canada – including federally-funded co-operative housing – and reduce energy costs for those least able to pay.

Complicated? Really?

No, the issue is the media is not interested in the substance of what each man and one woman is offering. They are only interested in the manner in which it is being offered and our country is being done a disservice by this mindset, imo.

We should ask them what Harper is offering Canada and hey, maybe they should ask him that question too. So far, I've seen precious little of that.

Dion has never made a secret of the fact that he was going to do things differently. Russo suggested that Dion was strident in his reaction to the juvenile website puffin attack on himself. Strident? His reaction was, 'it says more about them than it does about us'. How is that strident? Gentlemen and lady, if you would care to look at the Conservative message, it falls under the definition of strident in every dictionary. How'd you miss that? Why do you not speak to look that?

I've also noticed that a few fellow bloggers are getting panicky about recent polls. I won't link, you can search the blogs for yourself. I think it is nonsense to rely on rolling polls after 5 days. Rolling polls are designed to correct direction, they are not predictors.

Can we do things a bit differently? Of course, that's what elections are about but, if you expect Dion to be who he is not, you're dreaming. I see who he is and how he wants to proceed as an asset. Can he change some things? Sure. That's what campaigns are for.

My number one choice would be to ask the media why they are not speaking to issues. Every call-in show I listen to, Canadians say they want to know and hear the issues. They are tired of the junk and want to know what each leader is offering. No one is actually reporting that.

When media catches up with that sentiment, it may be too late. We need to push them to focus now.

Newman may like PM's and Presidents who are good actor's, and I take his point, but that is not what the country needs right now.

At this moment in time, we need someone with vision, not someone who is happy with the status quo. The media is happy to push status quo, perhaps unknowingly, but they are sending a bad, incorrect, message.

They are doing us a disservice. I for one am tired of them deciding what the next 4 years will look like.

The dumbing down of politics has become a mainstay of pretty intelligent people. How did that happen?

Update - Steve has a similar take.


CuriosityCat said...

One thing Dion could do is take a deep breath and speak more slowly.

I think his breathing pattern is too rapid, and he machineguns words out; slow down, take your time, make your point in a punchy fashion ...

knb said...

I know what you are trying to achieve cat, but you're buying what they are selling you.

Let's strive to change what we should expect...not cave to what has been.

Lizt. said...

My husband said Dion should slow down, and he would be easier to understand. One thin.g.the French language is faster.English is definitely slower.

Sir Francis said...


You need to understand something that many Canadians fail to appreciate: journalists are not political scientists and have no expertise in any of the disciplines that touch upon the content of politics. This is so blindingly obvious that we tend to forget it.

Their expertise is in the theory and practice of communication: that is what they are trained in and for. That is why they are interested in and qualified to comment on only the purely rhetorical and gestural aspects of politics.

The other, more substantial, aspects of the political "craft" are things we need to discover on our own, despite what the media do rather than because of it.

Frankly Canadian said...

I believe that Canadians will begin to see Dion and the Liberal team as a smart innovative team with much higher moral standards than that of either the Cons. or the NDP. As the election progresses Canadians will no doubt tire of the same old childish back lashing and fear mongering taking place now, and when they realize that Stephane Dion has not change his strategies at all or hasn't had to fire any war room executives or taken any web-site advertising down, none of that. The Liberals have been doing the same thing since early summer, getting out and meeting Canadians, one on one if they have to, all in order to educate Canadians and lower scepticism regarding the Liberal platform of a fairer, richer, greener Canada, and when they the people have spoke the party that truly wants their vote listens and adjust to better enhance the policies. I have noticed in all the elections I've seen, that when Canada is fed up or mad at a party, they throw them out fast and furious. When this happens to the Cons and we realize the reason will be for the same as when we threw out Brian Mulroney ( I would imagine Harper will try the same old sue Canadians for 50 million/ settle for 2 million game on exit), I don't think we will see the likes of another Conservative government for an extremely long time. Unfortunately most of the economist and environmentalist agree that any delay to stay with world trends will indeed have grave consequences for the future of our nation (maybe we could join Quebec as a nation), as we will be perceived as another American proxy vote on the world stage. Anyways going back to my original statement, I do not believe Canadians will continue to let this assault on our Canadian political process take place at the hands of the media and a mean and fraudulent Conservative government. As for how Dion communicates, I want our P.M. to be intelligent and thought provoking not a fined tuned used car salesman. Since when did being a polished personality become so important to Canadians, from Chrétien to Laurier, their have been many rough around the edges Prime Ministers with various flaws.

penlan said...

Sir Francis said:

"The other, more substantial, aspects of the political "craft" are things we need to discover on our own, despite what the media do rather than because of it."

The problem with that is that the majority of people will not go about trying to "discover". They take what they hear on the news & that is what sticks.
Unless I've misunderstood what Sir Francis meant.

knb - I have been very turned off by CBC's "interpretation" of anything that Dion says or does. Even when it's something really positive they seems to make their reporting & comments with some kind of put down. It's nuanced, not blatant, although in some cases it is obviously blatant. And I see it everywhere in the MSM.

You are right that the focus seems to be on personality & not the substance of any policies, or the lack thereof on Harper's part. Which is insane.

The constant patting of Harper's back to his responses to the gaffes is sickening. They are laughing at the gaffes, making light of them, making humour of them. It's not funny but by their responses they are making "nothingness" out of them which is being presented to the public. So how can the public take these things seriously when they are being fed such tripe. It's outrageous.

I'm unable to watch Duffy, or CTV for the most part, as he makes me crazy but I'm beginning to feel the same way about Newman & his show. And forget The National. Mansbridge is just as bad. What's happened to the CBC? Oh yeah, they just got some mega-funding from the govt. Guess that answers THAT question.

I was taken aback by Russo's remark on saying that Dion's response was "strident". I have not seen that in Dion but have been thinking that the 1 1/2 yrs. of Con ads saying that Dion is weak, etc. has made it's mark. So when Dion speaks assertively it's taken as strident because it isn't supposed to be in his nature - according to the Con job of demeaning Dion for such a long time. My estimation of Russo has gone down immensely now. They are so easily influenced it's breathtaking.

penlan said...

Here's an article from the G & M that is not buying into the Harper feed. It's a good one - one of the few.

wilson said...

knb and I have had the discussion before on Dion being brave (not strong) and intelligent (not smart)

Dion is a good man. But this is politics.

When we are in times of economic uncertainty,

-do you advise Canadians to go deeper into debt? (green mortgages)

-do you advise Canadians to spend their savings accounts on retrofits while the value of their homes are dropping like a stone, when the price of fuel has skyrocketed?

-do you offer to 'partner' with low income Canadians, when they are struggling just to put food on their table?

Yes, over the next 15 years the savings will cover the cost.
But MOST Canadians (the very ones Dion is trying to target) are living paycheque to paycheque, and really don't have the money or the credit available to go any greener then they are.

Dame said...

Every one should read Andrew Coyne 's excellent article / In the where he eviscerates Harper's character and generally the argument Of the strong leader without questioning where the hell Harper actually wants to lead us.
I agreed with his words 100 %. And it is interesting how Coyne is changed from his early days /
The Strong leader arguments always brought back to me the visions of the second world war brought to us a supremely strong leader of the Germans ....
Being strong is one thing and going for the right direction is another one...

Dion looks better and better with every day passing ./I would like to see More of it .. but he is doing better./

Generally the media is fed and led by the various Interests of the Big Business and woefully follow the "leader" few journalist is able to show independent and honest thinking Like Coyne.


knb said...

Interesting point sir francis.

knb said...

Good points frankly Canadian.

I'm concerned he's not getting as much coverage, on TV as the others. His U Vic appearance yesterday was a huge success apparently, but I've only seen print to confirm that.

knb said...

penlan, I hear you.

I like Russo though and will give him the benefit of the doubt for the moment. I wonder if he'll travel with any of the camps?

knb said...

Here is the article that marta is referring to.

I don't think Coyne has changed marta. I think he is really disappointed that Harper did not turn out to be the kind of Conservative leader he thought he was going to be.

That said, I find most of Coyne's observations to be pretty fair.

ottlib said...

The media narrative going into this election was not good for the Liberals or Mr. Dion.

My expectations going into the election was they would not change it to be more balanced and the media has met my expectations.

The Liberals had to take steps to force a change early in the election and they failed to do so.

The Liberals have to understand that they are not just fighting the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP. They are also fighting the media and they have to run their campaign accordingly.

knb said...

Not quite a fair fight is it ottlib?

New French ads are out.

What do you think?