Monday, September 15, 2008

The Fourth Estate

I have refrained from commenting on the election so far because I believe people have the right to make up their minds based on their own opinions. Obviously political parties will try to sway those opinions, but that's what a campaign is all about.

However, what I've been extremely disappointed about is the press. Obviously, I'm a geek who writes a political blog, so I'm pretty in tune with the political goings on of this Country: that's policy wise, strategically, and in terms of trends.

The average Canadian voter isn't. It's what's called the principle - agent problem. They don't have the time with all their work, family, fitness and general living life to be consumed with politics. They rely on our press corps to help them come to a decision on their democratic exercise vis à vis the information said corps provides.

Unfortunately, the press hasn't lived up to its role. Don't get me wrong, we all know that the campaigning and power struggle is what makes campaigns exciting, but it seems like the press has taken Kim Campbell's position that campaigns are not time for policy discussion. Copying Kim Campbell in any fashion is, dare I say, a faux pas. Instead of analyzing the policies each of the parties has put forth so far and helping citizens decipher the pros and cons of these policies, the press has been consumed with how Harper's blue sweater makes him look or how good at sreet hockey Dion is.

That's not your job, press; you're not supposed to be there to regurgitate the bull the campaigns feed us. You're there to analyze the information and help Canadians formulate educated voting choices. Given the declining voter turnout, this is especially important. Heck, the press not doing its job is probably likely to blame.

I saw on National Newswatch today that CTV's Robert Fife is being accused by a radio host of acting like of Fox news produced conservative talking head, and I wouldn't disagree. I just saw on Mike Duffy Live one of Pierre Trudeau's campaign managers talking about how Dion is not with it because he's not going negative enough -- yes, going negative works, but is this the kind of thing the press should be promoting? What I didn't hear was any substantial policy discussion talking about what's important for our country and what the parties plan to do. Further with Mike Duffy's show: all I see are old white men who were once really powerful being upset that they're no longer in decision making roles. Who knows, maybe they're right, but that's for the parties to decide, not the press. I shouldn't single out Mike Duffy's show, even though it's one of the worse offenders. Don Newman also engages in similar misguided discussions.

The press doesn't need to perpetuate the old boys' club feel of politics. They need to explain to Canadians what the issues are that they should be deciding and what each party has to offer. While I understand the interest in the chess game element of poltiics, the coverage needs to be more than just that. Most voters complain about being turned off because of the cynicism in politics, and if there's any entity to blame for this, it's the press. The parties will always play politics, but the press needs to do its job and inform the nation.


dennisn said...

Why do I suspect that you wouldn't be complaining so much if the Liberals were in the lead?

Also, what would you like the press to "inform the nation" about? How about the criminal unconstitutional nature of taxation--that violates our right to our own lives? Shouldn't they be informing the public about that? About how millions of people are being forced to labour at the whim of others? That sounds pretty serious to me, and regretfully, not even Harper seems to address this. (Albeit he does lean in this direction, as opposed to ALL the other 4 major parties who encourage this criminal activity.)

I've been watching too much of CPAC lately, and it does a good job. They simply go out and ask regular (usually very ignorant) people about their thoughts; Along with speeches from the main candidates; All of which is pretty informative and spin-free.

Frankly Canadian said...

I know exactly how you feel, the press should be helping us as Canadians cut through the spin not perpetuating the spin. Many people I talk to say they are so fed up with all the negative ads and bird poop stuff that they have totally tuned out the big three media news broadcast(as I have recently as well)and may not tune in again after the election this time. This was the same type of thing going on last election too, the media was extremely helpful for the Conservative campaign and damaging to the Liberal campaign. I with many others in Canada just are fed up and to the point of just not voting, however then the Harper strategic chess style electioneering will definitely win. Canada NEEDS to stop this man and put an end to the cycle of four elections in five years or do what ever it takes to win at whatever costs.

dennisn said...

FC, (a) what's wrong with "strategic chess style electioneering, a.k.a. "politics" and (b) which party /isn't/ doing that?

Also, FC, slighly off topic, what do you find so wrong about Harper, in light of my above comment :/ ?

Finally, I think it's just too easy to blame media, or other people, or other circumstances, for what is ultimately /our/ responsibility. If people can't take the time to educate themselves minimally about how their lives are being controlled, (I'd say an hour is enough to read the platforms of all the parties)--/they/ are ultimately at fault.

Also, it has been a well known fact for a very long time (if not forever) that "mainstream media" tends to be shallow biased incomplete etc. The product advertisements which bombard us every day are also like this. It's nothing new, and we have adapted to this. We are able to see the spin behind ads, filter it appropriately, and make the final decision about what to buy. Nobody should expect advertisements or mainstream media to be unbiased--they both have their own agendas and would naturally tend to protect themselves first.

At the end of the day, it's all about trust, and there's no shortcut to getting it. It doesn't make sense to trust a total stranger--for buying a product, or interpreting politics. "Mainstream media", no matter the rhetoric, /is/ a bunch of strangers. People should obviously not rely entirely (preferrably not at all) on it, but rather on close friends or direct sources.

m5slib said...

dennis.. you're partially right about me not noticing more with the liberal fortunes down, but it doesn't detract from the actuality. In the last 3 big provincial and federal elections, i can remember policy issues being at the forefront.. that's why John Tory lost.. because of bad policy, and Ontario's acceptance of Mcguinty's record. That kind of discourse is absent from this campaign so far....