Monday, April 16, 2007

The People, The Punditry and The Politicians

On of the more interesting dynamics surrounding the Green/Liberal agreement is the apparent disconnect between the punditry and the grassroots. Obviously, the politicians have all articulated typical responses, based on their own partisan consideration, so those conclusions are largely irrelevant. However, I am struck by the fact that traditional media has almost universally condemned the Dion/May pact. In contrast, I would describe the online response as far more balanced, whether it be bloggers, commentators on online news items or the more traditional letters to the editor.

If I were limited to traditional media, I would have to conclude that Dion is a foolish, misguided and dangerous leader, who hasn't a clue. Finding a positive piece on the May/Dion agreement, is akin to finding a needle in a haystack of negativity. That isn't to say there doesn't exist a myriad of less than glowing reviews online, but for every thumbs down, you readily find supportive arguments. If someone is trying to wade through all the ramifications of the Dion/May saga, it would seem the best source for balance clearly occurs beyond the professional journalist class.

Let's say you hear about the Dion/May agreement during a local newscast. You think to yourself, "that doesn't sound like a bad idea", but you're not sure. You don't go online for information, so you read a few papers, watch the National, whatever, trying to get a better handle on what actually took place. I would argue that any positive thoughts you might be inclined to have would be challenged, and you would surely be influenced by the mountains of disdain raining down. In other words, we are all impressionable, particularly as it relates to the storytellers, so your opinion might be altered.

Contrast that form of dissemination with what we have seen online, and it is clear, whatever your viewpoint, you can find ample evidence to support, confirm or revise your own sensibilities. A more open process, more engaging, less likely to accept the words of the anointed, critical thought. You read all the same papers, the same news telecasts, but you have the added oasis online. "Hey, not everybody thinks Dion is a complete moron, who toils in the backroom, usurping democracy. Who knew?" In this instance, the only real debate seems to be occurring with ordinary people, the professionals haven't really participated.

The bad news, from my perspective of support, most people still get their information the traditional way, which means I won't be surprised if some poll shows an unfavorable impression of the May/Dion pact. The good news, at least there are avenues available to pierce through the spoon feed streams, that too often tell us what to think, without our input. On this issue, it has almost been like two parallel worlds, that show no resemblence to each other. I choose the one where the people live to wade through it all.


Anonymous said...

Chretien was interviewed by Chretien on Don Newman today. If you missed it "Calgary Grit" has it. I missed some because of the storm and our cable went out for about 20 minutes.

Chretien when asked by Newman about how he felt about Dion being portrayed as weak - Chretien said "remember when you guys (referring to the media) said the same thing about me and you did it to Harper too.

Anyway, Calgary Grit has it.

bigcitylib said...

If the Canadian people listened to their TV pundits we would have gone into Iraq in '03 and the Tories would be at 92% in the polls.

Anonymous said...

I agree pretty much exactly with this post. When I first heard about it I was super happy, but when I looked at the MSM opinions is was all doom and gloom for Dion and the Liberals. Then when I read around the blogosphere there were people articulating my thoughts on the cooperation and principle Dion and May were showing. To be sure there was still some doom and gloom, but nowhere near the amounts found in the MSM.

At the very least it will be interesting to see how this plays out, and if my feelings counts for anything (and they sometimes don't) I think this is going to work.

Anonymous said...

Check out Susan Riley's supportive article - Apr 16 Ottawa Citizen

Also, today's Globe printed 7 letters to the Editor re: Dion/May agreement and all 7 were endorsements and several expressed frustration with the media's analysis.

janfromthebruce said...

I wonder if all the supportive letters to editors had anything to do with this: Mayday, Mayday!
"Your support through letters to the editor, etc would be appreciated. Thanks for your support, for your patience, and if you have misgivings, for your openness to the potential for real change. We live in interesting times and they just got a lot more interesting.


Submitted by Elizabeth May on 13 April 2007 - 1:00pm."
nay, it couldn't have been an organized letter writing campaign

Steve V said...


That two-faced evil liar, she'll stoop at nothing. I know for a fact the NDP has never encouraged its supporters to express their opinion to the media. I bet those people who wrote to the editor aren't even real.


I read Riley's article, she was actually the "needle" I was referring too.


There was "doom and gloom" for sure.

Scotian said...

That Susan Riley piece was a refreshing change of pace from what I have been getting from most of the usual suspects in the punditocracy. Thanks for adding the addy Jacqui! I believe both May and Dion are acting out of conviction as much as pragmatic politics here, and these days that is a hell of a lot more than we have been seeing from either Mssrs Layton and Harper. I think it will also look that way to most Canadians looking in, especially since they have been complaining louder and louder over the last several years about the need for increased cooperation and at least minimal respect/civility/courtesy between the sides. Politics does not have to be played in a "total war" manner to be effective and competitive, indeed in a democratic multiparty polity that particular method tends to be quite destructive, which is one of the reasons as I have noted many times before is why I so strongly want Harper gone and his political style discredited, especially before it gets seen as successful and other parties start replicating it to level the playing field.

It is important to remember that the last election result was not an endorsement of the success of these methods, since given the perfect storm against the Libs and working for the CPC (combined with really sucky Lib campaign and a very well run CPC campaign) the weak minority result was a underperformance for what should have happened. However, if Harper can get his majority next time out, or even can significantly increase his minority then I see this style becoming more and more prevalent out of desperation by the others to be able to compete, and while the other parties may gain doing so all Canadians lose as does our political culture and traditions.

There is still time yet, and May/Dion represent now the best chance of turning it back given what they have already shown themselves willing to do thanks to this alignment for the next election. I think it also will make all the anger and bluster from the CPC and especially from the NDP make both parties look that much worse and negative partisans first, which is something clearly most Canadians of all stripes are becoming weary of. This has real potential power, whether it works out that way by the end of election night though remains to be seen, however I still think as of this point the odds are better than even that it will, and given how bold this move was for Dion those seem to me to be pretty good odds. Perhaps I am being overly optimistic here, but I really do think this has the potential to be seen by many as evidence of what cooperative politics looks like instead of the blood sport combative/total war politics we have been seeing as of the last few years, especially from Harper and Layton. Not to mention how much Canadians have been crying out for such as of late and it is possible the reaction from the voting public might be much like a dehydrated person when they finally get access to water, they take deep drinks instead of just sipping. We shall see.

Karen said...

I wrote Riley today to thank her for doing journalism differently, meaning, taking the facts, analysing them with reason and giving that to the readers. I may be a bit sentimental at the moment, thinking of June Callwood, but I was glad to see another woman take June's credo to heart.

That said, I was so heartened by the letters to the editor I read today. They were so supportive and jan, the letters were in support of Dion for the most part, not May per se. As Steve said, the NDP never promotes writing never. (btw, as a member of the Lib's, I received no such directive.)

"As it Happens" read e-mail and played phone responses tonight. A couple were against, the first a con the second, well it could have been jan, the rest expressed relief at seeing things being done differently.

Steve, I'm more optimistic than you. I think you'd be surprised at how many get their news today. I personally love the ritual of having a paper in my hands in the morning, but I don't stop there.

I think this issue specifically should be pushed in non MSM. It's a great youth issue, thinking with vision but it affects you NOW, versus same old, same old.

On a final note, I listened to a Callwood interview today. She said "to be a good journalist, you had to be a good person" and went on to say, "we as journalists are the opposition party and we should do that well". She'll be missed but more than that, her values sorely are.

ottlib said...

The pundits thrive on confrontation, sensationalism and public cynicism so do not expect anything more than what we have seen from them.

Remember, these are the same self-important dickheads who will look at a 1 point uptick in poll numbers and call it a "surge".

As well, I would point out that in most cases the pundits are usually proven wrong about what they write about.

As for the people you cannot predict which way they will jump.

However, I would point out that they have received a pretty steady diet of hyper-partisanship, personal attacks on opponents and outright stupidity from Mr. Harper. The contrast between him and the way he does business and the Dion/May deal could not be more stark. It should be something the Liberals should emphasize going forward.

Anonymous said...

Liberal complaining about the press and the pundits is absolutely hilarious. When the Reform Party were refereed to as Holocaust deniers, rubes, and rednecks the pundits just reported the statements and never questioned the validity of the statements. Many of the Ottawa press gallery members are married to or have significant others who are involved with Liberal political operatives. The only reason Dion is getting questionable press is that many Liberal insiders are dumping on him and therefore the analysis is partially sanctioned. Too funny!

Steve V said...


Nice choice for your nic, seems appropriate.

Back to reality. I caught an extensive May interview tonight on CPAC. The questions were tough, but it so obvious to anyone who doesn't have blinders on, Elizabeth May puts the environment first. You can hear it in May's tone, her conviction and her sincerity. Criticize the strategy, but people that criticize May personally are just ridiculous. A woman who has basically devoted her entire life as an activist, pushing the agenda forward, all of sudden abandons her pedigree, morphs into a political hack and gets into bed with the devil. I guess the new strategy is too discredit May, but it will fail, because it's not really that complicated, she is the REAL DEAL.

Karen said...

Exactly Steve, that is why the NDP sound so hypocritical on this.

The NDP used to be the party of activists, now, they are facing one who is not about to stop being that...Jack stopped. Oh, he still advocates, but he's not an activist anymore, he's a real politician.

Dion is neither in my opinion. He's an advocate to be sure, but he's not militant and not "run of the mill politician". He's sincere and is finding ways to make it work, because he believes in a Canada without Harper at the helm.

Jan, when you can say that about your leader, I'll listen. You and other NDP'ers on this blog seem okay with Harper at the helm. Are you as blind as the Harper followers that you do not understand the damage he can, has and will do to this country?

lance said...

knb: "understand the damage he can, has and will do"

What damage has been done?