Richard Brennan, president of the Ottawa Press Gallery. "I just can't explain what's inside the guy's head. I just can't explain it, nor would I attempt to. It's just pathological, either his hatred or his disdain for the media."
"There's not a lot we can do, except push back, and that's what he is going to find," said Brennan. "We are pushing back."
Even the National Post's own Don Martin -- an affable wordsmith who could charm a snake out of its skin, and who brilliantly covered tight-lipped Tories in the one-party state that is Alberta -- signalled that other journalists are getting plenty fed up, too.
But, in the long run, it is the media that will emerge triumphant. To his everlasting credit, the Gallery's Brennan is refreshingly honest: Sometime soon, the Prime Minister is going to find the news media "pushing back" at a time when he is most vulnerable. Namely, during the election campaign.
Already, it is arguable that this push-back campaign is producing dividends: However much Harper moves to the centre, offering up big-spending policies for latte-sipping urbanites and ruthlessly muzzling the red-necked crazies in his backbench--he gets no credit for it. He and his party remain ahead of the Liberals, marginally, but they are also far from their lusted-after majority. So they lick their wounds, and wonder why.
Messrs. Brennan and Martin can tell the Prime Minister why, if he is inclined to listen. They are pushing back. They are paying him back.
Kinsella mentions Don Martin, and anyone who follows his columns will notice a noticeable trend towards a anti-Harper slant. That leaning is particularly relevant, given the paper for whom Martin writes. Martin as a microcosm is interesting, because clearly it represents a prime example of Harper losing his self-imposed war with the media.
The notion of journalism is supposed to include the ideal of impartiality. Practically, we all can site supposed unbiased observers, who are anything but, both on the left and the right. I subscribe to the theory that is impossible to eliminate bias from any discipline that interacts directly with human beings, despite the training and ethical tenets. The goal is a question of limited degree of bias, as opposed to some unrealistic absolute.
There is always a tension between political parties and the media. How one navigates through that forum is critical for prospects. I find it absolutely astounding that Harper and the Tory brain trust have concluded that they can bypass the Ottawa media, and effectively get their message out. Harper begins with this irrational paranoia, that the media is against him, despite the fact there is no evidence to suggest this in the last two elections (I believe McGill did a study, showing disproportionate favorable coverage for Harper vs Martin in 2004, 2006). There are plenty of media outlets that can be framed as Conservative "sympathetic", which is why the Harper posture is particularly bizarre.
The harsh reality, politicians need the media to some degree. People can spew whatever they want, but the journalists decide what is newsworthy and how to present it. Harper seems to think he can have a direct channel that transmits directly to the voter. Harper takes the view that he can use local media to get his message out, which is decidedly patronizing and arrogant. Harper reveals no political instinct in his approach to media.
That this government has purposely antagonized the media, gone out of its way to belittle and herd them, as though they are powerless, is simply staggering. What is the payoff in pissing people off, who have the power to "push back"? I simply don't understand the advantage, in fact it seems like a brain dead tactic, no matter how you spin it. In the end, Harper's irrational approach to the media could be his undoing, and he will have no one to blame but himself. Harper may be engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy.