Thursday, January 31, 2008

Unbelievable


We've all heard stories about the Bush administration censoring government scientists, any conclusions ultimately vetted and edited by a former oil executive before release. Today, comes news that the Conservatives are once again imitating the disturbing practices of their American cousins. This is unbelievable:
Environment Canada has "muzzled" its scientists, ordering them to refer all media queries to Ottawa where communications officers will help them respond with "approved lines."

The new policy, which went into force in recent weeks and sent a chill through the department research divisions, is designed to control the department's media message and ensure there are no "surprises" for Environment Minister John Baird and senior management when they open the newspaper or turn on the television, according to documents obtained by Canwest News Service.

"Just as we have ‘one department, one website' we should have ‘one department, one voice,' " says a PowerPoint presentation from Environment Canada's executive management committee that's been sent to department staff.

The reality, says insiders, is the policy is blocking communication and infuriating scientists. Researchers have been told to refer all media queries to Ottawa. The media office then asks reporters to submit their questions in writing. Sources say researchers are then asked to respond in writing to the media office, which then sends the answers to senior management for approval. If a researcher is eventually cleared to do an interview, he or she is instructed to stick to the "approved lines."

Partisans will decide if scientific inquiry has value, based on their preferred talking points. Let that reality roll around your head for awhile, the implications are absolutely staggering. We have to get these backward assholes out of government, they are rotting our system from the inside, discreetly but systematically.

10 comments:

Joseph said...

Unfortunately, it is believable. I know the refrain gets old, but it is accurate. This is the same thing the Bush administration did.

Can't have random facts or independent thought getting in the way of the regime.

Raphael Alexander said...

It's very... troubling... to say the least. So much for the transparency. God help me, Steve, I'd love to argue with you but...

clh said...

And they just decided to get rid of their science advisor, Art Cardy, as well.

foottothefire said...

Unless individual Canadians get involved in the issue of Harper censoring information the entire country will soon become like Alberta where most citizens are suprised to learn we actually have a civil service.
Conservatives don't like being equated with nazis but this is exactly how Harper conducts himself.

Steve V said...

Nazi might be a bit harsh, Harper finds other inspiration. I've always found this fascinating (helps explain the self-portraits at 24 Sussex too)

"A senior conservative cabinet minister(who asked that the national post do not release his name) claims that:
Harper had "read and mastered" the biography and leadership style of Russia's Communist dictator Josef Stalin, and said the prime minister has adopted some of the same tactics.

"He plays people off against one another, he attempts to inspire fear rather than respect, he is unpredictable and he is 100 per cent focused on eliminating the opposition," the senior Conservative explained.

"In fact, Harper is so intense on getting rid of the opposition that he cannot focus on any other task except for that, and this is why the other policies of the government have taken such a back burner position.
The most important thing is to obtain a majority, at all costs, so that our party might move forward on our agenda, without the input of any other parties in parliament. We have epended as much energy in styming the opposition, as we have in developing policy and programs."

Anonymous said...

Steve,
Would you link or reference the Nat Post article you refer to? Interested how recent the anonymous "senior conservative cabinet minister" offered his view of Harper's true hidden agenda:

The most important thing is to obtain a majority, at all costs, so that our party might move forward on our agenda, without the input of any other parties in parliament.

Thanks
Jacqui

Steve V said...

Here is the link.

Anonymous said...

It's not so different with the pseudo-Liberals of BC. Prior to Campbell, a reporter could simply phone up any civil servant and chat about some issue. Obviously, civil servants were expected to be discreet, but they weren't muzzled. Now everything runs through the centrally controlled Public Affairs Bureau. Even the Communications branches of the individual ministries have limited scope.

Oh yes, then there's the Pre-approved Media Statement that employees in one agency carry around in their wallets in case of a disaster:

"The situation is being handled in accordance with [Organization] Business Continuity procedures.

"[Organization] management is meeting to assess the situation and to initiate certain pre-planned activities designed to minimized the disruption and ensure critical business functions on the organization in a timely manner.

"[Organization] management will be issuing a public statement as to the extent of the damage and business continuity activities shortly."

Employees are actually expected to read this out to media people in the event of an emergency. Beyond that, it's "No comment."

To be fair,the "gotcha" attitude of the media is partially to blame for these absurd policies, but it's also due to the neocons' power fetish and their distrust of the civil service.

Holly Stick said...

Stephen Stalin is also trying to develop a cult of the personality around himself, hanging many photos of himself wherever he can. It's not working so well because he doesn't have a personality to begin with.

Steve V said...

holly

It is challenging to have the cult without the personality :)