I've argued before that the Conservatives attack ads on Dion were effective in two ways. Obviously, the ads themselves created an impression with Canadians, no reasonable person disputes the success. However, where these ads really pay dividends, is the way in which they influence the media frame. The ads plant the seed, and then the journalists run with the characterization, further cementing the impression, to the point of conventional truth. In other words, the ads themselves gain traction because the media effectively carries the water, they reinforce the terms with the public. The Conservatives have mastered the art of succinct terminology, which is then validated by a media which is passive, merely a conduit for propaganda.
Today's must read comes from The Tyee, which details much of what I believe, in terms of the media puppeting the chosen Conservative spin, bereft of any journalistic filter:
If the commercials seemed true to the electorate, it was because the media were repeating the same message in their news stories and commentaries.
It was the combination of paid (ads) and free (news stories and commentary) messaging that did Dion in. But the role of the media in that endeavour has been pretty well expunged from history.
It's a good read, which details how the use of the "flip flop" characterization was primarily effective because it became part of the media assumption. The article points to the usual media suspects, but the terminology extended to all media outlets, even those Conservatives place in the "left wing media" camp. A great example of this general theme, the Afghanistan debate. If you actually go back a year prior to the actual "compromise", you will find the Liberal rhetoric hadn't really changed in a substantive way, particularly when compared with the light years "flip" of the Conservative position. Despite that, Harper was seen as pragmatic during the exercise, the Liberals were the "flip floppers". The superficial analysis was simply breathtaking, but yet there it was, primarily it worked, because it fit nicely into an already established frame, lazy journalism found another example.
The media must share some blame for the Liberal woes. That fact doesn't shelter the Liberals from their own self-reflections, which is clearly required, it isn't an "excuse", merely a recognition. It is empirical fact that the Conservatives have received more favorable coverage than the Liberals the last THREE elections (two of which have already been statistically verified, the 3rd will be, I have NO DOUBT). You don't just GLOSS over a reality, which has nothing do with partisanship, it's part of the equation. The media failed badly this election, they failed to use a critical eye during the election, the failed to present a honest discussion of the issues. That should bother everyone, regardless of preference, because what we receive now is becoming more and more slanted, it is part of a manipulation. Anyone who posits a left wing media should be laughed at hysterically, so detached from reality a sad statement on naked ignorance. Anyone who doesn't factor in the role of the media this election, when drawing conclusions, omits a central theme, unless of course information dissemination is a minor affair, how people receive messaging trivial.
Liberals need to do some soul searching, but part of this introspection should bring a realization that we are "up against it", when it comes to slick propaganda that has perfected the art of using the public medium to validate their frames. The Liberals can either play this game too, or develop a strategy that finds ways around entities which don't have the public interest at heart, which are so institutionally arrogant that they see no need for their own reflections, their own need for "reform". Liberals need to understand the climate, and know it's predisposed to be harsh, relative to their chief opponent. That ain't sour grapes, that's fine wine.