Crawl Across the Ocean

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Emperor's New Snack

Back on July 3 as I'm sure you heard, Stephen Harper, our Prime Minister, took communion (a no-no as a non-Catholic to begin with) and, instead of eating it right away, either kept it in his hand or put it in his pocket, wandered away and sat down without ever taking a bite.

The video is pretty clear.

If that was the whole story, I could just acknowledge that our Prime Minister is a) ignorant of the basic rituals of the most common religion in the country he is Prime Minister of and b) does the wrong thing under pressure, and move on. These aren't great qualities in a leader, but whatever. Harper had inexplicably gone up for Communion with something in one hand so it would have been easy enough to clarify that he had to sit down and put down what he was carrying and then consume the host properly. Or that he was unfamiliar with the Catholic ritual since he's not Catholic. Or that he was trying to shake hands with the Priest, not receive communion or whatever the true story is.

But instead, we were treated to the strange spectacle of all the news outlets running stories like this one at CTV where we hear that,
"After the video clip was released, a spokesperson for the PMO said Harper was offered the wafer by a Catholic priest at the funeral, that he accepted it and then consumed it."

...and comments by Harper that,
"I think somebody running a story -- and I don't know where the responsibility lies -- somebody running an unsubstantiated story that I would stick communion bread in my pocket is really absurd, and I think it's a real, frankly, a low point, a low moment in journalism whoever is responsible for this,"

The whole thing was ridiculous. We can see the video. Whose credibility does it benefit for the PM and his office to just lie to our faces as if we were either blind or complete idiots and for the media to just report it as if the video evidence wasn't clear?

Still, I let it slide until I saw this story that people actually lost their jobs for daring to point out the obvious, video supported, but embarassing truth about our PM.

The CBC article says that, "The publisher and editor of the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal are no longer with the paper after it was forced to apologize to Stephen Harper and two of its own reporters over a story about whether the prime minister took communion at the state funeral of former governor general Roméo LeBlanc."

Forced by who?

One of the reasons I generally prefer reading blogs to the corporate media when possible is that when the media is so under control that people lose their job for saying inconvenient things about the PM - even when their comments are supported by video evidence - it's pretty obvious that you can't trust what you're reading (and more to the point, what you're not reading) too much. Yeah, bloggers can be biased and unreliable but they're not (as far as I know) censored so it lets me read the opinions of people who can actually say what they think without fear and then judge for myself.

It looks like Orwell might have been an optimist thinking that in order for the lie to become truth, you actually needed to first modify or destroy the video evidence showing the 'truth' to be a lie.

As an aside, thinking about this story, I couldn't help but recall the incident where the National Post falsely reported that Iran was forcing religious minorities to wear coloured badges identifying their religious status.

At the time Harper did not comment on this as a low point in journalism, instead noting that, "Unfortunately we’ve seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action."

I don't recall ever hearing about anyone losing their job over that one (and the apology was run on page 2, not the front page like it was in this case), but of course fabricating a story that likens a country that is a possible military target to Nazi Germany pales in significance compared to commenting on the clear video evidence that the PM walked away with a little JC in his hand/pocket. Why do I suspect that the modern version of the Emperor's New Clothes ends with a slander suit against the child...

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  • EXCELLENT post, Declan.

    It is annoying how the MSM can't quite be trusted to accurately report much of anything anymore.

    The blogosphere is definitely the news medium of choice.

    Loved the line a little JC in his hand/pocket, BTW . . . .

    By Blogger West End Bob, at 7:39 AM  

  • I think the editor and publisher should have been fired -- for deciding this was news in the first place. I rarely agree with Harper but I think he had a point when he observed that this was a low point in journalism.

    I think you're right to be wary of what the media presents. For various reasons all media has some bias and is to some extent controlled and it's probably always been that way.

    But, I'm a little concerned that you would draw some equivalence between the credibility of blogs and the credibility of the MSM. There are problems with MSM but there is at least first order controls in place directed at accuracy and completeness.

    Blogs have done a fine job of duplicating the editorial page component of traditional media but they have no news or news research capabilities. They ( political and topical blogs ) are entirely parasitic. Sometimes they are thoughtful and insightful but they couldn't exist without the MSM playing host.

    By Blogger KevinG, at 9:23 AM  

  • Thanks WEB.

    Kevin - you think people should get fired for making a decision of what is newsworthy that you disagree with? Was that sarcasm? The entire global media would have had to fire itself after George Bush Sr.'s run-in with the bad sushi...

    Let alone, when bad things happen to white people in the Caribbean.

    More seriously, if it wasn't newsworthy, why the massive reaction (from the public and from Harper and co.)?

    I remember when the National Post ran a giant front page headline entitled 'CEO's Fear Reefer Madness' - that really was NOT news, and it met the usual fate of non-news, it was thoroughly ignored by everyone.


    As for blogs and the relationship with the MSM, I think blogs would actually thrive if the MSM were to disappear. Speaking for myself, it's true, I'd have to scrap all my posts where I criticize the media, but I think I could fill the gap. Honestly, I hardly read the news at all anymore and I can't say it's really impacted my blogging much.

    None of my posts on ethics depend on the media much at all. And most of the posts on economics and on reports put out by think tanks and agencies and such would be fine once we got a good feed of such things set up (which wouldn't be hard).

    For example, with respect to the real estate market, blogs and email distribution lists have pretty much rendered the media entirely useless.

    In the absence of a MSM, I suspect that some enterprising blogger would pick up the role of monitoring the provincial and federal legislatures. Political types would still try to get their message out and without the MSM, I assume they'd do that through blogs, youtube, etc.

    The advantage the MSM has is that it can apply pressure because it reaches so many people, but I guess if the MSM disappeared, more blogs would achieve Geist-like discourse dictating powers.

    By Blogger Declan, at 6:12 PM  

  • Yes, of course it's sarcasm. They shouldn't be fired but serious people should be able to find something more genuine to be worked up about than a stuffed up ritual.

    I expect you, and 4 dozen others, could fill the gap.

    By Blogger KevinG, at 5:56 PM  

  • Just to be clear, I meant I could fill the gap on my blog, not the gap that would be left by the disappearance of the MSM. That would take at least 50 bloggers.

    By Blogger Declan, at 11:25 PM  

  • I meant I could fill the gap on my blog, not the gap that would be left by the disappearance of the MSM.

    He he. Yes, that's what I thought you meant.

    I should be more clear: your blog is nearly unique. I certainly can't name another like it. I'd certainly like to see a list, if you have one, of blogs that are thoughtful and rational and post things other than editorials and "letters to the editor" about what the MSM has printed or issues they've raised.

    None of this is a defense of the obvious problems with the MSM but I think an objective comparison could only conclude that the MSM is a better source of information than blogs. It's certainly held to a higher standard than blogs -- especially by bloggers ;)

    By Blogger KevinG, at 7:17 AM  

  • Thanks, although there's probably a fair number of blogs like mine out there, they're probably just hard to find since the 'rational' style doesn't attract a ton of traffic/notoriety.

    At any rate, the only list I have is the blogroll...

    By Blogger Declan, at 8:20 PM  

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