Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why Won't the Media Denounce Harper as a Despot?

As the Vancouver Observer points out, day in and day out Canadian journalists themselves are willing victims of Harper's tyrannical ways.

We like talking to him. It's our job, even when he makes it hard.

And he does. Harper takes only 3 questions at each public appearance (or none at all).

Reporters wishing to ask a question must be pre-approved by his team. If we're approved, we get one question. No follow-up for clarification. No discussion.

Same goes for his ministers, who stick to a script. This is bad for democracy. This damages the public's right to know.

The essence of democracy, its very legitimacy hinges on the consent of the governed.  But consent itself is predicated on an informed decision maker, in Harper's case the Canadian people.  It's their consent to give or withhold but it can only be validly given if their government informs them of what it intends to do and explains why and is prepared to answer questions.

When journalists can't question government officials, get the full story, their corporate bosses might not mind but they're abrogating their responsibility to the public.  When "don't make waves" becomes the standard for journalists, the erstwhile "watchdogs of government," it's bludgeoning democracy.


Rural said...

The day for the press to show some backbone and walk away from Harpers “controlled questions” demands went by the wayside back in 2001 (http://democracyunderfire.blogspot.ca/2011/04/is-this-democracy.html) Mound. We can only hope that in the next few months they refuse to comply with such edicts and NOT give him free publicity unless he agrees to unscripted questions (and we know that wont happen!)

The Mound of Sound said...

Part of the rise of the corporate media cartel was the shift from government watchdog to government lapdog. The fourth estate was always intended to serve the public but now it has become an information outlet for government messaging. And even the journalists we admire have fallen mute.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

You've asked probably the most important question of the MSM Mound. I suppose the reason they do not challenge harpers autocracy is the same reason they never expose his neoliberalism and evangelical beliefs. Both autocracy and neoliberalism are destroying democracy in Canada, but you wouldn't know it by the MSM. It's actually jaw dropping to see how completely the press has towed the line to Harpers dictates and many actually accomodate him in their silence. I find for the most part, with few exceptions, what they do write about is pretty insignificant. Harper the autocrat/neoliberal/evangelical for the MSM is the elephant in the room, yet it is the root source of much of his policies, including his unconstitutional legislation and trade deals and it pretty wells drives most of his behaviour. What contains a wealth of information that could explain to Canadians who Harper really is and why he is making the decisions he is, is completely ignored. It's like having a dreaded, fatal disease like cancer, but all your doctor focuses on is your stubbed toe.

The Mound of Sound said...

It's the failure inherent in the corporate media cartel, Pamela. There's nothing proprietary in information but transform information into messaging and you've created value - to the messenger and those whom the message benefits. In my view, this accounts for the amount of spin and editorialism that has been insinuated into what once was the preserve of hard news. It's as blatant as it is shameful. A lot of what is disseminated in the guise of news today are stories, sometimes complete with video or audio tracks, delivered free of charge to newsrooms. It's rarely mentioned until guys like Jon Stewart or Bill Maher run stories of local news anchors in city after city aping the same lines and cute buzz words. Corporate news organizations love that crap. Its free fill that replaces a real reporter they might otherwise have to hire. Newsrooms are manned by skeleton crews these days and foreign bureaus have been shuttered around the world.

There was a time when we looked to Ryerson to turn out quality journalists. Now they're churned out in bulk by community colleges and those lucky enough to land jobs often don't even understand rudimentary English grammar.

Toby said...

Like all corporations, media giants dance for those who pay. These days, subscribers are fewer by the day. Who pays? Well Harper does. The oil industry does. Car manufacturers do.

Dana said...

News media aren't concerned with informing the citizenry any more.

They're concerned with selling advertising in order that consumers are exposed to the products and services of their advertisers so their advertisers can make money, show a profit and buy yet more advertising space.

They use the 'hook' of telling us the news to get us to look at/listen to/watch the advertising.

Purple library guy said...

Chomsky and Herman's "propaganda model" of the media continues to hold up very well. And it goes beyond just selling advertising. Media corporations are themselves, well, giant corporations, owned by members of the 0.01%, so whose interests would we be expecting them to advance?

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Dana. To realize how blinkered is today's corporate media all you need do is canvass international papers online. News unflattering to Israel, for example, almost never appears in print in Canada.

When a German paper revealed an Israeli general explaining an ongoing strategy of deliberately targeting civilians that is a war crime beyond question, there was no mention of it in the Canadian media. It wasn't overlooked, it was deliberately omitted as it has been in every Israeli assault, on Lebanon and on Gaza. in the past several years.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ PLG - The rise of corporate conglomerates dominating media ownership ought to be alarming. Bell, a telecommunications giant, now has print and broadcast holdings with a variety of overlap benefits that rarely serve the public interest and can create powerful but immensely profitable conflicts.

In the 70s I did a course in media law that focused on regulatory protection of the public interest. At that time it was a given that democracy required regulation of such things as concentration of ownership and media cross-ownership to ensure the public had access to the widest possible range of information and opinion reflecting the broadest political spectrum. It was accepted that only this type of media base would enable the public to make the most informed decisions essential to the health of our democracy.

The recognition of the need to prevent concentration of ownership is today just a quaint notion. Here in BC, virtually every community weekly in the province is owned by one man - the same guy pushing to build a bitumen refinery in Kitimat. Do you think the opposing view is ever printed in his papers? Yet there are people who cannot grasp how his virtual monopoly translates into political influence for his other interests.

This corporate media cartel is inherently corruptive of democracy.

Northern PoV said...

Hi Mound,
I noticed the Star headline at NNW, "gov't by photo op" a few days ago then noticed this post today.
Our dismal media has failed us on this file ... they've in effect aided and abetted this strategy. The problem is that folks like me and you ( that follow this stuff) already know. How to get through to the many (majority?) that don't follow this stuff? Is there a way to present this as the real scandal, not just an expense imbroglio like Duffygate?

Perhaps this is naive on my part: would it be possible for the media to make a story out of this scandal that actually reaches beyond folks like me?

If the major media took a common approach - every time they get an answer from another party leader but get the usual rebuff from Harper (photo op only, or controlled questions) , they should start with the headline: "Harper refuses to answer" then cover the answers they do get from the opposition. And carry this on down the chain - as the cabinet (and even during-the-writ-period CON candidates) all play the same game. (And no, del Maestro/Poilievre bots don't count and should be thoroughly eviscerated for hyperbole.)

At least for the writ period, the media should accurately report what is going on. Otherwise they are just 'stenographers for power'.

The media-owners might not go for this but could the reporters and editors pull it off? (in spite of their bosses - they must feel some shame). Seed the story until it takes off on its own? The photo op strategy is most effective on TV I assume. (I gave up TV news years ago to preserve my sanity.) If the Mansbridge types were to lead each election broadcast with things like "Harper continues to avoid the media" and " Cons will not answer questions or appear in debates" then perhaps the somnolent electorate might stir?
They could make it a ballot question.

The Mound of Sound said...

I don't think there's a more cowed creature these days than a journalist, NPoV. They are definitely in the ranks of the precariat. Media consolidation has left most of those still with a job hovering on the edge of unemployment. When you've got kids to raise and a mortgage to pay you don't make waves.

In yesteryear (my day) journos could shift from one outfit to another, sometimes just for a change of scenery. The good ones could migrate through print, radio, television - private and public sector. The work was pretty good and the pay wasn't bad. Best of all, you could get away with some pretty amazing shit that would probably get you blacklisted forever today. At times it could be as much play as work so long as you were careful that the boss didn't find out. Brings a smile to my face remembering some of that stuff.

As for making anything of what's going on - the public doesn't care. We've become so conditioned, groomed to be so disaffected, that Harper would have to be caught buggering a parliamentary paige before the public would stir.

Northern PoV said...

"Harper would have to be caught buggering a parliamentary paige before the public would stir."
Son, unless they catch me in bed with a boy...or a dead girl, I'm a shoe-in! "
Gov. Huey Long

The Mound of Sound said...

Ha, good one!