With A Little Help From His (Media) Friends

December 10, 2010

From Chris Hedges’ Death of the Liberal Class:

Truth and news are not the same, as James W. Carey wrote. News is a signal that something is happening. It provides, in Carey’s words, “degenerate photographs or a pseudo-reality of stereotypes. News can approximate truth only when reality is reducible to a statistical table: sports scores, stock exchange reports, births, deaths, marriages, accidents, court decisions, elections, transactions such as foreign trade and balance of payments,”

“The divorce of truth from discourse and action – the instrumentalization of communication – has not merely increased the incidence of propaganda”…[It has also] “disrupted the very notion of truth, and therefore the sense by which we take our bearings in the world is destroyed.”

A minor case in point with Canoe Live’s coverage of yesterday’s executive committee meeting, and perhaps a window into how Sun Media’s going to deliver news programming to us when they get up and going on in the spring.

Ford and committee steamroll opposition

(You have to click the above link and then click again on the video feed to watch. My apologies. Couldn’t figure out how to just embed video. Yes, I am an idiot. Go ahead. Click away and watch. I’ll go and get another cup of tea and come back when you’re finished. No rush.)

OK. Done? Let’s go.

Straight off, five seconds in and the first face shown asking a tough question of the mayor is Councillor and Executive Committee member, Michael Thompson. See? The mayor’s executive committee are no patsies, viewers. No ‘yes’ men, they. They’re not going to simply roll over and do whatever the mayor wants. (Although, I believe, everything on the agenda passed unanimously.) The man is getting grilled! His EC is going to hold him accountable, don’t you worry. Toronto’s new mayor, Rob Ford, facing some strong opposition today during the first executive committee meeting held under his leadership.

Councillors were not giving him any breaks, though, [shot of Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday], hammering away at Ford to give specifics on promises he made throughout his campaign. Cut to the mayor giving the councillors specifics. I’ve been as clear as I can be at answering your questions. Exactly! Although we didn’t hear the mayor give any specifics he made it perfectly clear that he answered the questions as clear as he could. So let’s just move on, shall we?

Oh, look. There’s Councillor Vaughan, stating he’s going to make sure the mayor keeps his campaign promises and fulfills his mandate. Blah, blah, blah.

Intro over, now discussion time between Canoe Live’s on air personality and Don Peat, Sun Media reporter, calling in live from City Hall.

Bingo Caller: So Don, this was a meeting [giggle, giggle] of the Executive Committee but unfortunately for Rob Ford, he also had to deal with some hecklers.

Boom! Just like that, Adam Vaughan is not a city councillor. He’s a heckler. While Peat points out to whatever her name is that, no, no, no. Adam Vaughan is a councillor, he has every right to attend executive committee meetings, yaddie, yaddie, yaddie, it’s out there. In just one minute and twenty seconds, Sun Media elevates the mayor to the status of reasonable and accommodating politician (I’ve been as clear as I can be at answering your question) and de-legitimizes his critics as nothing more than lowly hecklers.

The rest of the segment is really just filler, to give the appearance of delivering news and information. The mayor seems willing to forgo over $30 million in savings to pander to voters’ hatred of the Vehicle Registration Tax but, hey, he’s offered to cut his office budget by $70 000! So that’s, you know, actually no savings at all. In fact, it’s quite a significant loss of revenue.

But.. but, Mr. Peat points out, it is a 20% cut to the mayor’s office budget. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Put together with the 40% cut that the executive committee is proposing for councillors’s budget and you got yourself some significant savings. Nowhere the amount to make up for the shortfall in eliminating the VRT in January instead of September, still.. you gotta start somewhere, right?

Bingo Caller: But wait a second though, why is his [the mayor] budget only being cut by 20, 25% and theirs [giggle, giggle] being cut by 40? Good question, Bingo Caller. Don? Don Peat: His budget’s a lot bigger! You know, when we talk about the mayor’s office budget, we’re talking about the millions. When we talk about councillors’ office budgets, we’re talking about $50,000…

Right. So what you’re saying, Don Peat, is that because the mayor’s office budget is bigger than individual councillor budgets, you can cut a smaller percentage of his to have the same amount of savings in absolute dollars. Sounds reasonable enough although, a little semantic-y for a mayor who was elected to cut deep and cut often.

Yet, Mr. Peat doesn’t bother to explain that. Choosing instead to take the remaining time of the segment for one last dig at council, wondering if they are up to voting for the mayor’s proposed cuts, a second such reference in about 20 seconds. Or maybe, Mr. Peat wasn’t at all sure why the mayor was cutting only 20% from his budget but 40% from councillors’ budgets. The question was just posed to give the appearance of objectivity and offer up one last opportunity to tee up on the mayor’s opposition on council.

Why do I bring all this up? In the aftermath of Rob Ford’s election as mayor and his attack on such initiatives as Transit City, much as been made of the downtown elites’ inability and/or refusal to reach out to their fellow city dwellers in the inner suburbs and explain things to them. But as this segment from Sun Media shows, it’s not as easy as all that. When you’re contending with misinformation and outright propaganda that passes itself off as news, how does the truth or actual facts overcome it? As long as a significant portion of the electorate believe that they’re watching the news when they see something like this, it is going to be a long, uphill battle to ever convince them of anything.

deconstructively submitted by Cityslikr