With A Little Help From His (Media) Friends

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

12 Responses to With A Little Help From His (Media) Friends

  1. Kris Scheuer says:

    Cityslikr, as you say it’s interesting that Canoe Live report called lefty councillors who aren’t on the Executive Committee hecklers because they showed up to ask questions, which they are entitled to do.
    Also the mayor got the votes to cut councillors’ office budgets from $50,445 to $30,000 (x 44 councillors) for a savings of $899,580.
    He cut his own budget from $2,342,150 down to $2 million = a savings of $342,150.
    But Mayor Ford and his Exec approved canceling the car tax as of Jan. 1/11 at a cost of $64 mil ($48 mil in lost revenue plus $16 million in refunds).
    In other words, he saved taxpayers $1,241,730 and cost them $64 mil all in one day.
    To be fair, council will still have to approve these changes and the city manager is going to find a way to balance the budget even with less revenue while still not raising taxes.
    But you get the point…

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Kris,

      Thank you for providing the numbers involved.

      So apparently we were in giving Mr. Peat undeserved credit for his answer to the question why 40% from councillors’ budgets and only 20% from the mayor’s budget. 20% of $2.3 million is only half the total amount of savings of 40% of $50K X 44. Much less than half, in fact. Closer to a third.. 40%.

      We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke would like to know then, why big cost cutting, respect for the taxpayers, stop the gravy train Mayor Ford seems a little less so in terms of his office budget than he is of his council colleagues? Hmmmm?

  2. Peter MacQuarie says:

    BTW, I don’t get the point. Maybe Kris will elaborate?

    “To be fair..” Wow, isn’t that a novel comment on this site. Let’s see if there’ll be a smart ass response?

    Neither do I get the point of all the highfaluting writing on RF’s election. What do all these inteffectualists hope to achieve? Do they think they can stop the world spinning if they write more and more that fewer and fewer understand?

    They’re the modern day Cnuts who think their smart ass writing can reverse the tide.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Mr. MacQuarie,

      We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke don’t get what point of Ms. Scheuer’s you don’t get.

      In one Executive Committee meeting, the mayor and his executive created a proposed $62 million revenue shortfall that, if approved by council, will have to be offset someway by either increased revenue (taxes, user fees) elsewhere or cuts to services. And didn’t the mayor promise, no, guarantee he would do neither if elected? Simple math, really. Nothing at all highfaluting to that, I hope.

      You don’t get it or you don’t want to get it. Which is it, Mr. MacQuarie?

      • Peter MacQuarie says:

        I’m sure “the point” is not simple math and maybe Kris will elaborate?

        I believe only children and fools comment before something is complete. The AFUITBS people have a lot to learn yet, as indeed do the rest of us.

        It will be an interesting time for anybody who is not trying to make a job out of it.

    • towriter says:

      Peter,
      Rob Ford won yes, but he is making decisions now that he is elected and it makes sense to report and comment on that, doesn’t it.
      The point is Ford voted to save taxpayers $1.24 million on the same day he voted to put the city $64 million in the hole.
      The point I made when I said, to be fair, was referring to the fact the 2011 budget had not been passed yet so there is still time to find a way to dig out of that $64 million hole Ford voted to put the city in.
      BTW, that’s on top of another $204 mil budget hole Ford has to find a way to fill as well to balance the budget.
      Ford said he can do this without a tax increase of any kind, with no service cuts and a flatlined budget (no increase in overall spending).
      It’s going to be interesting how this is achieved.

      • Peter MacQuarie says:

        Kris, if that’s you’re point, I get it and understood same when I read your post. I didn’t think the point you were making was that obvious.

        Ford’s term has only started and I don’t get all excited about the obvious. Others do, like the AFUITBS boys, but they’re just trying to make a name for themselves within a very small community.

        It will be an interesting time for many but commenting on the budget before it’s even compiled is only showing political bias.

        I suspect the AFUITBS boys now have you pegged as a RF fan, probably because you are a supporter of Karen Stintz (or at least your paper is) and they are showing their bias by carping on about micro finances in the first 5 minutes of RF’s mayoralty.

        I’d rather see comments on what is not so obvious. Like how some of the newbies on Council are being taken (in) under the right and left wings of returning Councillors, for political reasons only. The upcoming Motions seeking apologies and condemnations are great examples of how the farce called “Toronto Council” is being perpetuated.

        There’s also a Motion calling for Torontonians to pay for the City solicitor and City planners to attend an OMB Hearing to uphold a Decision at the Comm of Adjustment. What makes that ludicrous is a Motion from Stintz at a previous Council meeting asking Torontonians to pay for an outside lawyer and outside planners to OPPOSE a Decision of the CoA. And, the issue is the same, whether a developer should be allowed to sub-divide a lot to build two houses, or just one.

        What a waste of taxpayers’ money! Who will report on this stuff? It happens all the time down there and it’s just some of the crap that never gets mentioned.

        It doesn’t look like it will be the Town Crier of the boys at AFUITBS.

  3. towriter says:

    Sorry, I got ahead of myself there. Rob Ford voted to save taxpayers $2.3 million on the same day he voted to reduce revenues by $64 million and he admits he doesn’t know where, at this time, the city will find $64 million to offset the lost revenue.
    I said ‘to be fair’ in order to point out the city still has time to work out a plan. But it won;t be easy.
    The previous mayor left Ford with a $275 mil 2010 surplus, but even if all of it is used to balance the 2011 budget (and none go into reserves) there was still a $204 million gap to balance next year’s budget.
    Ford has added to that gap by reducing revenues and voting to issue car tax refunds, which will add up to $64 million.
    So now the budget hole is $204 plus another $64.
    Normally, in order to balance the budget holes the city raids reserves (which I think are all but empty), raises user fees or taxes (Ford said he wants a zero tax increase for residents) or cut services (Ford has said he won’t cut services- guaranteed it).
    Plus Ford said Dec 1 at a press conference I was at that he wants the 2011 budget to be the exact figure as the 2010 budget even though we know that 2011 costs will be higher (inflation, wage increases already negotiated, mandated costs from the province such as welfare could rise, etc). So how can we spend the same as we did in 2011 with less revenue (cutting the car tax), no service cuts, increases costs in some areas, no tax increase, etc.
    It will be a challenge, don’t you agree?

    So the point is for someone who campaigned on respect for taxpayers, etc, the balance sheet is tipped in the wrong direction a deeper budget hole to fill. Less taxes, but also less revenue to balance the budget.
    So how do you cut revenues and not have a plan to replace the lost revenue and still not cut services? And not raise taxes to fill the gap. Plus
    Ford wants a flatlined budget that’s exactly the same as 2010 (so even though wages and other inflationary costs are higher for 2011 the overall budget has to stay the same). In order to achieve this, if costs are higher in some areas but you don’t want to spend anymore than in 2010, you will have to cut elsewhere to keep costs in check.

  4. towriter says:

    Peter, yes it’s complicated, but that’s the point. It’s not as simple as some of Ford’s campaign promises and speeches post-election indicate. The point is, does the math add up?

  5. towriter says:

    Peter,
    I love to discuss politics but your point seems to be to criticize me, Karen Stintz, the paper I wrote for the Town Crier and the fine writers at of this blog.

    • Peter MacQuarie says:

      Who made you the only one allowed to criticize?

      I didn’t think you would engage much longer anyway but I had hoped to get some comment on the content of my post that so offended you. People have an expectation to know your opinion on certain issues. That is, if the TC has a readership that cares what you think.

      I do.

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