Sunday, April 03, 2011

Lazy Sunday #164: The Winner

A week into the current Canadian Federal election, I started wondering if Canadians really don't like all the elections we seem to have, or if their real beef is with the way the media covers them.

With less than 30 days to go, I could count on one hand the clear policy statements I've gotten from ALL of the parties, none delivered (or reported) in much detail.

What I could quote you in reams is how bad all the parties and their leaders have been at meeting the needs of the media.

Literally minutes after the government fell, there was a group of reporters carping that the Prime Minister wouldn't be taking any questions. He said he'd take them the next day, but that apparently wasn't good enough.

This was followed, seconds later, by the same reporters posing an identical question to the Leader of the Opposition over and over, listening to his repeated answer and then claiming that he hadn't actually answered what they'd asked.

He seemed pretty clear to me. But what do I know. I'm just a voter.

By about the 4th time through, I could see the poor bastard starting to twitch, like he was caught in one of those dreams where you swear you're speaking the language, but nobody seems to understand you.

As the week wore on, we got complaints of the Prime Minister limiting media questions to five per event. This ignored the fact that Prime Minister Martin had limited them to four during his last campaign without anybody caring and completely ignored the reality that (more often than not) three of those five questions asked for information we'd already been given in the preceding speech.

And then we had the ultimate media hypocrisy, wherein, a consortium of media outlets eliminated one of the party leaders from the televised debates, followed by their staffs decrying her omission as an affront to democracy and taking various politicians to task for their own bosses' decision.

By next day they were insisting on a one-on-one debate between the front runners, a sure fire audience getter -- which eliminated all THREE of the other major parties in the process.

Apparently a ratings bonanza trumps all affronts to democracy.

Mixed in we had media outlets making bundles of cash from running attack ads while editorializing on the negatives of running such ads.

We had insinuations of who's sleeping (or not sleeping) with who. Who had friends who aren't completely on the up-an-up. And, of course, who's pandering to a particular class, clique or ethnicity.

Since little (if any) of the really scandalous stuff is ever dug into or followed up, it got me wondering if the point of our elections has become building an obstacle course nobody can get through unbroken -- and if that course is maintained by members of the media whose jobs, with the rise of the internet and social networking, have become so redundant this is the only way they can appear worth keeping around.

There was a story last night from some news outlet about a candidate who'd had some signs vandalized. It was spun to blame one of his opponents as well as play up the cynicism and lack of civility in our electoral process.

Well, the last time we had an election, I volunteered to help out a female candidate. Every morning, we drove around and replaced signs that had been defaced, decapitated or scrawled with obscenities. Most of the time, we'd run into workers for the other parties doing the exact same thing.

Were whackos affiliated with either side to blame? Maybe. But more likely it was kids, mental defectives, malcontents who wouldn't be voting anyway.

I don't think for an instant any of us thought we were dealing with a homicidal misogynist or darkly disturbed politico.

We all just lent each other hammers, staplers or tape, made our repairs and moved on.

For the most part, those genuinely participating in an election know it's about the issues and the people who have been willing to step forward to serve. Yeah, you might not agree with how the other guy wants to do things. But you know he's not evil and heartless and fronting for some troll army that'll be loosed to rape and pillage and burn down everything the rest of us have built.

But sometimes it seems the media wants us to feel that way; that we need to become more cynical and get into a down and dirty scrap where the issues take a back seat to winning.

I honestly think the media planes and busses are where you'll find the greatest level of loathing and the deepest need to instill fear, not to mention the kind of cowardice that keeps you from outing the democratic shortcomings of your own employer.

Anybody who's ever witnessed a bar fight, a street fight, a real fight, knows that there really isn't a winner.

So maybe if we want elected officials who don't have to spend most of their terms repairing the damage done to themselves and others getting into office, maybe if we want true "civility" in a campaign, it might be that the guys most obviously spoiling to start a fight should be the ones who get back to covering what the campaign is really supposed to be about instead.

Here's a song about all that. Enjoy your Sunday.

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