26 February 2010

Kremlinology 17: Woof! Woof!


“If I collapse up here, please drag me to Seattle – because the Canadian Medical Association won’t have anything to do with me,” the Newfoundland and Labrador Premier said.

In politics, they call it a dog whistle.  That’s the use of coded language that sends a very particular message that can only be heard by those attuned to the code. 

In this case, the key word is “Canadian” and the concept is that the Canadian doctors  - like are just sooking because they couldn’t get to operate on The Other Great One.

It’s a theme that’s been running through Danny Williams’  comments since undergoing major heart surgery in the United States.  The doctors in Newfoundland and Labrador did a bang-up job.  When he had to look at options outside the province he went to another native son for advice.  This guy just happens to be a leading thoracic surgeon in New Jersey and he recommended a fellow in Miami. Williams did say that the option of having this surgery with this method done in Canada was never offered to him, but that, it seems might be nothing more than a lawyer’s careful choice of words.

Now that some Canadian surgeons are pointing out that the same procedure was available in Canada, it isn’t good enough for Danny Williams to rely on the idea that it was simply his choice.  He’s got to take a dig that fits both with his narrative on the surgery and, for those familiar with it, his highly defensive modus operandi.

Now the rather interesting thing is that as Williams slipped that one into his Thursday night speech at a small crowd in Vancouver, it appears that some of his homies have already started howling the same tune.

Telegram comment[ary]s editor Peter Jackson made very similar snide comments a couple of days ago in response to a blog post by Geoff Meeker criticising an [Telegram] editorial that may have been written in largest part by Jackson [Correction via Peter’s comment below:  “And I had no involvement whatsoever in the writing or even proofing of that Telegram editorial.]

Let me see,,, [sic] so it's you guys, some anti-Obamacare propagandists in the U,S,, and insecure mainland surgeons who think there's a big story here…

The Globe seems to have taken a cue from the defensive cardiologists, many of whom they [the Globe] likely hunted out themselves…

You can ramble on for ages about the merits of both systems. It has nothing to do with Danny Williams.

((I'm wearing my private opinionator hat herre, [sic] not that of a Telegram staffer.)

And then in the Friday Globe, there’s a letter to the editor from Marjorie Doyle:

Perhaps Mr. Williams should voluntarily undergo more surgeries and spread his custom among the pouting doctors.

Now maybe this is nothing more than three people who may share similar ideological views purely by chance taking a cue from a misleading headline in the Globe.  Read the story at the end of that link, incidentally, and you’ll notice the huge gap between what the doctors actually said and what the headline says.

Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time dog whistling turned up in local politics during Williams’ time in office.

And what better way to deflect the argument currently centring on him and his own choices than to make it into a fight between “us” and “them”.



Peter said...

Read the Globe editorial today. It's even more evidence of this gigantic inferiority complex on the part of many Canadians. As with Newfoundland, it's the one thing I hate about Canada as a whole -- morose navel-gazing. Get over it. I'm a proud Canadian, believe it or not. I don't need Peter Mansbridge reminding me every night. I was particularly moved by Tom Brokaw's little Olympic blurb on Canada. You can find it over at Whittle's site. I'll bet he would find it hard to imagine where all this insecurity comes from.
It's telling, for example, to listen to international broadcasts from other countries while you're away. (That's right, I'm not a total "honey") They do a lot of international news. Radio Canada sounds like it has a hangup, chortling on about how Canadian they are.
That someone would extrapolate so much out of a stupid little crack, as you just did, only demonstrates what a hopelessly partisan track you are on.
By the way, I'm commentary editor (primarily columns). The only web comments I enable are for my own column.
And I had no involvement whatsoever in the writing or even proofing of that Telegram editorial.

Ed Hollett said...

Thanks, Peter.

Without that largely invented and decidedly townie inferiority complex, of course, the current crowd what is in authority over us in these parts would scarcely have anything to say.

Their entire political narrative has been about the arrival of salvation in 2003 and the creation of something called "pride" as a result of the actions of one single indivudal.

It is pure bunk but it is bunk enabled by far too many people who make - as you so accurately described it - "stupid little crack[s]". It is bunk that people accept, though, largely because it is repeated by so many and more often than not left totally unchallenged.

I did not take it all from one thing. As you can see I drew together some threads. Sometimes it is only by stepping back that you can see things as they are.

And as for telling, you'd find something much more revealing if you were to look at the stuff emanating from local media compared to what happens in the rest of the world.

Perhaps if you did that instead of reading the Globe, you'd find a lot of more of the self-conscious identity stuff than you get anywhere else on the planet (with a couple of understandable exceptions).

If you really find the insecurity so annoying then perhaps you should try writing about that instead of - essentially - enabling it.

Geoff Meeker said...

Ed, just have to wade in to offer this much, since Peter left those comments on my blog. He did emphasize that he was wearing his "private opinionator hat here, not that of a Telegram staffer." This is important, as I would like media people to comment freely on the blog, without feeling they are speaking on behalf of their media organizations. As you were!

Mark said...

I'm with Peter on the navel-gazing stuff, although it's nowhere near as off-putting as the chronic victimhood and the "fighting newfoundlander" complex that has overtaken any meaningful political dialogue in our province.

However, there is some irony in reading someone attack a single Globe editorial with being indicative of all Canadian media, and then in the next breath pleading not to have his own comments similarly generalized.

On a related note, if we're to accept journalist's comments as being their own, and not those of the paper you work for, (which is only fair) could we agree to extend the same courtesy to lowly loathsome "partisans" as well?

Ed Hollett said...

Thanks Geoff and as you can see I included that disclaimer from your blog space in the body of the post.

And to deal with both Geoff and Mark's point, I take it as a matter of course that people's comments are their own and shouldn't be necessqrily taken as reflecting the views of the organizations they work for or are associated with.

For the record though, I will go back and strike out the bit about Peter and the Telegram editorial just to make sure there is absolutely no confusion.

Peter said...

All great comments, guys. It is diifcult to parse one's role in this business. But I think it would seem obvious I wouldn't be trumpeting an unsigned editorial if I'd writeen it. Very disingenuous.

The business about local inferiority is valid. I often wince at the "fighting Newfoundalnder" stuff as well. There's a fine line between pride in one's heritage and belligerent nationalism.
But the tendancy on this site and others to pigeon-hole everyone who doesn't conform to your construct is just as annoying. In that sense, I have no idea what Ed means by calling me a "homey."

If you've been keeping track, I have been critical about Williams on many things, and even incurred ministerial ire, but around "here" it appears you have to be into total demolition.

Ed Hollett said...


The point for me has been what I perceive - and I emphasise my perception - that you are more inclined to fit in with the nationalist viewpoint that currently dominates.

That's the context for the word homey and maybe "peeps" would have better conveyed the sense of being part of the particular crowd that might have accepted those sorts of references one way while others heard or read another thing.

There is a line between pride in one's place of birth, coutnry etc and beliigerent nationalistm and chauvinism.

However it is exactly belligerant natuionalism and chauvinism which has tended to dominate the local dialogue these past seven years. Those of us who reject it openly are typically pigeonholed. I seem to recall you doing that some time ago in another discussion here.

In that context I find it rather interesting that you are now objecting to what you claim is pigeonholing. In the same breath you claim it is a tendency here.

Frankly, I think you have things turned around just as you had them turned around the other day with your doublethink column.

If you look at the last five years or so, I think you would see that the whole business of labelling (pigeonholing) has been used consistently. But, it has been used consistently by the advocates of that belligerent nationalism, by the chavinists.

Those who do not conform to the currently dominant construction are labelled.

As for your ministerial ire, I'd suggest you might also reconsider that in light of the larger issues involved in this recent controversy and others.

Things like that do not occur by accident. They are not merely friendly chats as part of an ongoing dialogue in a healthy democracy.

For some reason, though, instead of tackling those people, you seem to find ways to rationalise that behaviour and point your attention to people like Wally, Geoff or me.

If you really do wince at the belligerent nationalism/chauvinism it would seem more logical for you to focus your attentions on the belligerent nationalists instead of - as you apparently do - on those of us who do much more than wince at the nationalist nonsense.

Peter said...

Of course, Wally will now wave his magic archival wand and find examples of my belligerent nationalism.

Ed Hollett said...

Thanks Peter for proving my point again: you criticise people without power, in this case for doing stuff that reporters do in other places: use research material (archives) to apply a sort of accuracy or veracity test to people in positions of considerable power and authority.

That does seem to go up your nose for some reason.

How very odd.