12 September 2010

Conditioned Response

Political dog-whistling is something your humble e-scribbler has talked about before.

Basically it is using words that means certain things to certain segments of the population, usually things that touch on deeply held beliefs and core values. To others, those same words have little or no meaning beyond the plain English. in politics it is a way of saying two things at once as a way of mobilising different segments of the population without alienating one, both or others.

What it plays on are responses to certain prompts that each of us learns over time.  In its crudest form, this conditioned response we are talking about is the old example of teaching a dog to connect the ringing of a bell with food.  When the bell rings, the dog drools for the bowl of yummies it thinks is coming even if there is no food around.

Conditioned responses in humans bypass the parts of the brain involving conscious thought and effort. You’ll find that in any activity where seconds count or a moment of hesitation can have deadly consequences – like firefighting or some branches of the military - training usually works to build up a set of nearly automatic responses.  The training – the conditioning  - can be extremely effective.  After an incident, the individuals involved may not even remember what happened.

In politics, the people often remember exactly what is going on, but the disconnection from thought  - from critical analysis – is absolutely real.

Consider for example, anything connected to Quebec and Labrador hydro-electric power.  The responses are so strongly conditioned in huge numbers of people that they respond instinctively to any suggestion that some vague entity called “Quebec” is doing something evil:  people are ready to man the barricades.

There are two fine examples of conditioned response in the weekend Telegram. Two hard-nosed, hard-headed editors – neither of them lacking in the brains department – wrote on the same subject:  the Premier’s dog-whistle speech to the Board of Trade this past week.

Here’s Bob Wakeham:

So when Danny Williams lets Quebec have it square in the noggin for putting up still more obstacles to the Lower Churchill development, or continuing with its entrenchment on that disgraceful Upper Churchill contract, the Newfoundland sector of my skull calls for applause, while the journalistic neurons demand I let everyone know that the premier’s stance will play well in every nook and cranny of the province, that he’s abundantly aware that the we-against-them form of politicking will provide another feather in his cap of popularity.

Here’s Russell Wangersky:

But let’s get right to the nub of the argument.

Is it fair that a province with natural resources to sell — say, hydroelectricity or fish — should be held to ransom by another province because the producing province wants to get its product to a lucrative market? Should one province get to skim profits from the other, just because it can?

If you read both columns you will certainly have a very rich plate of ideas to devour.  Both make powerful points and both are conscious of the fact that politicians like the Premier use political issues to garner support.

But what we are talking about here is something a hair’s breadth below the surface of what both Wakeham and Wangersky are writing about.  Both writers accept that “Quebec” is “putting up still more obstacles”, to use Wakeham’s version or that “a province with natural resources to sell” is being “held ransom by another province” to take Wangersky’s.

In other words, even though they are conscious of the fact it is just a bell, they still accept the bell’s tinkling is tied to food.  They accept that what the Premier said last week about Quebec’s obstructionism was absolutely correct because, as we all know, that’s what Quebec and Labrador hydroelectricity is all about.

The point is not to slag off either Wakeham or Wangersky.  Take their columns, on this point, as evidence of just how deeply rooted, just how powerful is the basic political mythology about Labrador and Quebec built up over the course of 35 years of relentless effort by one politician after another. Even with mounds of evidence that the Premier’s latest tirade against the “Quebec” bogeyman is based on fiction, the two editors just carried on from the starting point of what every assumes to be true. 

On another level though, you can see the early stages of something else and that’s where the current administration needs to watch out.  Russell Wangersky ends his column with the warning that the story is getting boring to voters.  And Wakeham, who evidently loves Danny, despite wanting to needle the Old Man about his marital problems every now and again, knows full well that Danny the Politician is just blowing the whistle in order to put “another feather in his cap of popularity.”

Those acknowledgements mean that the conditioning is starting to lose its grip. As long as the current administration keeps blowing the same whistle, it’s really only a matter of time before fewer and fewer dogs drool on the carpet in anticipation of the Scoobie snacks that never ever show up. 

- srbp -

34 comments:

Polly said...

I am truly not surprised at what appears to be Wakeham's Pavlovian conditioning ,as he has the hardwired DNA of a Newfoundlander.

Wangersky on the other hand surprises me, in that he appears to realize that Williams just may have another agenda in mind where Quebec is concerned .Did it only take him x number of years to come to that conclusion .

If people like Wakeham and Wangersky can be hoodwinked and are just now awakening to Williams' wiles then ,the average Newfoundlander has very little chance of seeing through this charade .

What is that old saying "You can't teach an old dog new tricks".

I'd say Williams is betting on that one .

Peter said...

I keep hearing those whistles too. Could it be that Que has been so accommodating that all those crazy premiers had to ramp the rhetoric so they didn't lose their evil nemesis card? Better to have an arch foe than get a good deal.
Here's another idea. Maybe this whistling in my ears is just tinnitus. Maybe there are no whistles and you're just a revisionist loon who enjoys dreaming up pseudo psychological nonsense to explain away contrary points of view.
Tough call.

Ed Hollett said...

Thanks, Peter.

If you didn't exist, I doubt anyone could have invented a more perfect illustration of my points about prejudice and the absence of inquisitiveness.

Wm. Murphy said...

WE do not need the likes of prjudice and bias writers from our conventional media.....It appears that we do not need the likes of Russel or Bo...we need the Bond Papers to get rid of that ringing sound in our ears.

Afterall, the humble scribe is concerned with the choices WE make....take for eaxample


In order to make choices people need to know what choices there are. So Bond Papers provides a point of view that you just don’t find in many other places, if at all.

Burn your bookmarks and subscriptions to the Telegram while it appears that the Bond Papers is the ONLY point of view one would need

Ed Hollett said...

Bo? Who is Bo, Murph?

Peep, Svenson or Silk?

Wm. Murphy said...

Bo Derek

Ed Hollett said...

Even better because she had less to do with my post than your comment did.

Ursula said...

Time and experience has taught me how to recognize and "separate the wheat from the chaff".

Hollett is unique in his ability to perceive , analyse and present events in a precise and understandable fashion .

He is "far and away" one of the best in this province ,heck,maybe even in the country .

Hollett is a skilful writer , something we are sadly lacking in this province ...

George said...

Hey William..
Just curious...
How come you don't have a blog going?
Seems you have many and varied opinions, why don't you do it yourself?

Peter said...

I knew I'd seen this show before. Ed and Wally are Flight of the Conchords and Ursula/Polly is Mel.

Wm. Murphy said...

Maybe I should George...but the difference if I had a blog would be that I wouldn't purport to have all of the answers

You see that's what makes all this quite humorous....from the great submissions about the "biggest story still ignored by conventional media" to the "claims that the Gov of the Bank of Canada does not know what he is talking about"...is all great fodder that is taking away from the time to write my own blog.

Hey Gerrge..have you been approached at throwing your hat in the ring? I also hear that the Liberal's already have their candidate in Kilbride!
What are you hearing out there??

Ursula said...

Thanks Peter , I hope the day never arrives when you have to "protect a source".

I had to google Flight of the Concords , not being a big fan of TV . For those of us who didn't know who Mel is :

"Mel is the Conchords' lone fan and stalks them obsessively in pursuit of a romantic liaison despite the fact that she is married to Doug, her former college professor. In the episode "Bowie" she claims that she is a Junior Professor of Psychology. In "New Fans" it is implied that she has been through legal trouble for stalking"

I am sure you don't need to worry about any "MELS" in your line of work ,eh ,Peter .

Then again , you could watch R of D , perhaps Hawco could teach you a thing or two .

Ed Hollett said...

Actually, Murph, the most amusing thing is the way you and your buddies rely on strawmen like the one about having all the answers.

Arguments are easy to make when you just get to invent shit as you wish. Like that comment about "claims" and the Governor of the Bank of Canada. Nothing I've written looks even vaguely like what you've attributed to me. But then again, that is par for the course from some quarters these days. They traffic in fantasy because reality frightens them.

The point I've made consistently in this space is that I don't claim to have all the answers. I do my homework, I present my argument and I give evidence to back up what I say. I don't rely on pat answers and assumptions and I tend to take a rather dim view of those that do.

What I've tried to do here consistently is challenge accepted wisdom, conventions and the status quo.

Apparently, Murph, that frightens people like you and well it should. Once you face your fears though, something much better can happen.

Peter has had a couple of columns lately that brave the new world and good on him for it. I may disagree with his reasoning but fundamentally I support his conclusions.

I liked his column about the New York mosque for example, even though I know, applying that same sort of scepticism close to home is still too sensitive an issue for him. Sometimes it's good to do these things just as a thought experiment to see what happens. Think of it as a sort of self-check to ensure your ideas aren't running off into the wrong place.

Incidentally, fundamentally, Wangersky and Wakeham are right.

See, Murph? Amazing what happens when people express their ideas openly and without fear of any sort.

George is right. You could write a blog or a column. You've got lots of ideas and I suspect there are a bunch in behind your mask that might be interesting and provocative. What's holding you back, though, is nothing more than your own fear. I think it would be good if you could get over that.

Wm. Murphy said...

and check out this thought experiment...

"The point is not to slag off either Wakeham or Wangersky"....and then you go off on a two paragraph BUT

Good thing you didn't mean to slag off the guys.... Geez Eddie your acerbic tongue shows no bounds!!
Afterall, you essentialy said that Wakeham and Wangkersky do not have the ability or inclination to know that the Prem's comments are based on fiction. That's pretty heady stuff Ed. The fact that ALL conventional media do not have the mental capacity or balls to tell it like it is. Which is your contention afterall!

Did you ever think that your view of the "fiction" is a view that needs to be re-visited. If your view on the affairs of the province are in stark contrast to the convential media, then that is the question isn't it. You consistently make the claim...now maybe it's time to address the question on why the media do not see things the way you do. Why is that Eddie?

Wm. Murphy said...

This from the scribe in 2010.....

"I do my homework, I present my argument and I give evidence to back up what I say. I don't rely on pat answers and assumptions"



and this juicy comment from the scribe in January 2007. (almost 4 years later)

"Interestingly enough, Danny Williams talks about having an economy here in about 10 years.

That's interesting because Danny won't be around in 10 years. He'll be out of office in three, satisfied at progress and off to some new adventure..."


I wonder folks what to believe?

....continue to do your homework Ed...it's all becoming clearer

Ursula said...

Apparently the media in this province has something to lose by "laying it on the line ", government advertising being the least of them .

Loss of revenue due to plummeting sales , if it looks as though the print media is "slagging Williams " ,is an even greater threat .

Didn't The Independent lose sales when Williams lost patience with them ? Whatever the cause , they lost much more than that .

Ed Hollett said...

Wow, Murph. Two comments. I think I hit another nerve.

WJM said...

I do like my muesli.

Ursula said...

Federico would have loved you two :

"Everyone lives in his own fantasy world, but most people don't understand that. No one perceives the real world. Each person simply call his private, personal fantasies the Truth. The difference is that I know I live in a fantasy world.~~Federico Fellini~~

Ed Hollett said...

Ursula, there is no small bit of humour in the fact that Murphy spouts conditioned responses in a post about conditioned responses.

Ursula said...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~Touché~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You are good Ed .

Wm. Murphy said...

You are good Eddie....maybe you could be the next guest speaker at the book club?

Ursula said...

Well it is a sure bet that it won't be you (my name is William) Murphy ....

Wm. Murphy said...

Hey Ed...You didn't happen to catch the speech by the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada...Timothy Lane?

If you did, you probaly tuned out in the section about NL. Pretty good news...but what does he and his boss know anyhow?

For the record (because it is by and large good news.. you won't get to read these points or obseravtions here) here is the points about NL's economic outlook

�� From 2000 to 2008, Newfoundland and Labrador experienced the
strongest rate of economic growth among the ten provincial economies.

�� In recent years, housing starts, retail sales, and car sales have generally outpaced the national trend.

�� Economic activity is now recovering in 2010 after having fallen sharply in 2009 due to a reduction in oil production and, to a lesser extent, the global recession.

�� Major projects in the oil and mineral sector play an important role in this recovery.

�� Recent data confirm that labour markets have rebounded strongly in
2010 from the declines seen in 2009


�� Due to its recent strength, the Newfoundland and Labrador
economy is probably operating with much less slack in capacity
than the rest of Canada.

�� Prices, particularly here in St. John’s, reflect this situation. Wages, housing prices, and consumer price inflation have also outpaced the national trend.

�� Unlike the rest of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador’s
recovery is less dependent on a global recovery in the short-term.
Investment spending at major projects will all but guarantee a few years of strong growth.

�� An improved global outlook would lead to higher commodity
prices and even better growth prospects over the long-term.

Ed Hollett said...

You keep ignoring the one point that is relevant, Murph:

The Governor did not make the comments Danny attributed to him.

What's more, as a matter of policy, the bank does not comment on fiscal policy.

Both the Governor and the Deputy Governor said things.

But what they said is NOT what Danny attributed to them.

It's like the Regie decision, support for the offshore fight and countless other examples: what Danny claims and what is the fact are two different things.

That is the only relevant point and it is the one you just don't want to accept.

Wm. Murphy said...

Okay then...what about the economic outlook points by the Deputy Gov.Pretty good stuff don't you think?

You are right, the Bank does not comment on fiscal policy...but the results/economic outlook are based on fiscal policy...yes?

Ed Hollett said...

Now that you've abandoned the point about Mark Carney and Danny Williams, do you mean the speech at the B of T this week?

Wm. Murphy said...

Follow along Ed...I am wondering if you think that the results/economic outlook from the B of C are based on fiscal policy coming from this province?

Ed Hollett said...

I'll take that as a yes.

1. First of all, if you have actually been reading my posts, you would already know my views about the governments overall economic and fiscal policies.

2. His speech isn't really an outlook (despite the label) about NL since it is just a series of observations some of which are pretty general. His speech is mainly about Canada as a whole and it seems to me he is analysing from that 35K foot perspective.

3. Do you think this stuff he pointed to comes from fiscal policy? Some of it does - fiscal policy = government exp and rev (taxation) policy - but other bits of it don't, per se.

4. Here's an interesting comment from the Telegram story: "During the recession, in fact, the downturn was sharper in Newfoundland and Labrador than it was in Canada as a whole," he said.

Yep. No bubbles here.

5. Another interesting comment: "projects — like the Hebron offshore development — started to gear up." Comments like this and the RBC one about the LC driving the recovery are clues that these macro-commentators have some vague ideas about is really going on closer to the ground. Hebron will not start in earnest until (at the earliest) 2012.

6. And then he confirms that he is really interested in the national economy as a whole.

Wm. Murphy said...

It never ceases to amaze me how you continue to cherry pick comments that suit your partisan leanings.. For example;

Here's an interesting comment from the Telegram story: "During the recession, in fact, the downturn was sharper in Newfoundland and Labrador than it was in Canada as a whole," he said.

But the B of C said this;

Unlike the rest of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador’s
recovery is less dependent on a global recovery in the short-term.
Investment spending at major projects will all but guarantee a few years of strong growth.


Wow...that sounds like a "bubble" to me

Ed Hollett said...

Your mixing up the recession and the recovery, Murph/Dan.

The comment I noted was about the recession itself. The GDP dropped dramatically. In the figures from RBC, the job recovery has been only 60% thus far.

But the comment from the slide you mention is about what will drive recovery - not the recession - in the near-term. That is the capital spending he was talking about.

You've completely screwed yourself up by confusing two different things.

Wm. Murphy said...

ya right Ed...

Care to share with us how this province was not effected like most of the other provs in Canada? Try as you might we were in a relative "bubble" compared to other areas. There is a direct correlation between the ability of a jurisdictaion to move from a recession to a recovery. If we were not in a bubble, as you claim, then we would not have shown a quick response towards recovery. Basic economics Eddie

and then we have this winner

His speech isn't really an outlook (despite the label) about NL since it is just a series of observations some of which are pretty general.

And then when the economists parachuted down from 35 k they found this bit of news about NL's economy

In recent years, housing starts, retail sales, and car sales have generally outpaced the national trend.

Recent data confirm that labour markets have rebounded strongly in
2010 from the declines seen in 2009

Try as you might Ed...things are not all doom and gloom as you claim

Ed Hollett said...

Murph/Dan

1. "Care to share with us how this province was not effected like most of the other provs in Canada."

My point is that the province WAS affected like others and that we were not protected by some magical bubble, as the Premier claimed. You seem confused about what I am saying and what you are saying.

2. "Try as you might we were in a relative "bubble" compared to other areas. There is a direct correlation between the ability of a jurisdictaion to move from a recession to a recovery."

Two things come readily to mind: As the deputy governor, RBC and others noted, there was a very strong impact of the recession here. Look at the DG quote from the Telly. If you understood what he meant you simply couldn't claim something else.

The RBC job loss figures also show that the impact here is not over. The province only regained 60% of the jobs lost. Other provinces have recovered all the jobs and another half again as much.

Every jurisdiction moved from recession to recovery. There is no in between stage for anyone.

3. "n recent years, housing starts, retail sales, and car sales have generally outpaced the national trend."

Yes they have but so what? The DG didn't get into where the economic activity was coming from to fuel that spending. At 35K, he doesn't give a flying frig. Doesn't mean he's wrong, it means he isn't interested in what is driving it.

People assume it is the offshore.

My position is that oil didn'`t do it; what we've seen is a huge increase in government spending. That spending unsustainable as cabinet ministers have said. Here again you either haven't read anything I've written or you have no idea what I was talking about. take your pick.

4. "Recent data confirm that labour markets have rebounded strongly in 2010 from the declines seen in 2009."

First of all, the fact there were declines clearly shows there was no bubble of protection. Australia hardly felt anything. We didn't suffer as badly here as elsewhere but we took a major kick in the crotch.

Second of all, the RBC numbers that I highlighted demonstrate that while there has been a rebound, it remains weaker than elsewhere.

More importantly, though, the DG wasn't interested in where those jobs are coming from in NL. He is look at the country as a whole. He said that plainly.

To appreciate the significance of this though for the longer term is the point I've highlighted about the way the public sector is replacing the private sector in the labour market.

5. "Try as you might Ed...things are not all doom and gloom as you claim."

I don't claim that.

As with a couple of other comments from other people, you make stuff up and then wind up arguing with yourself.

That's why i think I'll call you Murph/Dan. This is basically the same problem he has, especially int he whole Grimes/Hickey thing in 2007.

Ursula said...

Boys --- Get a chat room !