20 January 2017

Ratings trump truth #nlpoli

Sometimes the universe delivers you the magical set of circumstances you just can't ignore.

Danny Williams turned up at the St. John's Board of Trade luncheon on Thursday to deliver a speech the day before Donald Trump's inauguration as president.  As much as people might like to forget,  this was a great reminder of just how much Williams and Trump are the same kind of politician.

The board of trade booked Williams because he will sell tickets.  And in the same way, the local media turned out in droves for Williams.  They treated him just as they have always treated him and that's our story for today.

Williams delivers to electronic news media what Trump does: ratings. Fox and CNN adore Trump just like VOCM and CBC television followed every one of Williams' gaseous emissions.  He drew the audience.

The difference is that while CNN news anchors are routinely critical of Trump and even Fox might take the odd poke at the president-elect, the local media have typically  handled Williams and his most ludicrous claims as if they were holy writ.  Folks who think the Canadian media would fact-check a Trumpish politician out of office can look no further than the way the locals recited Danny's lines almost verbatim.

Here's a Peter Cowan tweet that was just priceless:  "Williams says power rates were going up anyways, cost over-runs only add 3 - 4 cents a kilowatt hour."

At no point did Cowan indicate that neither part of that statement is true.

Prices were not going up anyway.  Prices did rise slightly,  going from about nine cents a kilowatt hour when Williams announced the project to about 11 cents these days.  They have also gone down in that time.  That's not a debatable point.  It is a fact.   Nalcor *claimed* that prices would rise and they used that dubious production to rationalise what Williams proposed in 2010, namely to double everyone's electricity costs.  That is a fact.

When Williams says that the project cost over-runs have only added three or four cents to the cost of electricity,  he's not telling the truth either.  The added cost he speaks of is not on your electricity bill today. It is three or four cents on top of the horrendous price that Williams announced in 2010. Again, and in case folks have missed it, Williams' project will double consumer electricity prices even though cheaper electricity is available now and was available in 2010.

Williams' false statements aren't news. What you should notice is that Williams made a statement that was false in 2010 and that has been proven false in the six years since then and yet not a single reporter pointed out publicly that Williams' claim was false.

Ah, some of you will say, reporters like Peter Cowan cannot offer their own opinion or take sides. They must simply truthfully repeat what Williams said.  Peter and the others were just being good reporters.


Try this one on:  "Williams has a great talent for making people feel optimistic, way more effective as an orator than the current premier."

That opinion came as Williams recited a series of non sequiturs and, of course, ignored the very real financial mess in the province all of which is a direct result of Williams' decisions.


Not a matter of opinion.

Matter of fact.

And that is allowing that Cowan could actually tell what people were thinking as they listened to Williams' speech. He couldn't, so even the premise of the comment is nonsense.

As for the comparison with Dwight Ball,  he and Williams are on par.  Both are passable speech readers but even then Williams has been known to deliver a speech that sounded as though he was suicidal.

But an orator?   Not a chance. Williams' off-the-cuff speech is typically scarred by hackneyed phrases, cliches, and verbal tics like "I gotta tell ya, ya know."

The veracity of Cowan's comment isn't the issue here, though.  The point is Cowan's inclination to offer an unsubstantiated opinion in Williams' favour.  At the same time,  a reporter intent on fact-checking a politician's claims would certainly point out that what Williams was saying was either untrue or not relevant or did not acknowledge the very serious financial wreckage Williams left in his wake. We didn't get anything close to that.

This last one  from Williams is just funny:  "I will not sit back and take negativity.  I will counter it when it's wrong" says Williams.

Williams didn't take negativity.  He dished it out, as folks may remember from his infamous attack on Randy Simms.

But hey, why let a few facts get in the way of a good story?