15 February 2017

S'truth and consequences #nlpoli

Truth and something else was clearly in the atmosphere this week as the Telegram's Russell Wangersky offered a few thoughts on the subject in his Tuesday column.
But if we reach a point where anything true can be discounted, and anything false can be announced as true, where do we go to ensure that we’re making the best decisions on everything from voting to retirement savings to whether our school system is working?
"If we reach a point."

Seriously.

As if in Newfoundland and Labrador, that point remains somewhere in the future.

As if the point  - where false is true and truth is not merely discounted but savagely attacked  - was not already a receding dot in the rearview mirror.

And, for the record, what Russell calls "the weakening, cash-strapped traditional media" played an essential role in pressing the heavy foot of government excess even harder on the accelerator in order to make the dot smaller.

Russell even uses the worn-out claim that everything on the Internet is, by nature, unreliable.  Captain Sweatpants' greasy fingerprints are everywhere as he works his nefarious plan. You cannot fight against conspiracy theories and false information by promoting conspiracy theories and false information.  Yet so many journalists do it anyway, without any sense of irony or humour, as they simultaneously moan about not being able to tell what is true and what is something else all the while blaming the imaginary Captain Sweatpants for their predicament.

Story meetings in some newsrooms might soon feature a couple of minutes each day so that everyone at the table can vent their anger at Sweatpants. They would put a picture of him up on the wall if only they could find one of the evil prick.  Such is his skill at staying hidden as his plot unfolds.

"Everything’s become such a sideshow carnival, it’s hard to keep track,"  whines Russell.  "Today’s bizarre claim about the right is overtaken with the latest bizarre claim about the [left]. Stories on the Internet can change without so much as a hint that sections have been added or eliminated. Who do you trust, even if you’re paying attention? I’m in the news business full-time, and I don’t always know what’s true and what’s hype."

What is true?

What is hype?

Maybe the truth is just the latest hype,  now called a meme.  Opinion leaders complaining about the mean things people say to them.  Pro tip:  until the Premier of the province threatens you by name, in public, you are just wanking.

"I am astounded by the number of times a week someone writes to tell me they can’t wait until I’m out of a job,"  offers Russell in a bracketed aside.

If only David Cochrane had turned down the chance to fetch Rosie Barton's coffee,  they could close off the revamped supperhour news on the Ceeb  - in chat show format with gnoshes from Raymond's shurely- with Dave's friends and relatives  minor local celebrities reading the mean tweets about them and decrying the decline of civilization now that Costco is off to the untamed netherworld west of the Avalon Mall.

Most townies still don't believe that Costco is moving.  The story hasn't appeared in their newspaper of record, the Globe and Mail, yet.  When the news does hit, you can imagine the horror they will experience, imaging they have landed in some real-life show where a group of survivors have to scrounge the countryside for supplies while dodging the brain-dead that invest the ruins and the forests.

You'd expect them to start mounting motley convoys of BMWs, Land Rovers, and Minis to pick their way through the jungles of Mount Pearl and bring back supplies once a week and find cheap gasoline. Once they get past Mundy Pond,  the east-enders would all simultaneously email for a service call as the thermometer in their respective dashboards jump by 20 degrees Celsius.

Can't be right.

*taps screen frantically*

No way the weather is better the farther you get from Quidi Vidi.

Ah, the first world problems that bother us all.

Russell is right about at least one thing.  Everything *is* a carnival sideshow these days.

The last time NAPE went on strike against the government, they paid for 30 minutes air time on NTV every Sunday morning for four weeks in a row.  That wasn't as expensive as you might think since Sunday morning is a dead zone for audience.  These days,  CBC happily turned over 30 minutes at the back end of their main local news program to the local teachers' union for three weeks running, no charge.

Last week, the teachers complained about inclusion in the classroom,  of having to deal with children who did not fit the definition of  "normal"  or "regular" and so needed help from the teacher.  Not my job, moaned one.  Get an army of expensive specialists to do that.  Not enough "resources" to deal with the "exceptionalities" they said, in that chillingly inhuman way some people think they have to talk in order to maintain the mystique of a profession.

This week it was kids staying up all night gambling,  or how attendance goes down the day after a major video game is released,  of parents looking for a break for kids who have to miss a class for a hockey tournament,  or about the bad language children use. The eff word,  of course, figured prominently. It always does.  And all the violent talk like "if you tell him I like him I swear I am going to kill you."  No junior high school girl in the throes of her first infatuation ever uttered that phrase to her circle of girlfriends before in the history of the universe ever and so a couple of teachers are understandably mortified at these sorts of microaggressions or whatever made-up-word it was they picked up on their most recent PD day.

It's all down to video games and television, you know.  Not so very long ago,  it was Bugs Bunny cartoons and the claims of how the Roadrunner caused social, moral and intellectual decay.  Advocates of banning Foghorn Leghorn happily quoted any junk science that supported their prejudice and yet the world kept turning regardless.

Before that it was taking the strap out of the classroom,  before that it was television itself, and before that it was movies with sound,  and before that it was radio and before that it was pool halls. Oh yes, we got trouble. Right here in River City and all that, for those who remember their musicals. And before all that it was printed books that the professional educators of the day warned were leading the young ones to a life of wantonness, indolence, and debauchery.

Those of us who expected something substantial from the teachers' union have been sorely disappointed. There may well be issues here, but thus far, the two or three of the 30 in the room who have done all the talking on CBC have been astoundingly unconvincing. Certainly a couple of them roll their eyes a lot and smirk when Ramona Deering sticks the microphone in front of them but they offer no sense of scale or scope, and in the "violent talk"  no sense of perspective. Anyone watching the second show - was anyone watching??! - likely got incredibly bored after a few minutes and wondered what was the hype really all about.

The format of the show is like Jerry Springer but with an audience on the stage instead a few guests. And there is no sign of life from anyone.  Most of the people on the set sit bolt upright and stock still, never cracking a smile and, with literally a handful of exceptions, never uttering a word.  There is no life. No energy. No sense of urgency.  No sense of seething anger, frustration or really, of any emotion at all. There may well be a problem here worthy of public attention but neither the CBC nor the teachers' union have done anything here except bore people.

If CBC's mandate is "to inform, enlighten, and entertain",  as Jennifer Maguire and Michel Cormier tell us,  then they have failed miserably in the teachers' union specials. That's something to take notice of as people like Wangersky talk about the cash-strapped news media. Wangersky used to work at CBC and knows how lavishly it is funded in comparison to its private sector counterparts. Even these days, CBC cannot really complain of a lack of resources. So if anyone should be leading the fight to reclaim the news media's place in Canadian society,  it should be the public broadcaster.

And yet they turned out  a series that not only had nothing of value to say but said it in the most tedious way possible.

If you want truth, there it is.

That truth has consequences and it will continue to have consequences until folks stop blaming an imaginary culprit for what is wrong in Canada's newsrooms.

-srbp-