Saturday, April 2, 2011

DAY EIGHT: The Media And The Narrative (the media sucks! part 3,756)

You can't overstate the importance of the role the media plays in shaping how election campaigns and the candidates themselves are perceived. So early on here during the race I've been keeping track of things the media is trying to spin for us. For example did you know Harper got off to fast start in this campaign and had Iggy on his heels over the coalition fear-mongering? You didn't? Well that's because it's preposterous!

 It was only seven days ago, I was there and Stephen Harper got off to as bad a start as an incumbent PM can have. Starting with his government falling, not on the budget but on charges of contempt of Parliament; the first time such an occurrence has come to pass in Canada's history. Then first thing Saturday morning Gilles Duceppe was happily mocking Harper over his signature on a document signed in 2004 about forming something very like a coalition -- the rank hypocrisy on display in the very first steps of the campaign. Ignatieff for his part answered all reporters questions (unlike the PM) and unequivocally pronounced there would be no coalition.

Even in an article in the Toronto Star that describes an iffy first week for the PM, it still opens with a caveat, A week that started strong for Harper — by putting Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff on his heels with accusations of plotting to lead an opposition coalition... Ignatieff didn't really sound like or have the appearance of someone who was back on his heels either. In fact, probably for the first time since he became leader of the Liberals, he looked to be genuinely comfortable in this element. But that's not what the media wants to say about the first week and yet very early in the game my local fishwrap along with the Globe and Mail were asking the PM to cease the coalition fearmongering. Is that an indicator that the Tories opening salvo was effective?

Yet it seems the media really really want you to believe Harper started strong but then things went Iggy's way and it's nonsense! What happened was Harper was quickly put on the defensive and remained there all week. In fact things got so bad he decided he wouldn't take more than five questions from the press anywhere he went and if that wasn't enough, he'd put them  in cages far away enough so that his photo-ops wouldn't be ruined with someone shouting out inconvenient questions. That does not help him to answer to the lack of transparency or accountability charges that are being leveled against him by the opposition parties every day.

Another article describing the week's missteps for Harper begins, Odds are that Stephen Harper will post his third win on May 2 and there’s a decent chance he will get a majority to boot. Five weeks in politics, as an old saw tells us, can be a lifetime in politics and the polls tell us that more than 20% of voters are undecided. Now admittedly I'm an anybody but Harper guy but it's hard not to conclude, with that great a number of voters undecided, that this election is up for grabs. But not according to Canada's mainstream media.

The incumbent Prime Minister faced questions about lying on the very first day of the campaign and the proof of the charges was in black and white with his signature on the document. How is that starting strong? What Conservative political strategist is sitting there thinking if only someone could demonstrably prove that the PM is lying on the first day of the campaign then everything will be mind-blowingly awesome for getting that majority? Topping that off, every day the PM had to talk about, or duck questions, or distance himself from the sketchy people he's surrounded himself with over the years.

You could also go so far as to say that a government with the baggage that the Tories have has to be concerned that eventually all the crap that they've pulled in the last couple of years will filter through the great wall of noise into the consciousness of Canadians and cost them a few votes this election -- but remember the media is part of that wall of noise and they don't think so. And even if they did, that's not the narrative they're in the mood to advance in their newspapers and on their TV news programs in the early part of the campaign. They've got their script and dammit, come hell  or innumerable Tory scandals, malfeasance and lies, they're going to stick to it! Or is that stick it to us?