Young Norbert is the editorial page editor of the Moncton TandT. He often writes a column on that page about our use of words Without exception, I look enjoy. He understand the subject well; I'm interested in that subject; and he writes well. He appeared again on Friday, Nov. 26. But this time, it was an embarassment to read.
It wasn't about words. It was about politicians and the news media. And it was a dreadful misuse of words as well as - how can I describe it....?
First he uses the labels Conservative and Liberal as though they actually mean something more than party labels. They will vary a little, depart a little each from the other from time to time. You know, like a red car is different from a blue car of the same make and model. A person who understands the uses of words so well should know that.
He also seems to think the word Conservative means the same as conservative. And Liberal means the same as Liberal. They don't. Harper is a liberal in the true meaning of the word. He's a late nineteenth century liberal. But he's a liberal. Ignatieff is whatever he thinks is useful. That will probably be a little less liberal than Harper. But not much.
In any case, not one person in ten thousand knows the meaning of either word. John A. MacDonald knew what the words meant. That's why he always called himself a Liberal-Conservative. But then the Liberals came along and, under Laurier, changed themselves into Liberal-Conservatives but still called themselves Liberals. So the old Liberal-Conservatives had to call themselves something else. For a while, they called themselves Progressive Conservatives. But that didn't fool anybody. So they chose the only other label that voters were familiar with.
Then he accuses the news media of picking on the Harper Conservatives just because of some scandals.
Hello? Norbert? Isn't the media supposed to report scandals in our democratic system? Are you suggesting our news media are all owned by Liberals? If so, wouldn't that make The whole New Brunswick press, including young Norbert, Liberal? And the National Post? And all those other millionaires who own news media?
In the end, he ends up as so many Americans have - using liberal and conservative as swear words that don't mean the same thing to any two people.
He ends up defending the Conservatives for not going too far in dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. Well, yes, they can be defended against such a charge. In fact, they've done less than any other country in the industrial world to deal with the question at all. That's quite likely one reason why Canada is now in the global toilet of world opinion.
Please, Norbert. Give us more great columns on words. Leave the political commentary to Sarah Palin.