Friday, April 15, 2011

April 15: The Singular Incident of the dog in the night....

Fans of Sherlock Holmes will remember the mystery "Silver Blaze", of a racehorse taken from its stable one night to be crippled. Toward the end of the story, Holmes tells his faithful Dr. Watson that the answer to the mystery is in "the singular incident of the dog in the night."

Watson, baffled as always, said, "But the dog did nothing in the night."

"That," said Holmes, "is the singular inicident."

Moncton has a dog that has done nothing in the election. Today, The Moncton Times and Transcript had just one story on the federal election - and a largely irrelevant one, at that. Nor was there an editorial on it. On the same page, Norbert Cunningham confined himself to a commentary so esoteric and irrelevant that few are likely to read it.

The editorial comments have recently had more federal politics in them than the paper as a whole has. Well-drawn (if with pretty juvenile wit), the cartoons tells what the paper's bias is.  This is a cartoonist who seems to have built his career on knowing what the bosses want.

But there's nothing in the paper....except...maybe... the editorial "Canadians fed up with prison system". That could be our singular incident of the dog in the night. This is a story about a dangerous murderer who was rejected by the parole board, but given a daily (supervised) work release by the Correctional Sevice of Canada. I quite agree with what the editorial says, but... if I were the editorial page editor, I would have called the editorial writer in for a chat.

"You can't use that headline."

"Why not, chief? It's true."

"It is also true that you really would be more presentable if you made proper use of tissue paper in caring for your nose. And you may write an editorial on that if you so wish. But I would not label that one, either, "Canadians fed up with prison system."

" In fact, your editorial contains no evidence whatever that Canadians are fed up with their correctional system, and no evidence that they even know much about it. A headline is supposed to reflect the message of the story. The message of this story is that we object to the release, even supervised, of such a dangerous person. It is not about the attitude of the Canadian people toward pir prison system - of which most people, in fact, know close to nothing."

Obviously, this conversation never took place. Why not?

A paper like The Moncton Times and Transcript chooses its side in an election long before any election is called. But to show that too early turns people off. So they do what they did to the public schools. Any story, however trivial, that generates negative feelings about public schools was published. Any that was positive got ignored or attacked.  When ten or so paents objected to the closing of Moncton High, they go full media coverage. The more than a thousand who didn't object got scarcely a mention.

Remember the time New Brunswick was praised nationally for its high school completion rate? The Times responded by attacking the schools bitterly, even accusing them of not teaching ALL the students - whatever that means. Then there was the story of a girl in elementary school who wasn't allowed to go to the bathroom in time -and so wet her pants. That was a big item of the day in hack newspapers and radio stations.

It's a simple propaganda device. Use information to spread a general sense that somebody or some thing is hateful. Don't say it directly because that betrays prejudice. Make it appear like you're just telling irt as it is.

In the case of today's "singular incident", it may not suprise you to remember that Harper has made "getting tough on crime" a major issue.

Editorial heads are usually written by the editorial page editor. The editor who let that head blow by is either unethical or as thick as the proverbial brick. Alas! I think he's actually quite clever. Give the Moncton Times Credit. It may be trivial, uninformative and even misinformative. But it knows something about propaganda.

Expect The Moncton Times and Transcript to keep us uniformed on the election. It many then, the day before the election, give us its thoroughly nonpartisan advice.

As for the cartoon, I still wait to see one making fun of either Stephen Harper or James Irving.  Talk about lacking integrity.....

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