Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jan. 28: words, words, words.....

A news story in a good newspaper gives you information. It does not try to propagandize the reader with loaded language. It gives the facts, just the fact, and leaves the response up to the reader. A good reporter knows that. A good editor enforces it.

North American newspapers are short of good reporters and good editors. The classic example is illustrated when those newspapers report a killing by a Moslem. The Moslem is invariably defined as a "terrorist". (Terrorists are bad.)

When American Christians commit a terror killing (Tiimothy McVeigh springs to mind). they are never called terrorists. They are called militias. (Militias - that sounds almost patriotic.)

When an American marine sergeant in Iraq led a murder rampage that took the lives of 24 innocent people, including children and elderly and crippled), he was never referred to as a terrorist though, in fact, his purpose was quite clearly to terrorize. He wasn't called anything; and the attack was rarely even mentioned in the North American press. (At his recent trial, he pleaded guily to 'disorderly conduct' which carried a maximum three month sentence. He was then released with no sentence at all - though he might be reduced in rank.). No news medium in North America has called him any bad names. In fact, most haven't even reported the story.

Now take a look at the TandT's front page story 'Metro gears up for ECMAs'.

It begins, "Ask anyone what was there and they'll tell you that the East Coast Music Awards, held in Moncton in 1997, was one of the best - if not the best of the ECMA celebrations to date. (Skip the bad grammar. Concentrate on the emotional tone.)

This is not the language of a sober report. This is the pure gush of advertising and artificial excitement. It's the sort of thing you expect to hear from a typical light rock radio host who is 47 going on 15.

This isn't a report at all. this is an ad.

Ditto for the lead story 'Metro's' Olympic legacy to be revealed'. Here again, the tone of breathlessness prevails. The hall of fame induction ceremony is prestigious. Come off it. If something is prestigious, you don't have to say it. We all know it. If we don't, then it's not prestigious. That's why we don't refer to Christmas as the birthday of 'the prestigious Son of God'.

That opening bit of puffery is followed by the exciting statement that Moncton is the smallest city ever to host the event. Wowie! Wowie! And even more '...they soon found out Moncton isn't normal in any sense...'  It sure isn't.

("Hey, hi gang," said the 47-year-old radio host, "Forget all about school and teachers. Now, it's just us, the whole gang all together with the sounds YOU like to hear...and now, here's Acne Vampire and his latest hot, hot Howl I do it....")

There's another story (ad) for Bouclair at the bottom of the page.

P. A6 carries another story on a new business coming to Moncton. This time the puffery at the top takes an almost religious turn. "Company believes in Moncton". Sounds like no big deal? Okay. If the story were about an armed bank holdup, would be it be headed "Robber shows belief in bank?"

This is just feel-good writing. As well, there is not even a hint of what might be some pretty important information. There's lots of self praise about  Invest NB's importance in bringing the new company here. But it doesn't say exactly what Invest NB did to make Moncton attractive. Any guesses?

The editorial page continues the tradition of playing with words. The editorial page praises Premier Alward's state of the province speech as 'rational optimism', a term that tells us almost nothing and, for that matter, reflects a speech that was itself vague and no great feast of reason.

After all, "specific changes to how we spend public money" tells us so little that even the editor doesn't pretend to know what that means. He comments "If he means cutting bureaucratic fat...."

For that matter, "bureaucratic fat" is a more emotional than rational term. Talk (as the editor does) about pie-in-the-sky bafflegab.  Would he refer to the rocketing increase in corporate profits and executive salaries as "fat"? Of course not. The editor is an economic bigot. He uses derogatory terms for the civil service - but never for private business.

And what exactly is the meaning of the editor's term "run the province like a business?" Does that mean ignoring regulations as shale gas companies do?  Getting cut rate electricity at the tax payers' expense? Paying senior policiticans millions of dollars a year - and then cutting their taxes to almost zero? Developing short term natural resources despite the long term damage to the province? Being arrongant enough to think they can run the government without bothering to get elected? Get a monopoly on provinicial news media to keep people in the dark about what's happening? That's how business operates.

No wonder the reporters can get away with writing such sloppy news stories.

And Norbert, as always, has his morsels of bigoted burps written as if they were wisdom. He refers, for example, to societies that provide basic human needs as "nanny states". I think we can agree he means that to be a derogatory term.

Okay. What about a province that spends it money on tax breaks, loans, gifts, unenforced regulations, and free resouces for corporations and wealthy individuals. Would he call that a nanny state?

Again, he attacks public education and, again, without having a clue to what it's all about. The book he quotes on this, for example, is British. In Britain, there are serious declines in education. But, Norbert, we live in Canada. And we are ranked in the top ten in the world for quality and quantity of education. Will you please learn something of what you are talking about?

As usual, Norbert's excuse for writing this column is that he read that book. That's nice. It's good to read. But it's also good to know what you are talking about. In this case, he read a book by an historian, and the historian's list of what made the West so economically successful.

But since Norbert doesn't know much about history, he doesn't notice issues of fundamental importance in western prosperity that British historian missed. There's slavery,for example, the basis of American (and some Canadian) wealth and, more recently, Belgian and general western prosperity. There's military dominance which not only enabled the West to plunder the rest of the world, but to add territory to maintain cheap labour, and to mopolize markets.

We had a chance to change that after 1945. We didn't. We simply allowed an American empire to replace the old, European ones. The trouble is, we have lost our old, military dominance. The western military record for the past fifty years is dismal. Spain, Britain, France, Belgium, the US once conquered emplies of tens of millions with tiny armies. Now, despited technology, even small wars against third world countries can tie them up for ten years and more.

And he still downplays cheap Asian labour as a source of our prosperity. Maybe he should read the New York Times which recently did a lengthy report on the Apple computer company in China. It refers to labour conditions in the Apple factories as brutal, dangerous,stunningly low paid -and productive of a high rate of suicide among employees.

His column completely ignores the corruption of politics and of capitalism itself by our corporate leaders. It completely ignores the fundamental cause of our decline - the greed of the very wealthy, their short-sightedness, and their utter indifference to anybody except themselves.

If you want a change of pace, a bit of a laugh, read the story about Jim Irving and  how he cuts down New Brunswick trees only because he loves this province.

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