Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February 1: : Credit where credit is due.....

The Moncton Times and Transcript has an intelligent editorial today. It's about Harper's plan to change the Canada Pension rules. I can't remember the paper ever having had an intelligent editorial before before. (Usually they look as if they were written by Newt Gingrich).  But - hey - be grateful for what you can get. In this case, be grateful that the editorial was not written by the front page editor who destroyed the front page news story about Harper's pension plans.

The story, written by staff writer Ed Hobson, was well written. But the devil was in the headline and sub-head (normally written by the editor). It begins "Potential pension changes outrage seniors."

That's a good headline; and it's an accurate lead to what the story is about. But then there's the sub head, "But taxpayers' advocate calls the move a necessity if system is to be kept from going bankrupt."

Boom! Story blown out of the water. Forget the rage. Change is essential. That's it.

So why is that subhead so importantn? Because that's where a  high proportion of readers stop reading.
That's why news stories are usually written with the essential information first, t hen get into the details - so you can stop any time and, in theory, have the basic information you need. That's why that sub head is a killer. Before we even get to explanation of the outrage, we are told Harper has no choice. Game over. Okay. What on the sports page and in Miss Manners?

To make it worse, the man (yes, just one person) who says it;s necesary to cut pensions is not what anyone would call an independent expert. He's the Director of the Taxpayers' Foundation - a pressure group to protect those who don't need government pension plans, and don't like paying taxes to help others get them.

The news story is well written. But the editor who wrote the head and sub head is, to put it kindly, unethical.

Liquor sales, you will be sorry to hear, are down. That's not unreasonable, given the slumping economy. Can you imagine the thinking of people who believe the answer to the economic downturn is to encourage New Bruswickers to get smashed more? Read all about it at the bottom of p. 1. And before you do, why not tilt a bottle to help the poor?

Skip the op ed page. It has its usually pair of trivial and even juvenile stories by staff writers. Here we learn that many people in Moncton love their pets. Wow! Who would have guessed?

I even have to disagree, though gently, with Alec Bruce.

Harper's policy of wasting money by cracking down on crime is not, as Bruce says, pointless. There's a purpose to it - though it has nothing to do with crime.

Harper doesn't need intelligent policies to win an election. Remember, he now has a rock-solid majority - though he has only a minority in terms of national voter support. He doesn't need a majority. He needs a grip on the special interest groups. These are people w ho will turn out to vote (and that's important with the low turnout votes we get). That way, you can win a majority with barely a third of the voters behind you.

So he targets fundamentalist religious groups. He targets the Israel lobby - which is very powerful in Canada. (Actually, many observant Canadian Jews, including Zionists, are highly critical of the Israeli government and its policies; and they are sympathetic to Palestinians. But you would never guess that from most of our news media.) He targets those, often the poorly educated, who think they live in a world of thugs and maniacs because they watch crime shows on TV every night. With the special interest groups and the huge financial edge coming from private corporations, Harper can have a majority in the House without ever coming even close in the election.

That's why we're going to swamped with pictures of the Queen and celebrations of the War of 1812 this year - to appeal to all those "special" who think it's so wonderful about Kate and what's-his-name. He'll also spend millions on those, millions and billions more on the war hysteria so that we'll happily go off to fight American wars in Syria and Libya - and anywhere else it's good for business. Of course, we'll have to cut back on pensions to pay for this brainless propaganda.

Why do so many people believe all this crap? Partly, it has to do with something a prominent Canadian politician once told me. He never read newspapers. I didn't believe it at first because he showed a profound understanding of what was going on in the world. So I checked with his friends. They confirmed it. He never read them. But he understood what was going on -and understood it far better than most newspaper readers did.

But that's a story for another day.

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