...the art of inventing news. Today's Moncton Times and Transcript offers us several examples, right up there on the front page. We'll start at the bottom with the most glaring one, "Moncton tops in tax competitiveness".
Sounds good - so long as you don't think about it. What does 'tops' in tax competitive mean? Well, it means you can do business in Moncton without paying much (or sometimes any) tax at all. To be tops in tax competitiveness is something like being tops in the food chain for crows. Similarly, Moncton is now tops in Canada for secretiveness in reasons for deciding where to locate schools.
Being tops is something that gives the impression of being good even when it's very very bad.
One thing that makes us tops is low worker compensation costs. Isn't that nice? That means people who are already rich find it easier to get even richer in Moncton. So, any time you feel you're getting ripped off, don't complain.March proudly downtown with your sign "We're no. 1".
Oh, yes - the company that produced with good news for us - it's called KPMG. It's a big, big company. And what does it do? Well, the report doesn't tell us much about that. But if you check Wikkipedia, you'll find it there. It's a sort of good samaritan company that helps rich people avoid taxes. And, sometimes, its lust to do good gets out of control. There's been a good deal of talk about fraudulence, and even some pleading of guilty to criminal charges for fraud.
The TandT doesn't mention that - and that's understandable. Why drag up the past? What we have here is not a news story at all. What we have here is propaganda which, now I think of it, fits in with most of the "news" in The Moncton Times and Transcript.
At the top of the page is a similar report, this one a poll by another company known only by initials, MQO. What are its connections? What is its record? Who knows? And who, at the TandT cares? Hey, it's a polling company. (I guess they've never heard of polling companies that make their money out of producing studies with results that the people who pay for the poll want to see.)
The headline emphasizes that this is good news. We, it says, are "shoptimists". The good news is that people surveyed planned to spend less money in the coming year. Okay. But why is that good news? After all, the poll results given show that people intend to cut their spending.
Oh. But they explain that, sort of. The numbers have been going down now for several years. So it's good news its not worse news. And, in the end, what does this all mean?
Nothing whatever. The reality is that the whole world is shaky on many counts. In any case, what we plan to do while talking on the phone to a pollster can be pretty seriously affected by things we didn't plan on. Possibly, quite probably, this isn't a news story at all. Quite probably, it's a loaded poll concocted to keep up consumer confidence - or, least, to slow down the drop in consumer confidence.
A good newspaper would take the trouble to check its sources. Who pays the bill for these sources? What sort of record to they have? Who is their ownership? Initials like MQO and KPMG tell the reader nothing. What is the company referred to as Atlantic Matters? What sort of clientele does it serve?
Frankly, one of these sources is obviously a propaganda outfit for big business. The other looks suspiciously like a propaganda outfit for smaller business. And the reporters, typically for the TandT, wrote what they were told to write, and asked no questions.
There's a different kind of non story on the same page "Future of Via Rail discussed". This concerns a "public meeting" held at city hall. Wow! "Public meeting" That rouses images of mass rallies, even of the French revolution with ringing speeches and heads falling. Actually, though, it was fifty people - a number you could find in any good bar.
What could the point of the open meeting possibly be? What was council going to learn about rail service from a very random sample of fifty people of no particular expertise? Why not get some expert advice?
Actually, it did. Maybe. The feature of the "public meeting' was a Richard Gormick, leader of a project to save rail service across Canada. He passed through Moncton on a tour of the Maritimes. What makes him an expert? He has written on transport. (Hey, I'm an expert. I'm writing on transport right now.) And he's also an advisor on transport.
What has he written? Who has he advised? Who knows? The reporter didn't think it important to ask him.
None of this is to question the value of Mr. Gormick's credentials or advice. He may very well be worth listening to. But why couldn't the newspaper tell us that and tell us why? And, since Mr. Gormick seems to have been the only person to say anything of importance at this "public" meeting of council, why make it public in the first place? Why rob the councillors of a chance for a more intense meeting with Mr. Gormick?
Let's try a guess at what happened.
Mr. Gormick is touring the region. He understands this region. He knows that a public meeting on a serious issue wouldn't draw flies. New Brunswickers just aren't built that way. That's why you can get fifty people to a council meeting only on occasion. But you can get many times that in the city's bars every day.
The other factor is that City Council knows it has to look at though it is doing something about a transportation crisis which has been sitting there for years.
Mr. Gormick needs an audience. City Council needs to look as though it's doing something.
It's a marriage made in heaven. Mr. Gormick gets his audience. City Council get its name in the headline.
On. p. A6, we learn that Dieppe, Moncton and Riverview are bracing for drastic climate change. Glad to hear it. The warnings began some fifty years ago when Russian explorers noted a great hole in the ozone layer at the South Pole. Now, we're going to "brace" for change. Talk about advanced city planning!
Two, interesting stories on pp. C.1 and C.4.
1. "Harper defends decision to skip UN." In it, the question is raised of whether Harper has decided the dump the UN. Of course, he has. He's following the US lead, and the US dumped it a long time ago when it could not get the US to sanction its wars. That's when NATO got redesigned to make our invasions seem more respectable.
2,"Bishops block foreign aid campaign." The reference is to Canada's Roman Catholic Bishops; but the message to them is the same as the one that was given to Protestant churches less than a year ago. If you want any cooperation with Harper on anything at all, make damn sure you don't offer aid to anybody Harper doesn't like. The bishops got the message.
On the editorial page, deAdder manages to be both distasteful and simple-minded in just one cartoon. No mean feat.
Alec Bruce's column provided good reading for this reader who wonders what the hell the NDP is doing in Nova Scotia ; and what the hell it thinks NDP is supposed to stand for. The Nova Scotia NDP looks to me a lot like the New Brunswick liberalconservatives.