Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Oct. 3: Pictures, pictures...

Pictures could be useful in telling a story. If, for example, you wanted to show the full horror of a modern war, some pictures of bodies, ruined buildings, starving children would take over where words run out of meaning. Unfortunately, pictures are also useful to fill space on the cheap in a newspaper that doesn't really want to say anything, anyway. Take a look at today's lead story, p.1.

A passenger jet made an emergency landing at Moncton airport. Okay. It has no profound effect on either Moncton or New Brunswick but, okay, it's unusual. So there's big picture of a jet airliner for anybody who doesn't know what one looks like. It's continued on p. 6.

By then, this minor incident which will affect nobody's life has become a full page story - and with five more photos (count them, five) of what strangers look like when sitting or standing in an airport waiting room.

Most of the story and all of the photos are useless. They tell us almost nothing that matters to us. But they fill space, and do it pretty cheaply. That's a sure sign of a newspaper that has no intention of telling us real news, and has so much contempt for us readers that it doesn't care what appears in it pages - so long as it doesn't tell us anything.

Section B, p. 1 has a story "Russia tells NATO to stay away from Syrian conflict" A quarter of the space is given over to a photo of a Syrian rebel sitting on a motorcycle, and smiling at the camera. What does that tell us about Russia, NATO, Syria? What does it tell us about anything?

One of the very few stories of any importance in the whole paper is buried on B6. Canada's second largest meat packing and processing plant has flooded the market across Canada (yes, even New Brunswick)  and into the US with millions of pounds of tainted beef which could cause illness and even death. It's the biggest meat recall in Canadian history, with some 1,500 products on the danger list. And we still don't know how big this is going to get.  Even as I write this, I'm wondering about the food in my freezer - and so should you. Geegollywhiz, seems to me this is bigger news than a page of pictures of people standing in an airport. But there are no pictures for this one.  Meanwhile....

Page A8 has a picture of smiling business people standing around the mayor Leblanc to take bows for raising money for our Discovery Centre.  And you will certainly want to cut that one out and frame it. But I think some readers might also be interested in seeing pictures and names of people who might be responsible flooding this country with tainted meat. (Have we had photos yet of the Irving people named for price-fixing in Quebec? Has the TandT even mentined the story.)

The Moncton Times, two days after CBC news, has the story that the government has not and may never release the report on shale gas and public health that was prepared by the province's chief medical officer for health, Dr. Cleary. This is the government that promised two years ago to pay attention to the people, and that promised to give us full information in the shale gas debate.

Their performance since then seems to make it clear that these people are not just sleezes and propaganda agents for the shale gas industy, but also bare-faced liars. Any Conservative MLA who will not resign from the legislature or, at least, from the Conservative Party, can only be a person of no integrity at all. This, like the Liberal government before us, is not just incompetent. It exists purely to sell us out.

Meanwhile, the King's College story on access to information, the one that rated New Brunswick a failure in almost all respects ( but has not been reported in the TandT - only on CBC -) has drawn a reaction from Anne Bertrand, the government's own Access to Information and Privacy Officer. She deplores the MLAs discussing languages policy in a Liberal/Conservative committee, but with the public completely closed out. I think it's much worse than that.

It's politically stupid. It also shows a fundamental failure to understand what democracy means.

Premier Allward certainly has the right to hold such secret meetings. The stupidity of it is that such secret meetings are bound to raise suspicion, fear, anger - and so spark a rise of confusions, wildly unfocused discussion and accusations in the general public. The will also draw every nutbar in the province out of the woodwork to join in with raving that will drive tensions even higher.

It's dumb, My Allward. Politically, it's really, really dumb.

But opening those meetings to the public would not help. So very few would be able to attend that public meetings would have all the dangers of private ones. So would meetings with just press coverage. (Besides, who can trust most of our press?)

You see, Mr. Alward, we have what's called a democracy. In a democracy, each person and/or party frames a policy based on principles and specific proposals. That is what goes to the public for general discussion. One advantage of this is it focuses the discussion on issues raised in the policy. This focus provides some possibility for intelligent discussion rather than ranting or fear-mongering.

In a democracy, it is the party which wins that sort of debate that wins in the election - and that takes responsiblity for doing what it said it would do, and for how it works out.

Liberals and Conservatives have no business working out a common policy. When you do that, Mr. Allward, you're shaking off the responsibility that you have to lead the province, and making it a joint responsibility. People did not elect the Liberals to take responsibility. They elected you.

Indeed, I'm surprised at the Liberal leadership for being dumb enough to agree to these meetings. It should be holding Liberal meetings to decide a policy based on Liberal principles. Then it could present that to us. Of course, it would first have to decide what Liberal principles are.

A general and vaguely defined debate on language (or anything else) is a guarantee of confusion, distrust, and anger. Present your policy. Explain it. Then we discuss it and decide what we think. That is what we call democracy.

Speaking of democracy, we appear to be living through its final days. There is a powerful movement on to deliver all power into the hands of people who have no responsibility whatever to answer to us for what they do. Something that looks like democracy will be retained. But it will be just window dressing. Some people who are worth  taking seriously say it has already happened in the US. I think they're right. It has unquestionably happened in New Brunswick a long time ago -though it can probably still be reversed in this province.

Some slack news day, perhaps I shall try to write about that. It would be easier to talk about it; But one thing I've learned from the current events group is that New Brunswickers just don't like public talks or public discussion. The blog does well in readership, and it is still growing. But the public Current Events group doesn't draw flies.

That's too bad because as democracy disappears, we should at least wave it goodbye.

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