Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nov. 18: I was slow to catch on.....

A reader sent me the editorial below from yesterday's Telegraph-Journal. As I read it, I realized something I should have figured out much earlier. I should have figured it out when I read Saturday's TandT editorial - and, in fact, when I read the TandT's news story on Dr. Cleary's talk

But it was The TandT editorial, in particular, I should have picked up on. I knew something bothered me about it. But it blew right by me. Then, I got the Telegraph-Journal editorial; and it suddenly made sense.

So far, the treatment of the shale gas issue has been loyal to the views of the energy industry. Irving Press editors are the dregs of the journalistic world (well, with the possible esception of private radio news staffs and commentators.)

The Irving editors will do what they're told. But they're writing is pretty crude. They can do ranting okay. But a rant is the best that they can do. And rant is not good enough on the shale gas issue. No. This one calls for a more subtle approach, for wooing.

If he were proposing to a shy, young maiden, an Irving editor would say, "You. Woman. Show some common sense. You're no beauty, so you aren't going to get many offers. But I need somebody to do the cleaning and cooking in the house - free. So let's try in on in bed. And if you pass, we'll get married."

But the shale gas bosses are in trouble. They're running into opposition. And this is outside the league of any journalist who's so desperate as to take a job with the Irving press. So they're bringing in the big guns.

They bring in Brian Mulroney to talk (God help us) about principles- with a kind word about shale gas. Okay. You can alway rent-a-Brian for just about anything. And  rent-a-McKenna is practically a brand name. They needed to bring in some heavyweights to take over the editorial and news presentations.

Now, take a look at those two editorials. Those are not written in the usual, crude Irving style. These were written by propaganda pros. It was pros, too, I suspect, who shaped the news story on Dr. Cleary's talk. A news story would have reported what this one never did- what Dr. Cleary talked about. But this story slipped in the bit about some in the audience disagreeing with her - so the real point of the story was that good, god-fearin' , tax payin' people just like you and me want shale gas.

And those people were almost certainly planted there. I noticed at least one read from a printed sheet. But I didn't hear a typewriter clacking during the talk, and a computer and printer would have been noticeable.

The Telegraph editorial below manages to slip in a slick line on the subject. It doesn't make sense. But it sounds good. The writer implies (without saying it) that Dr. Cleary spoke IN FAVOUR of shale gas - on the basis of science -  and that some people in the audience still were so brainwashed  against shale gas they opposed her. In contrast to the TandT story, it puts an entirely different meaning on what Dr. Cleary said, and refers to those who disagree as being opposite to the ones in the Tand T news story.

When you can lie like that and still sound reasonable, you're good. The Irving press has lots of editors who can lie. It doesn't have any who can lie as slickly as that. Whoever wrote this was a hired hand from big time propaganda writing. In fact, the differences between the two editorials lead me to suspect that the Irving press has brought in more than one hired gun.

And McKenna, we are told, is a pragmatic centrist and a fiscal conservative. Cute. But both those terms are pure fog. Nobody knows what a pragmatic centrist is. (A pragmatic centrist in Mao's China would have been one who didn't believe it was necessary to kill 50 million people. 25 million would have done.) And do you know it is common in the western media to refer to communists in today's Russia as "right-wingers"? Yep. Just like Harper and Romney.

And - of course,McKenna's a fiscal conservative. Again, there's another of those terms that sounds good - but nobody actually knows what it means. In practice, the term is usually applied to politicians who follow an economic policy that favours the very rich.

Okay. so McKenna's a fiscal conservative. I'll buy that.

The editorials in both papers were propaganda. So was the news story on Dr. Cleary's speech. But they weren't the usual crude propaganda we get fed by a press that holds us in contempt. This is pretty slick stuff. The shale gas industry is determined to shove this one through.

Will it destroy our environment? Will it hasten the already rapid climate change we're living through? Will it sicken and even kill us as our whole medical profession says it will?

Does the energy industry give a damn? The energy industry killed over a million people in Iraq to get their oil. It killed people in Libya for the same reason. It poisoned the land and the people of Kenya. It has killed people all over the world, poisoned people and land all over the word.

What makes you think they give a damn about what happens to your home, your land and water, your life?


17 Nov 2012  2012 Telegraph-Journal (New Brunswick))

Throughout his term as premier of New Brunswick, Frank McKenna was always a pragmatic centrist. While he had a reputation as a fiscal conservative, he also warmly endorsed key social investments, be they in public kindergarten or literacy training. His pragmatism has now re-emerged, in public comments on the question of shale gas.

While opening a new centre for Communications and Public Policy at St. Thomas University named in his honour earlier this week, McKenna offered his thoughtful opinion on shale gas development. The former premier argued that New Brunswick should look at the best available evidence of what works in other jurisdictions throughout the world, and adopt them here. Given that shale gas is already having a profound influence on energy economics throughout North America, we feel that this is sensible advice.

There is no question that shale gas is a divisive issue among New Brunswick residents, as there have been plenty of debates surrounding its environmental footprint and long term economic benefit.

We believe that far too much scare-mongering has taken place on the question of shale gas development in the province, and the public would benefit from a more rational discussion. To offer one recent example? The province's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eilish Cleary, has recently published a report on shale gas that contained many cautions for government. Yet at a public forum in Moncton, her views - informed by science - were challenged by some in the audience, who are unwilling to consider shale gas development at any point, now or in the future.

As an opposition, the Liberals have not added any credible contribution to the debate, despite their own openness to shale gas exploration in the province when they were in government.

Let's return to a more rational discussion about shale gas. Canada has been made very wealthy by exploiting its natural resources, and the wealthiest provinces have been those who have tapped into those resources that are found below ground. Questions over environmental risks and economic benefit can be duly addressed, if government sets into place the right sort of policy. Pragmatic politicians do this sort of thing all the time - it's the sort of approach that made McKenna into a well-respected figure.

The provincial Liberals - who enjoyed some of their greatest triumphs when McKenna was their leader - would do well to heed the pragmatic advice of their former party chief.


  1. Too bad NB's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eilish Cleary, couldn't sue the Telegraph Journal and the M.T.&T for slander, and/or lying, or at the very least, ask for a public correction in their rag of a newspaper.

    Distorting the facts for personal gain, and done in collusion with the editorial staff of major newspapers should come with actual criminal charges.

    But, this is why we have no democracy. Most politicians, and big business owners aren't held accountable for their actions.

  2. Maybe this is the work of Bill Whalen of Moncton-based Hawk Communications ('We Do Whatever It Takes To Get The Results You Want'), the PR firm hired to shepherd Louise Lapierre's farcical public relations exercise and his resulting glossy industry brochure 'The Path Forward'.

    Mr. Whalen is a former director of communications for Irving Oil. Hawk Communications was at one time (maybe still is?) owned by Judith Irving. Lapierre is a current director of NB Power. What are the odds? Shall I go on?

    Lapierre intentionally withheld mention of reference material given to him by the public, yet at the same time he readily quoted industry material. He also stated at one point that he had no mandate to suggest a moratorium or a ban. In his commentary (I refuse to call it a report) he stated that the government should NOT impose a moratorium.

    I wish Bill Whalen would get his talking points right.