BTC: Constructive criticism -

BTC: Constructive criticism


Canada—in the loose, non-specific sense—generally tends to over-react when praised or criticized by other countries. (Remember how excited we got when the Economist said we were cool? Remember how crestfallen we were when they quickly had second thoughts?) Generally this is silly.

So it is vaguely admirable that we didn’t riot over this assessment, in the New York Times, of our collective reaction to revelations that Stephen Harper cribbed from John Howard’s Iraq speech: “While this kind of allegation would quickly become big news in America, its initial reception in Canada seems tepid.”

Except of course that that assessment is rather true and vaguely damning and probably worth consideration.

For good and bad (but probably mostly good), politics is taken seriously in the United States. Or at least relatively more seriously than it is taken in Canada. I’ll give you an anecdotal example. The other night I was watching one of the prominent TV network political shows. The segment I saw involved four radio talk show hosts yelling at each other, mostly trying to outdo each other in pronouncements of what a wuss Stephane Dion is. At that exact moment (for obvious, but convenient, reasons), I flipped away, over to CNN, where a studio host was calmly reviewing, point-by-point, the economic proposals of the two candidates for president.

This is probably an unfair comparison. Except that it’s not. Whether or not Stephen Harper’s cribbing from John Howard on a speech about Iraq was or was not of profoundly telling detail, that it was not treated as though it might be of profoundly telling detail is bewildering. At least when so much of what has been covered has been so obviously bereft of profoundly telling detail. 

Or maybe I’m missing the inherent value of another story about another poll that is either inherently flawed or only exists to show that public opinion has not changed even a bit in the past month.

Actually, here’s an experiment. Some homework for the weekend. Ignore everything we’ve seen so far. Pick up the Saturday editions of the major papers here in Canada. Then pick up the Sunday edition of the New York Times. And decide which side of the border is being better served by their news sources of record.

(And, for both good and bad, feel free to include Maclean’s in this comparison. There’s a story in this week’s issue by some guy named Arron Wherry. It’s almost completely free of substantive analysis. And the guy’s obviously in the bag for the Liberals. Get him.)


BTC: Constructive criticism

  1. Wow. This whole post is off the mark in so many different ways it’s mind-blowing.

    “Canada—in the loose, non-specific sense—generally tends to over-react when praised or criticized by other countries. (Remember how excited we got when the Economist said we were cool? Remember how crestfallen we were when they quickly had second thoughts?) Generally this is silly.”

    First, ‘Canada’ does not react to stories like this. The Canadian media does.

    Second, that the plagiarism story didn’t have us foaming at the mouth is not “damning”, particularly after the person responsible resigned…

    But most significantly, you’re SERIOUSLY going to point to CNN as a bastion of calm, rational analysis of matters of substance?!? The network that boasts Lou Dobbs? The network that boasted the show Crossfire for all those years? Seriously?!?

  2. The Australian press also assumed this would be a bigger deal in Canada, speculating on the irony of Harper being brought down by his good friend, another conservative ideologue. The Canadian media seems to have little interest in bringing Harper down though. I guess they like the way Harper interacts with them. Or perhaps it is something about who owns the Canadian media.

  3. I agree that the media overreacts to coverage of Canada in the US, not Canadians

  4. Canadians don’t overreact or underreact to their portrayal in the rest of the world because they have no idea it exists.

  5. It seems the media has generally been pretty friendly to Harper in this election. Not sure why.

  6. I don’t think the media has been particularly nice or particularly disrespectful to the Conservatives during this election.

    In all fairness, I think the media has reflective of what the public seems to want.

    News websites go by clicks.

    When a story gets clicked on often, it moves to the top of the page, and usually gets updated, along with photographs and follow-ups.

    If we take the Harper copies Howard story, I remember going on the Globe, the Star, the Post and Cyberpresse, and it was not the main story for most of the day. It peaked for a moment, only to fall behind other issues.

    People seem put off by everything. Everyone is jaded.

    One final note, I am still astonished by Macleans’ editorial support for a majority conservative government. I find it difficult to endorse a political party with no platform, but I find it even more distressing that the magazine would push for a majority government.

    I look forward to reading the Globe, the Post and La Presse doing the same.

  7. Interesting, I’ve been writing today, and have more to come, that it’s bewildering that Stephen Harper gets off the hook for being a liar, and a plagiarizer so easily. He has no credibility left after the debate last night, and it’s a sham the media don’t say so. They are too terrified of some Small Dead Animals who might write them to complain?

  8. It was just a blog.
    No surprise in the plagiarism seeing as how often he changes direction. If there had been no income trust, fixed election, surprise reversals, then this would have hurt his principled image he had going. I’m referring to his speech justifying cutting GST because that is what they had promised. So this plagiarism attack would have been more effective had the other instances not occurred.

  9. So, by Cons standards kids, it’s okay to cheat on your exams.

  10. Since we’re speaking in loose, non-specific terms (my favourite way to blog, by the way) my two rules of thumb for Canada-US comparisons are:

    1) We are outnumbered 10-to-1. This rule is useful for justifying our Olympic medal count and global importance.

    2) In whatever we are discussing, there will be a greater distance between extremes in the US. So their New York Times is better than our Globe and Mail, but they have Fox News and we have… well I can’t think of a fair Canadian equivalent. The poorest and richest Americans are poorer and richer, respectively, than their Canadian counterparts.

  11. The Toronto Sun? That’s the closest equivalent I can think of for Fox.

  12. Apologies to present company, but I think it mostly makes me a bit sad that Canada doesn’t enjoy an outlet with the prestige of the Times.

    (Certainly certain newspapers would do well to adopt the Times’ policies towards anonymous sources.)

    Plus, and let’s be honest, there’s a case to be made that most of the corporations that run the various news outlets in Canada have a vested interest in a Conservative government. Never mind the tax considerations for wealthy owners; the Tories would definitely be more open to media deregulation and consolidation. They were the ones that pushed the anti-user C-61 copyright bill, after all.

    With the Liberals no longer reliable allies, thanks to the end of big donations, corporate Canada has to turn to those who are ideologically compatible with it. That, um, isn’t exactly Messrs. Layton or Dion.

  13. (And now I’d like to give a shoutout to Rogers down there in the bottom-right corner.)

  14. In parts of the world I hope our CBC radio is regarded as highly as the Times.

  15. Something wrong when a country’s leadership is gauged on it’s ability to entertain. True, it is hard to get peoples attention these days and holding it is impossible without gimmickry. Does that make it right? What about the quiet and demeanory voices in the back of rooms with good ideas? How many solutions are lost because they weren’t marketed well? The leading party has no listed platform and the rest have a mismash of ideas that mostly can’t fly. WHERE IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THIS USELESS ELECTION!?