‘Gothic high school’


Dan Gardner, while lauding our Paul Wells, on the current state of affairs in Ottawa.

For as long as I’ve been a journalist, I’ve bemoaned my colleagues’ obsession with politics — and I’ve consoled myself by saying “at least it’s better than in the US.” But no longer.

The eager wonks descending on Washington to deal with the dire economy and hundred other pressing problems have inspired American reporters to look at the actual substance of democratic governance. You know, public policy. Laws. Regulations. Taxes. The things that actually make a difference to people who work, raise kids, and generally have neither the time nor the inclination to pay attention to the ephemeral minutiae — read “bullshit” — of who’s hot and who’s not.

The opposite trend is evident in this country. Ever since the deficit was beaten in the late 1990s, the political class — politicians, journalists who write about politicians, and the people who read what journalists write about politicians — has become steadily less serious about public policy. We are now at what I hope is the nadir of this trend, with a government that suboridinates all policy to politics and a media that subordinates all reporting to the hissing and scheming in the halls of Ottawa’s gothic high school.

Compare and contrast that with Joe Klein’s latest dispatch from Washington.


‘Gothic high school’

  1. We’re getting this soft, personality based, political strategy, winner/loser coverage of the coming Obama visit to Ottawa.

    Don’t these Ottawa insiders realize that Obama knows we have the most uncompromising, resolute, hard, extreme, right wing government in the developed world? And our Prime Minister has problems with truth telling as well. They know these things. But you don’t read much about it in the adoring Ottawa Press Corp.

  2. I could not agree more with Mr. Gardner’s assessment. Policy has become completely subordinate to the third-rate circus that passes for politics in this country. Harper is to blame, but then again so is everyone else.

    Look at the Globe and Star message boards, which are dominated by chattering monkeys endlessly bashing one side or the other without any useful information being exchanged. Maclean’s is one of the few online forums where commenters engage in actual reasoned debate.

    This may be because policy seems dull. Discussing policy in a meaningful way requires actual work in terms of researching the issues. Meanwhile, any dolt who can read is qualified to talk endlessly about politics, fuelled by media horse-race reporting and partisan debauchery. It’s all very tedious.

    • I beg to differ, my friend- policy isn’t dull! All sides are to blame here, and if one analyzes voting turnout in the elections of the twentieth century, th high and highest turnout came not when our news was dominated by personality (despite being in the top ten, none of the Trudeau elections take first place) but by real, serious issues. The depression, the second world war, etc., etc. What this speaks to is that in order for democracy to function, we must, must stop this ridiculous treatment of politics and governance. It is insulting to our intelligence.

  3. Extra points to Mr. Gardner for using the word “squalid.”

    But if we’re making accusations, journalists have no one to blame but themselves. One way of making the job more rewarding is to call a spade a spade; if some pol is behaving mystifyingly or saying something cryptic, it’s really not an opportunity to shoot up a level of abstraction and try to explain to the rest of us what he or she (but usually he) might be communicating. Call it mystifying and cryptic and call it a day.

  4. It would also be great if the media focused less on optics and tactical advantage. Yes, these things are useful for understanding motivations and likely courses of action, but it isn’t the story. It seems like what we have in this country is no longer politics but metapolitics–not politics for policy, but politics for politics.