A battle of image

AARON WHERRY: "For awhile Mr. Harper occupied the largest square on the monitor"

The Prime Minister’s massive image appeared on the monitor hung from the ceiling at the international media centre shortly after five o’clock—Mr. Harper speaking to a news conference at the Toronto convention centre on the occasion of the conclusion of the fourth meeting of the G20. His blue and black striped tie matched not only his suit (black), but his backdrop (dark blue) and the sign on the lectern (a slightly lighter shade of blue).

“At a time when concerns on government debt were growing, this was the challenge we had to face,” he said. And so, apparently, they had.

He outlined vows made to reduce government deficit and debt—”fiscal consolidation” it is apparently now called. He warned against protectionism and hoped of recovery. He applauded the most recent budget in the United Kingdom, exchange rate flexibility in China and financial sector reform in the United States. He noted that the decision to impose a levy on the banking industry would be left to individual countries. He took a question on a proposed clause that would have addressed yuan reform and the ramifications for national sovereignty in a world increasingly dependent on common action contained therein.

He is fond of this stuff and comfortable discussing it. He pleaded and lectured and went on at some length. He tried to boast of the domestic economy without gloating. At a reporter’s invitation, he pumped his fist and strained to explain the relevance of the global economy and meetings such as these. “Canadian jobs are intimately linked to what goes on here,” he said.

He took one question, from the same reporter, on the protests of the last 48 hours. “We obviously deplore the actions of a few thugs,” he said, “But the reality is, unfortuantely, that these summits attract that element.” He said this explained the security costs.

To the left of the big screen projecting the Prime Minister’s image, a small screen (relatively speaking) showed coverage from the local news channel. That screen, overwhelmed with information, was split into several frames of varying size and prominence.

For awhile Mr. Harper occupied the largest square. After a few minutes though, he was relegated to a smaller square in the bottom right. As he spoke the largest square filled with images of people and police officers in the streets of Toronto. A few minutes more and the Prime Minister’s image had disappeared completely from the news.