BTC: Constructive criticism - Macleans.ca

BTC: Constructive criticism

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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.)