Meditating on media on May Day


It’s May 1 as I write this, May Day, historic day of celebration. Sixty-six years ago Adolf Hitler committed suicide, while today Osama bin Laden was killed by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan. And this weekend a small political sewage truck finally unloaded on the Canadian electorate.

For me, tomorrow is voting day but by the time you read this it will all be over. I expect things will have changed on the political landscape, due in part to Jack Layton’s dramatic rise in popularity—which triggered that nasty media dump of fecal matter.

Yes, an anonymous retired Toronto cop leaked the story to Sun Media that Layton was caught in an illegal massage parlour way back in 1996. He wasn’t arrested. But you get the damning innuendo. What was he really doing there?

Now we hear there’ll be Ontario Provincial Police investigation into the leak and why the cop still had his old notebook, which is the property of the Toronto police force.

Meanwhile, those who oppose Layton and his NDP have been busy trolling Facebook pages in an effort to smear Layton’s reputation one day before the election. It even woke up the Alberta Outdoorsman blog, of all places. A character named “hillbillyreefer” whose tagline reads, “I bet vegans are delicious; the grass fed little buggers,” blames the Liberals for leaking the story.

But the Liberals had their chance to air the dirty laundry years ago—when it was offered to them—and decided not to. They thought the story would do more damage to them than to Layton. No, it isn’t about which political party may have been behind the leak. The telling bit is the media source: Sun Media.

As I wrote a few months ago, Sun is a part of publishing giant Quebecor owned by Pierre Péladeau. And it was Péladeau who hired former Harper staffer, Kory Teneycke, to help induce the Harper government to grant Sun TV a Category 1 broadcast licence to put Sun on every cable carrier in the country—just like CBC (because there’s big money in that). Unfortunately for Pierre, neither the public nor the CRTC went for the deal. But Tenecyke is still big news at Sun TV and a big Harper supporter.

Coincidentally, just as Jack’s NDP team started to seriously threaten Harper’s hope for a majority, the Sun pulled the plug on the bottom of the sewage truck.

But the killing of Osama bin Laden was no coincidence. Clearly, that was a well-laid plan. I watched the Obama late night speech, and looked up some of the online background story before going to bed. Apparently, the event wasn’t so clear-cut. One report claims that one of the four U.S. helicopters was hit by a rocket grenade. A contradictory report claims that the helicopter suffered a “mechanical malfunction”. An early report also stated there was no DNA proof taken, only a “facial recognition” ID, and that the body was taken to a U.S. ship and then quickly buried at sea, in accordance with Islamic tradition. Huh?

Given that the U.S. has spent billions if not trillions of dollars on two wars in the Middle East triggered by Osama bin Laden, wouldn’t you think the American public deserves more due diligence with respect to the identification and handling of the body of its greatest enemy? You’d think.

So what’s going on here? And what has the Jack Layton massage story have to do with the Osama bin Laden killing? Well, both stories are about shaping public opinion through the media, while keeping us in the dark as to actual events. The Jack Layton scandal is being used to discredit his ethical approach to women’s rights and politics. The Osama story is a bit of political theatre, though while real, masks broader intentions in the Middle East and the political-economic conditions in the U.S. which are affecting the popularity of Barack Obama and his upcoming run for a second term. With bin Laden put to rest by order of the president, Obama becomes the decisive military commander Americans need in their next election.

But these attempts to shape public opinion never quite work out as intended. The people of the Middle East are now certain to coalesce around their slain hero—who will now become a mythic figure, and impossible to erase. And the Sun’s bit of last-minute yellow journalism will likely have polarized the undecided vote (those of whom who’ve followed the story) and nudged more support toward the NDP.

Fortunately, the majority of the general public is not naïve enough to swallow everything it’s fed, and has a better set of crap detectors than those who seek to control us would like.

Still, it would be nice to have a reliable media source to which we could turn and trust, one not owned by private or political interests.

But here in Canada we already have that. It’s the same CBC–Radio Canada that some Harperists would like to see cut back or dismantled. Given the sorry state of media south of the border and some of the private media up here, I’d say that would be a big mistake.


  1. panem et circenses(bread and circuses):-)

  2. Indeed. Was it ever thus? Trouble is, it appears the ordinary people may be getting considerably less bread and a lot more circuses!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts