Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The pernicious influence of the CBC

As all of Canada knows and maybe 6 Americans, we are in the midst of a decent-sized corruption scandal at the leve of the federal government here. The Liberal Party, whose politicians have been running the country for a long time now, gave away a couple hundred million dollars to Quebec advertising and PR firms, a chunk of which was funnelled back to the party so that it would have funds to run it's election. Pretty sleazy, infuriating stuff, without a doubt.

Everybody is angry about it, because it's basically taxpayers money that went to the two of the worst places you'd ever want your money to go, advertising executives and political parties (though now that I think about it, the places where I don't want my money to go make up a very long list and most of my money seems to go there, but that's another topic altogether).

What has surprised me, though, is how quickly the media have started pushing this idea that this sponsorship scandal is now going to ignite another, and this time possibly successful, separatist movement. Every day in the news, it's about how this is the last straw for Quebeckers, how they are so sick of the federal government that this time they are definitely going to vote for separation. Yesterday, Alfonso Galliano, the straight-up lying, sleaziest-mafia-thug-wannabe, who actually was the one handing out the money put forth this notion. And the CBC ran it as their headline! The story was crafted around Galliano's quote (who, by the way, should be in jail in about a year or two) and then all the politicians reactions to it. Every separatist politician responded neutrally, basically implying that anything Galliano said wasn't worth listening to.

I listen almost entirely to the CBC. Watching or listening to any commercial news outlet is not conducive to domestic tranquility chez moi. However, even the CBC is pissing me off these days with this bullshit. They portray Quebeckers as these imbeciles with hair-temper reactions, as if they were all tranquilly happy being part of Canada until all of a sudden! the sponsorship scandal has made them all decide to change their mind! No wonder the rest of Canada considers them to be such a bunch of babies.

I can't speak about the rest of Quebec, but here in Montreal, the reaction is exactly the same as it is in B.C. and I'm sure in the rest of the country. People are disgusted by the corruption, but not surprised. They want good stuff done with their money and they want politicians to address them honestly and directly. I'm sure the die-hard separatists are using this to spur their movement, but I really doubt it's changed anyone's mind.

One of the reasons I left the U.S. was because of the power and pervasiveness of the media and how its citizens clung to their teats, sucking desperately for their daily opinions and personalities. I don't consider Canada to be that much better, but I had hoped at least for some distance and not the kind of fear-mongering and yellow journalism that keeps CNN et al. rich. I grow discouraged.

There is a certain class of Canadians who just keep the CBC on all day. I'm one of those. My friend Ken, also of that class, pointed out when he came to visit how you forget that it's on, until it just becomes a dull buzz in the back of your head. After our third bottle of wine that night, I realized that the radio was on and it was getting in the way of the conversation. I turned it off and Ken reminded me of what he'd pointed out earlier. "What is that noise?" he said, hitting his forehead with the heel of his hand. And then when it's off, "ah yes, quiet. Now we can talk."


Jason L said...

My dad is one of those CBC 'backgrounders' and has been for forever. (He even leaves it on in the house when he goes out for the dog). It is amazing how someone who is as critical of the overall media culture as he is can be so uncritical of the CBC.

Living in the US now, I realize that the CBC does give you excellent international news and local coverage. But they are just another outlet like any other. If your philosophy is not one of media avoidance (it sounds as though this is the case chez toi) then I believe you should take in as wide a range as possible. Then try to form your own opinion. Nothing pisses me off more than the line, "I don't watch/read/listen to the news. It's too depressing".

OlmanFeelyus said...

That's a good suggestion. I agree with you very much about the "depressing" argument. Personally, I want to know what's going on. It's just that the filtering has become so biased and pointed. It seems that most of the news is someone trying to sell you on a position and make you feel a certain way rather than just giving you the information. It makes me crazy with rage (that's where the domestic disturbance comes from-I start throwing things at the tv). I do stream the BBC a lot, which is better. It's at least intelligent and much more international.

There are some really good shows on the CBC. Ideas is excellent and the Current is pretty solid too. But their general news coverage has really started to slip.

I don't know if I've got the time to suck in as much currrent event info as possible. That's where these news outlets have us. They know we have to choose.

Buzby said...

I am off all broadcast news media - radio or television - all together. I don't trust the CBC because I think that their persective is automatically liberal and skews their reporting. I don't trust CNN, FOX et al. for the same reason except that I think that they are too conservative.

And, I don't think that the broadcast medium is appropriate for the kind of in depth reporting that we are after - there just isn't eniugh time on the air.

I wish their was just objective news radio - no political biases, no axes to grined, no agendas to put forth.

I have settled on a prgram of reading 5 news papers each day instead. I read the Globe for Canadian news, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times for business news, the New York Times for US domestic and international news (although the NYT has become annoyinly slanted in its reporting too) and the Washington Post for polticial news (I think that if I read a DC based paper I am somehow an insider).

The program seems to be working in that I am up to date on at least the important topics that I am interested in.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Damn! That does sound like a good plan. How long does that take you each day? Also, though it keeps you up to date, it still seems like one isn't getting a whole lot of depth from the dailies. I guess you read books for that. What about the Economist?

Buzby said...

It takes me about an hour and half a day. I read the Economist once a week as well.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I own "Odyssey Books" on Stanley street and your mom, who recently purchased a book from us via our website, just gave me your blogsite's address thinking I would be interested to read of your experience in our fair city.
As you correctly assume I am a French Canadian and yes!, unlike most of my compatriots, I am Canadian first which makes me a true oddity in Quebec. It is definetely due to the fact that I was raised with both languages and cultures and in my home we were taught to keep a wide open mind to the world, and also to the fact that I lived in B.C., in the U.S. and have travelled extensively in my life. So I was pleased to see that you have, right from the get go, perceived certain truisms that escape many 'pure laine' people. You have wondered in your post of Oct 22nd./04:"What combination of ignorance & bad experience caused such a level of resentment in someone who had abeautiful house in a beautiful neighbourhood in one of the wealthiest & most comfortable countries of the world?"
Answer: Ignorance and the cynical & constant rehashing of deformed bits of Quebec history by politicians and nationalists to foster their ideology and bid for power. Not unlike the American evangelical & extreme right's current discourse that is now shaping our southern neighbours's weltangshauung. In my own interpretation of your statement/question: People complaining on a full stomach.
Politics are of necessity perversions of the rational needs and ambitions of a people, and in Quebec have been successfully used to gain a lot of freedoms and control over social and cultural agendas; which was a good thing. What most Quebecers do though, is inject feelings into all national debates, and with the manipulations of the past, constantly transformed into a tale of victimization, they are quite easily maintained into permanent resentment.
One the other hand, as you so right point out: Thanksgiving /04"Cultural ignorance towards Western Canada". Which by the way goes both ways, as you no doubt very well know.
It is amazing to me that so far noone at our much beloved CBC has managed to amalgamate in a program the two cultures for the two audiences to be shown simultaniously, something that I have been dreaming of for the past 30 years. To create a cultural bridge over the divide that would explicate people to people, getting them in their own enviroment with their own words, venting all feelings positive and otherwise...
We have yet to communicate amongst ourselves, and you are a very poignant example (one of many) of desire to connect, eagerness to learn, enthusiasm for cultural discoveries, in short you exemplify what I have encountered in many places in Canada but have yet to see reflected in our medias. You also mentioned in one of your mails the Quebecois honoring the Patriots of 1838, did you know that this rebellion was a tax revolt and its participants were equally English farmers as French ones? You would never know this hearing the discourse of nationalists on this issue, would you? This is what is soooo frustrating for me, every way that the past can be skewed to maintain the ignorance level is permissible. A clean-up is needed! A massive undertaking to demystify, demythologize and clarify, a task best left to young and bright educated people like you.
Rock on!!! Looking forward to more musings.
Marie Claire