I wrote a letter to the editor of the Waterloo Region Record this week. It was in response to an editorial on Wednesday. It was printed today.
I have a hard time being proud of this. I mean, I kind of am, in the sort of way where I’m mentally imagining my mom cutting it out and putting it on the fridge, and then giving me a cookie. I don’t think you ever really shake that. The fact that I was driven to write it makes me kind of sad. The fact that I had to write it makes me even sadder.
I’m not going to bore you with the particulars of the issue. I’m just really disheartened lately that people, particularly people in the media, seem less and less inclined to value democracy. I’ve seen plenty of instances lately where it seems to me that journalists are blindly reporting spin from one particular party. Maybe they do it for all parties, but I’m just more offended by one party’s spin than the others, so I recognize it more.
I didn’t think they were supposed to do that. I naively thought that they took spin, looked at it and said “Yup, uh huh. I know that’s what you want me to say, but let’s dig a little deeper here and find out what’s really going on.” That’s what I want them to do, anyway.
Coincidentally, I happened to be listening to Paul Kennedy’s talk on the Canadian Voices podcast, talking about how politicians don’t seem to need to have ideas anymore:
…Journalism is responsible, or the media is responsible for a lot of the problems there. Politicians in their superficiality, in their concern for spin, in their focus group methodology, they’re responding to the media, because they want to be in the media. The way one gets elected is to get one’s face on television and one’s voice on the radio and one’s words on the front page of newspapers. And the way one does that is to appeal to journalists. Well, journalists plainly then are looking for exactly what politicians are giving them.
I have been increasingly discouraged in the last two or three federal elections and all of the provincial elections that I have experienced in the last few years and in the way that elections are covered in the media. It’s all about polls. I thought it was about policies. But every day, you pick up the Globe and Mail or you turn on the CBC, television or radio, and they’re reporting “Oh, the latest Angus Reid polls say that the Tories have gone up two points and the Liberals have gone down one.” Yeah? What did Stephen Harper say? What did Mr Dion say? I want to know what Stephen Harper thinks about Kyoto and I want him to tell me and he has to justify his opinion, and I have a lot of questions for him if he says what I think he’s going to say.
I want journalism to be better. I don’t care if they report on the horse race so long as they’re actually asking questions that matter too. If people choose to vote for a certain party fully informed of what that party believes in and what their policies are, I will be happy. I may be disappointed that those beliefs and policies are at odds with mine and the ones I favour, but I’ll still be happy that democracy works the way it’s supposed to.
Democracy can’t work when the people are deliberately lied to, and the people who are charged in our society with uncovering truth can’t be bothered anymore.
The vast majority of Canadians don’t even know how their own democracy works. And if the media isn’t going to tell them, I guess it’s down to people like me. Me. I resent being put in this position. This isn’t what I want to be. I don’t consider myself a genius expert here. I don’t want to be, and I’m not. I just paid attention in goddamned grade 10 history class.