Thursday, 2 March 2017


A Worrisome Convergence

Pinned to the bulletin board above my writing desk in our library is a cartoon from The New Yorker. The panel depicts a middle aged couple on a love seat. They’re watching the news. The TV anchor says: That was Brad with the Democratic weather. Now here’s Tammy with the Republican weather. The main joke is obvious and it’s so obvious that it barely rates as funny: no news here that Democrats and Republican’s can’t even agree about something they share, the weather.

A cartoon picture can be worth a thousand words because of its sly layers and nuances. Brad the Democratic presenter trusts the proven science detailing man-made climate change. Tammy dismisses those studies and reports as fallacy. Weather as an instrument of ideology is not new. Once Katrina breached the levees of one of the world’s great cultural capitals, there were allegations that the pokiness of Washington’s response was not due to ineptitude so much as the Feds’ perception of New Orleans being merely black and poor. Recriminations linger and fester. Finally, the viewer is left with the image of a traditional, old or legacy network newscast desperately pandering to an ever-shrinking pool of viewers of any political stripe.

These days we are awash in information, a flood of noise. Some of the din is real, some of it is planted. There are facts and there are alternative facts. There is truth, and post-truth which apparently just feels right and suits one’s world view. August newsgathering organizations such as the New York Times, the BBC and the Guardian were barred recently from a White House press conference because, you know, they make it up; these ‘enemies of the people’ just phone in their ‘fake news.’ There’s not one single ounce of irony that the 45th president’s bilious henchman Steve Bannon forged his reputation manipulating the inbred and the guileless from the Breitbart News platform, a cringingly giant intellectual step above Alex Jones’s Infowars but not quite as thoughtful as Canada’s own The Rebel.

The left and the right cannot agree about something as objective as a weather report. Alarmingly, neither side seems willing to bear the expense of a neutral curator filtering their news, fact checking and calling bullshit on the spun pabulum. Newspaper readership is in decline. Legitimate news organizations are struggling financially. Since there is the perception that everything on the Internet should be gratis, we might well find ourselves mired in ignorance when the red ink dries, informed by official sources and competing propaganda outlets.

An acquaintance of mine lives one street over. He’s a nice guy. He believes what’s happening in America is great and harbours high hopes something similar will unfold up here north of the Medicine Line, ‘sunny ways’ be damned. Obviously banker puppet progressive elitists possess all the money, follow it. That spat, kleptocracy isn’t just a fantastical talk radio topic; it thrives. He has a cache of long guns, bottled water and tinned food in his basement. We do not read the same newspapers and magazines nor watch the same television news. We never will. We do not share a forum. The only place we can meet for a civil and rational exchange of views is the back alley. That’s our common ground. And that’s bad news for both of us.

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