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Monday, October 15, 2007

Democracy or Dictatorship - Canada's "New" Government

One of the most important actions of any successful dictatorship is to control the masses.

The easiest and best way to accomplish that task is to control the news media.

By controlling what the public hears and sees, always being seen in the best possible light dictators around the world protect their place of power and limit any potential for uprising or dissent.

Why did Saddam Hussein plaster giant pictures of himself around Iraq?

Why did Hitler hold mass public cult like rallies with hundreds of thousands in attendance?

Why did the former Soviet Union allow only the state run news service to exist for decades and why are journalists being murdered in Russia even today?

Clearly the reason is to control the public and retain power.

Unfortunately, for anyone with dictatorial aspirations in a Country like Canada, the state can’t just shoot dissident reporters, take over commercial media outlets (with the exception of the CBC) or arrest people for speaking out against them. But perhaps there is no need for such an extreme approach when a more subtle one can work just as well.

Perhaps, for example, if you were leading the Canadian government you could simply refuse to talk to certain “unfriendly” reporters and, by using them as an example, force the rest to fall in line.

Of course if that tactic is not fully accomplishing the task and government spin is still not getting enough air time or stories that show your party in a bad light just won’t go away, it might be time to move to plan B.

Today Stephen Harper is already working on plan B and in doing so is removing one more road block on the road to gagging the press, blindfolding the masses and manipulating voters.

According to recent reports Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been working on a secret project for over a year that would see a $2-million government controlled media centre built in Ontario.

According to the Toronto Star, documents obtained through the Access to Information Act prove the PM is working on a plan, code-named the Shoe Store Project, that would see government build a new media centre. The centre would provide his government with easier control of the media and of the messages the public get to hear from Ottawa.

The documents show that this new centre would replace the 47-year-old National Press Theatre, a venue where government news conferences are moderated by members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association, a group of newspapers, broadcasters and other media outlets. The new government controlled media centre would instead be managed and moderated by hand picked individuals answerable only to government and not the press gallery.

One document obtained by the Star shows that the media centre is part of efforts by the government to "put in place robust physical and information security measures to protect the prime minister and cabinet."

The preceding quote may not appear very ominous but it certainly raises a lot of questions and concerns.

If the physical security of the PM is what’s in question here then perhaps a new press venue is indeed in order, but why would a simple change of venue require the government, rather than media itself, to control and moderate press conferences and events?

What exactly does “information security” mean anyway?

Is the PM looking for physical protection in an age of terrorists and assassins or is he actually seeking protection from the press, the public and the truth?

“The Shoe Store Project” calls for complete government control over which journalists are allowed to attend news conferences and which are not. In other words, those who don’t play along or are seen as being perhaps “troublesome” could, and probably would, be barred. They would be denied the ability to ask questions that might not suit the government agenda but might truly inform the public.

The “project” would give the Harper government the ability to do its own filming at all media events, and to provide government approved footage to journalists, instead of allowing those journalists to film the events themselves. I’d love to see the design for the new building because I’m willing to bet the editing room will be nothing less than state of the art.

Does this plan make anyone else uncomfortable?

Not only is the Harper government planning to take full control over which reporters can or cannot ask him and his ministers questions but he is also making sure he has full control of the video and sound bytes the public are able to see on the evening news. I hope this bothers everyone because it sure as hell gives me a cold chill.

It doesn't always take a political upheaval to turn a democracy into a dictatorship, sometimes all that's required are a series of small baby steps.

In Canada today Big Brother is already deciding who can or cannot travel by air and this is being done without even informing denied individuals of why they are on government’s no-fly lists.

According to recent news reports certain Jewish citizens, and perhaps those of other faiths as well, have begun mysteriously appearing on mailing lists compiled by the PMO, even though those individuals have no idea how the Prime Minister’s Office knows about their religious affiliations.

Canadian citizens have had misinformation about their actions and character handed over to foreign officials without their knowledge. In at least one well publicized case an individual was deported while traveling in the U.S. and tortured for over a year in a foreign country because of government misinformation passed to U.S. authorities.

Now the PM, who has always controlled which reporters he will or will not take questions from, has put the entire country on a very slippery slope. A slope that allows government to have far more control over mainstream news media than at any time in the past and gives him the ability to control what the public is made aware of in print, television and other media.

Welcome to the other side of looking glass people. For those who have long wondered who Big Brother really is, wonder no longer, he lives at 24 Sussex Drive.


Patriot said...

By the way, there are probably two folks out there who are wondering today why their most recent comments were not posted.

The reasons are simple:

Accusing me (or anyone else) of things that are untrue (I know because I was the one accused) will not get your comment put up here.

Virtually yelling things like, "NRA Forever" will not get your comment put up here.

Making racist accusations like accusing people who is not of a specific ethnic group of not being true NLer's will not get your comment put up here.

I just figured I'd explain to you why your comments did not get posted. Next time sticking to the topic and providing some honest input might be a better option for you to choose. That will get your comment put up here.

Ussr said...

"Virtually yelling things like, "NRA Forever" will not get your comment put up here."

OK Myles,you win!!!Its your sandbox!!!I get it . :)

as they say Myles ,its all about reaction.And,if you cannot aquire the reaction you want sometimes you have to try and get it!!!

Pardon me.I didnt mean to demean your blog or your work in anyway,please dont take it that way.Sometimes the topic gets a little too warm and fuzzy .I was just trying to get a reaction from a certain crowd.

"from ones actions can a man be judged" - Bob Marely!!!

My apology may not mean much but you have it just the same."I WILL" try and control my emotions .

Anonymous said...

It looks like Harper is saying he has no plans to move ahead with the building of his new propaganda center. I guess somewhere along the line he decided he might not get away with it and how it would look to the public.

I guess there is still some shred of democracy left in Canada after all, but not much.

Ussr said...

Myles ,I must say that your contradictiong yourself now with my "Good Nature"

In no way is my apology on topic with what you have posted!!!

When those that I have "YELLED" at get there apology ,could you please remove said comment due to the fact that it does not in anyway contribute to your fine writtings.

By posting my opinoin Patriot I will state that I do nothing but add a slight air of Pro-Newfoundland and Labrador to your work.;)

Its just very hard to sit and read views that are taking away from her.Newfoundland and Labrador and her people have suffered so much in this confederation!!!

We sit and fight amongst ourselves while she is rapped and beaten by those that say they love her.The fishery is gone ,the hydro is being sucked out of her,and now we have to give how many millions to Ottawa for our own Oil ,on our own banks.

Were is the help that we were suppose to get in rebuilding our greatest treasure,the Fishery.Have we recieved anything but welfare from Ottawa.

I really think that I should leave the politics to those that deal with it everyday,but then when you lay down your arms,we are slapped in the face again and again and again.Those that say it doesn't happen just have thier own agaenda.

For the love of money and greed they destroy what is given to them.As I look up and see my Grandfathers face and see the young boy that servered in the "Newfoundland Regiment"I have to stop and wonder.Is this what he would have wanted for something that he loved so much.

Nan always talked about the nightmares and the night terrors that he went thru.How he went over sea's and came back an empty shell of a man that he was.

What did grandpa want for her!!!He loved and talked about her like a jelouse husband.Even when half the family ran to America and they went for visits he tryed to get them to come back.

Patriot,i just want to say that its OK for differant people to have thier own opinoin ,thats what makes us differant.And ,differance is good.I would just love for those back home to relise one thing and one thing only.That no matter were you go in life or what you become it must and should always be about home and your family first.

If home is were the heart is ,then home for me will always be Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ps ,.......Myles seeing this has "NO connection" to your writings,i dont expect to see it on your comments page.I just felt that I owe you an explanation for some starnge reason.If i had an email that you used publically i would send it there.Anyway ,enjoy the rest of your week ,and dont consult too much,the IT field is dangerouse!!!;)

Patriot said...


You may not feel that your initial comment should have been posted because it didn't deal directly with the topic but it was posted because it dealt directly with my comment on why your initial post had not been put up.

Your last post, whether you believe it or not does have some bearing because it has to do with standing up for your homeland.

As for the final suggestion that I be careful because the IT field is dangerous, I could, if I were some online folks, consider that a threat but I'd prefer not to. If it is then it was inneffective. I've been threatened by many in often much more openly and violently. It bothers me not.

By the way, you mentioned that you could not find an email address that I use publicly but it is easily found all over the web. If you want it it's higginsmyles@yahoo.ca

Get it off your chest if you find it therapeudic.

babe in boyland said...

the media centre described in this piece seems very similar to the media centre and house of assembly broadcast room here in nl. it's where almost all government press conferences are held. it allows government to record all of what is said within the room. it provides media with all the needed amenities but also limits their access and options to some degree. it's a direction governments are going in, not necessarily a bad thing, just a thing.

the media can STILL scrum politicians, either in the House or outside it. the 5th estate still has the professional and ethical responsibility to investigate and uncover the truth (as best they can).

i can't see this as some kind of nefarious pinkie and the brain attempt at world (or at least country) domination.

and by the way - not just THIS pm, but every pm and every premier has always chosen which reporters to accept questions or interview requests from. this is the way it has always been done everywhere. i'm not saying it's good, just that it's not new.

if you want to argue for limiting government's powers to accumulate information on private citizens or share that information secretly with others than the citizens themselves - i'm all for that.

for example: the greeting cards tailored to religious-affiliation is a sweet objective. it acknowledges and celebrates the diversity of our population. however, the information may have been compiled by accessing information volunteered for another purpose, which should never have been shared. this is a classic case of the ends not justifying the means. and the fact that it could be shared alerts us to the danger of the possibility of it being shared for less laudable reasons.

we need to critique our governments' actions. that's now we keep them honest. but i really don't think that the new media centre is a symptom of a desire for overwhelming control.

Starrigan said...

Hard to believe that Babe in Boyland could be so naive.

This whole media thing is all about control. Harper decided to have a news conference recently and all the little piggies ravenously bellied up to the trough to gulp down the slop the Steve was good enough to dump before their hungry little mouths. A pre-election scenario where Steve waddles out and serves up his agenda and the reporter fall over themselves hanging on every word. Amazed at the rare opportunity to have the Prime Minister grant them the honour of his very presence, my what a rare and wonderful gift. Can't miss that it's the biggest show in town.
In reality they should have snubbed him. He's been snubbing the media since he's had his minority. It's blatantly obvious he called in the media because it is suddenly useful for him. The sad part is the media dove in head first. That's what really scares me. It's the same old control theory, hold back and then hold back some more. Wait until they are hungry, then throw them a few scraps, they won't care what it is, they're just feasting on the scraps and loving it.
Yes indeed journalism is dead, it has been replaced by the "news reader". You no longer need someone that will investigate stories, check facts, no you just need to produce enough copy to fill the correct amount of air time and have a "news reader" present it to the public. News is just another form of entertainment that has a kind of "real" spin. It works in the US and it will work in Canada, if you give Steve enough time. The only reason he's backing away from the Shoe Store Project, is because he got caught in the act. I personally like the "Scrum", normally the PM will walk up to a bunch of microphones and handle whatever they throw at him. To me that gives a great measure of how they handle themselves on their feet. No prepared Q&A, just your knowledge and your ability to handle the unexpected. Cretian was great at that, I'm not what you would call a large L liberal but I have a great deal of respect for a man that can think on his feet. Harper is not that kind of man and that is why Steve is so desirous to control every aspect of the media. He's obviously weak or maybe it's because he has no personality or maybe it's his lack of charisma. In any case, to compare what Danny does, to what Steve desires to do??? Really Babe in BL, what planet are you from.

babe in boyland said...

"This whole media thing is all about control. Harper decided to have a news conference recently and all the little piggies ravenously bellied up to the trough to gulp down the slop the Steve was good enough to dump before their hungry little mouths. A pre-election scenario where Steve waddles out and serves up his agenda and the reporter fall over themselves hanging on every word. Amazed at the rare opportunity to have the Prime Minister grant them the honour of his very presence, my what a rare and wonderful gift. Can't miss that it's the biggest show in town."

so, starrigan, how is this so very different from any time or place else?

a preferable model for holding elected representatives accountable is the british house of commons, where question period goes on for at least an hour and the prime minister has to answer truly well informed questions on any topic from any mp, opposition or his own back benches (which can be pretty sharp).

we need to ask more of our own elected reps, both opposition and government. this is what we pay them for. media, however philosphically noble is the fifth estate, is just a bunch of people who have stories to file and jobs to keep and careers to build. the media outlets pay them, not the people. however, i too like the scrum.

and by the way - i won't be drawn by accusations of naivitee. argumentum ad hominem is neither evidence nor example. think better.

Anonymous said...

Babe, I can't beleive your last comment. You almost dismiss the press by saying they are paid and and have deadlines to meet. True enough but if they are doing their jobs properly and are not muzzled by anyone then they are very valuable in keeping things working in a democracy. Just ask someone living under a dictator.

Do you honestly believe that questions asked in the house are asked to inform the public and get to the truth? Most of the time they are asked for political reasons and to make the "team" asking the question look better, the "team" being asked look bad and to score political points with the electorate. The truth, what is right and what is important to the people is often the last thing considered by those asking.

It's the job of the press (though they don't often do it well) to cut through that BS and get to the underlying truth.

You come across as a very naive person whether you want to admit it or not. Maybe its time you opened your eyes to what the political system really is in this Country instead of idiolizing it.

babe in boyland said...

starrigan, you missed the part where i made reference to the BRITISH house of commons. i don't think those folks are perfect either, but the larger interplay of socio-economic and political forces in a 1000-year-old country of 55+ million people existing within a huge economic union makes the game so complicated that it can never be simplified into a "my team against your team" thing.

OUR mps or mhas are not currently up to snuff - as i said, we need to expect (and demand) more of them. and i don't *idolize* the system, i recognize it is an *ideal* - one i expect and require those i elect to represent me to live up to. why else should i pay them?

i respect and appreciate the media and its role as 5th estate. but i also know that they are real people with jobs (that is, paychecks) and careers to mind.

we need ALL the estates to keep a free and civil society going - especially elected representation, the judiciary and the media. in the real world, they are all flawed, and that's WHY we need them ALL. its about checks and balances. thank god we live in a country that has them, how ever imperfect they are.

Starrigan said...

My biggest worry is that "NEWS" is more and more becoming part of the entertainment business. Soon there will be no more scrums, just well prepared, orchistrated pablum for the masses.
I have a lot of respect for a politician who can think on their feet and can handle any question asked of him/her when someone sticks a microphone in their face.
Harpers, Bush, style approach to the media is a little disturbing.

Anonymous said...

"The easiest and best way to accomplish that task is to control the news media."

Another easy way is to have the house sit for only 33 days a year.

Like Danny Williams.