The Tuesday, Novermber 1st headline in Toronto’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, reads as follows: Gomery Puts Blame on Chretien. I figure this is going to surprise about the same number of Canadians as it will those who understand what it actually means. I’m talking about the dozen or so of us who’ve just awakened from a coma after a year or so, along with the dozen who’ve carefully followed the fine detail of the controversy past the mind-numbing coverage.
That Globe headline was framed by 22 miniature front page facsimilies from the past year, all of them shrieking about the same thing: the Federal Liberal’s quasi-clandestine sponsorshop program, which was a post-1995 Quebec referendum attempt by the Chretien government to bolster federalism in Quebec. The program was Jean Chretien’s “whoops” response after the woeful job his government did of defending Canada in that referendum, and in theory, it was a pretty good idea. But then it was manipulated by public relations camp scavengers and some in-party scumbags and opportunists. As far as I can figure out, the leakage from the legitimate elements of the program cost Canada’ citizens anywhere from one or two million dollars to over a hundred million, depending on the level of hysteria at whichever news source happens to be shrieking.
Now, I’m in favour of catching the thieves and sending them off to be bumfucked in prison for a few months, but I don’t think the exercise the judicial inquiry has put Canadians through has warranted 23 front page headlines let alone the $32 million the occasionally self-aggrandizing and belligerent inquiry head, John Gomery, has spent trying to determine which of the criminals had either Jean Chretien’s or Paul Martin’s cell phone number.
From at least one perspective, if it cost a few million dollars in waste and corruption to protect the country, so be it. That’s quite a lot less than Tyco CEO Dennis Koslowski rooked the American government for so he could do things like have tax-deductible life-size ice sculptures of Michaelangelo’s David with vodka coming from their wieners at his wife’s birthday parties.
What bothers me a lot more than Chretien’s poor micromanagement of a minor program is the way the national media has CNNed the whole thing from the beginning.. You don’t think those 23 headlines don’t have something to do with what a fabulous cost-saving convenience it was to be able to have the Ottawa Press Corp trot over to the inquiry courtroom every day and get enough copy to fill most of the first three pages of the newspaper, or to take a feed off the courtroom cameras for the lead story in the nightly television non-news? Most of time the Press Corp members probably had the transcripts couriered over to the press club so they could churn out the day’s government atrocities over a BLT and a beer.
Then there’s the larger issue of he agenda of the media corporations, which as far as I can see consists of two items: 1.) enhancing profits while reducing reporting staff and travel expenses; and 2.) Demonizing government while covering up the vastly more corrupt financial practices of the corporate sector. When the oil corporations started reporting record profits last week—at percentage increases that exactly matched the increase in consumer energy prices, it got a small notice on the Globe’s front page once and was then buried in the business pages. The oil companies have probably taken Canadian citizens for $32 billion this year, but is there going to be 23 shrieking headlines over that, or a judicial inquiry? Don’t hold your breath.
Sometimes the real news isn’t what’s reported as news, but the behavior of those reporting the news, and the agendas behind what they cover and don’t. The Gomery Inquiry is a casebook illustration of this.
November 1st, 2005 550 words.