Defending “the press”, sort of
Prime Minister Trudeau took to the barricades, again, over the case of Montreal police targeting journalists. Wasn’t it inspiring to hear him defend freedom of the press! No way will federal cops be harassing journalists! No sir, “not only is freedom of the press crucial for our democracy, it is one of the foundations of our society,” insisted the PM, more-or-less. It was difficult to catch his breathless words on the radio. But the idea, his ideals, are clear, aren’t they? That old PM would never have made such a stirring defence of a free press.
And surely Mr Trudeau was not referring to Twitter or Facebook as “free press”. “Press” means a printing press, a paper product, even, printed and distributed in massive amounts so everyone can see it, online or not. No, he was defending the real press, not Twitter, against police intrusion.
Yet, real life often plays a different tune. In real life, Mr Trudeau and his government have decided to not use “the press” to speak to all Canadians any more. His government will only communicate via “social media”. Zero “press”. Zero public information campaigns -- like the SARS or H1N1 campaigns, which alerted all Canadians.
So, the Prime Minister will defend “the free press” against the police, but not for use by government information services.
The press seems under siege these days, since everyone has admitted to suffering various attention deficit disorders, those that permit only 145-word messages. A 600- or 1,600-word newspaper analysis is too trying for the deficit-disabled, clearly. In fact, reading itself seems a waste of time, when there could be just a picture. Maybe a selfie. No more long explanations with facts and details of government actions and policies.
Isn’t this, really, an attempt by the government to control the message? Again following Mr Harper’s lead, Mr Trudeau is obviously frustrated by the press’s practice of in-depth reporting (sometimes) and objective analysis. These give the public too much information and cause them to be concerned. The PM does not want to cause concern. Please push snooze.
There are supporters of the PM (or of our city’s mayor) who dismiss my concerns as self-serving. The press needs the revenue from government notices. Therefore, the press is not objective, is how they see the issue. Our mayor has said he won’t prop up the press with taxpayer money. Is he propping up equipment dealers when the city buys a new grader – or is this an exchange of money for service or product? That’s what buying page-space for a public notice is. All these excuses are to avoid admitting politicians’ great ambition: control the message.
Back to the start: the free press must not be compromised by the police, insists the Prime Minister. But it’s entirely acceptable, even sound management, to compromise the press by withholding contracts for the purchase of notice space? Hmmm?
Any response from the PMO, from our MPs, from the mayor? I don’t mean a hidden response.