Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sorta political: Directing your contempt at the right target

A while ago a famous clairvoyant went bankrupt. There was much snarking in the media that "she didn't see it coming". Keep that thought in mind as you read the following:
What was billed as one of the most hotly contested elections in recent memory instead turned into a success for Ms. Redford, whose majority victory cemented the country's longest-running political dynasty. 
Note the use of passive voice here. One of the things that all journalists are taught is not to use passive voice in a  news story.  The reason is simple: passive voice tells you that something happened without telling you who was responsible for making it happen. There are places where passive voice is an appropriate choice but not in a news story. Any time a news story tells you something was billed as something they should tell you who did the billing!

All the more so given that the answer to the obvious journalistic question, "Who did this billing?" is journalists! The Globe and Mail, where the above sentence appeared, was one of the prime offenders. They got this story as wrong as they possibly could have gotten and, shameless swine that they are, they are hiding this by their use of passive voice.

We should have nothing but contempt for most Canadian journalists this morning.

For weeks now they have led us in a wild narrative of rising and falling fortunes of the parties. First, they told us that the PCs were ahead. Then they told us that the Wildrose Party was surging. And now they are telling us that a last second surge to stop Wildrose turned everything around. And they are doing this on the basis of zero evidence. There is nothing whatsoever to justify any of this. For all we know, there may have been no change whatsoever in support throughout the campaign; the PCs may have gotten exactly the same number of votes they would have gotten had the election taken place on the first, third or twelfth day of the campaign. Journalists, like the clairvoyant, are frauds abusing our confidence to take our money.

You need to read that Globe story and see just how utterly awful it is (as of right now anyway, it may get "improved" as the day goes on). The Serpentine One, reading behind me, just pointed out this sentence:
It [the PC victory] amounted to a clear centrist mandate for Ms. Redford at a time when Alberta's role in Canada is as prominent as ever.
That sentence, as she pointed out, is absolutely meaningless. Look at the phrase "is as prominent as ever" for example. Meaning what exactly? Is there another province whose role isn't as prominent or, alternatively as insignificant as ever?

And, while we are at it, why is there so much editorializing in a news story? (That by the way, is probably why that sentence is so vague: if the Globe had come clean about what they meant by "centrist mandate" it would painfully obvious they were sermonizing and not reporting.

The lack of self awareness here is stunning. Read this assessment of the performance of Wild Rose.
Although the upstart Wildrose Party will form the official opposition, it fell short of expectations: both its own, and those of pollsters, most of whom were forecasting a Wildrose win. 
Notice who is forgotten again: journalists. They also were forecasting a much stronger performance for Wildrose. And catch the gratuitous modifier here:  "the upstart Wildrose Party." It's not like "upstart" carries any connotations or anything.

But suppose the media had done their job correctly here? Suppose they had started the story with an honest mea culpa admitting that they had gotten the story wrong all these weeks? That would change the tone a little. Esp[ecially when we hit this fascinating little detail buried in the last half of the story:
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith was gracious in defeat, saying her party came a long way from four years ago – when it didn’t run a full slate and didn’t see a single candidate elected.
Four years ago, the party didn't win a single seat! Four years ago they couldn't even muster a full slate of candidates! And now they are the official opposition!

That 2008 election, by the way,w as the first ever election for the party which was officially registered that year. Also by the way, they not only rose from nothing to become the official opposition, they won twice as many seats as the party they replace as official opposition.

You probably could write a worse story than The Globe and Mail cranked out but you'd have to really work at it. They are like

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