‘Kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight’ is from Bruce Cockburn’s Lovers in a Dangerous Time. I think we need to start kicking the darkness of this new dark age.
We thought we were in the information age but we are in either the misinformation age or the information overload age. The internet can be divided into three uneven categories; porn, gossip and information. Porn is not just the sexual porn but gratuitous explicit anything, from violence, to cute kittens and idealogical/fundamentalist material. Gossip is what celebrity A is doing, wearing or with. It doesn’t matter why they are a celebrity, politics, entertainment, child of previous, etcetera. Information is the part of the internet that is hidden most well.
The election of Stephen Harper was supposed to start a glorious age of open, transparent and accountable government. It was either a lie or new speak. This has been an era when all messaging for government has come from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Even civil servants have handlers when out in public, to guide them and rat on them. How many officials have been sacked, publicly attacked or resorted to the courts to do their job? The Harper government has so many mediums to get their ‘facts’ out that it is difficult to find any relevant information. Many times the information is buried by the method it was released (courts, politics, leaks etc.).
A current example of Conservative information management is this whole attack on the NDP carbon ‘tax’. Statements by Members in the House before Question Period were intended to praise Boy Scouts, local spelling bee champions, centenarians, local issues and so on. To take time away from an elected Member of the House of Commons to state things of interest to those who employ them is either a crass perversion of Democracy or merely an insult to those who have a Harper MP. This is false information because the Conservatives know they had the exact same program in their platform. The NDP actually tried to cost their’s and hence why it is a threat to the economy.
The PMO is political, the Privy Council Office is civil service. Put the two together and you have an equal to the West Wing. However, it has long been the tradition that the remain separate. There should not be political interference of the civil service by unelected political operatives. A recent letter from the Prime Minister to the Defence Minister shows the PMO is controlling the way policy is developed and implemented. When the unelected, unknown people in the PMO are making the decisions what purpose does a cabinet minister serve? Or Parliament? Or Citizens?
The Conservatives are not the only party doing this. The NDP are just as guilty. Policy, for the most part, comes from an ideological think tank that only shows the information that benefits their spin. They attack everyone who is not totally aligned with them just like a Conservative does. Both polarizing parties accuse moderates of being with the other side. This is nothing new. Add the spin and information vacuum, overload or dismissal and the NDP will probably govern like the Conservatives.
Most CFL fans will route for the Saskatchewan Rough Riders if there team isn’t playing. Better they win than our team (Argos) hated rivals (Ti-Cats). To me the Green Party fills a similar role in politics. The Green Party plays around with facts as any party, they promote conspiracy theories and selective science to back issues. They are to diverse and disorganized to have a singular Harper style message, which is why I feel safe supporting them over other parties.
Liberals are guilty as the other parties of information darkness. As a Liberal I know I have a better chance finding out our position from the news than from the party. Accusations of Liberals lacking policy are unfounded because we haven’t finished developing and debating it yet. No think tanks, centralized control or talking points are capable with the grass roots nature of the current party. The Conservatives and NDP leaders may need to be shepherds or benevolent dictators but the next Liberal leader needs to bring peace to warring tribes and herd cats.
Not just the federal level has information management or darkness. See Ontario’s Government and the power stations for a recent example. Or London Ontario’s Mayor Fontana and the growing scandal. The whole Quebec situation with corruption is prime example why information needs to be in the light. Secrecy leads to the corruption that is accused in Ontario and Quebec. Is it irony that people who spend millions in US elections saying they have rights to give information during elections won’t give information on who they are and who finances them?
The media too is guilty. Some try but still get caught up in ideological porn posing as news or gossip posing as relevant. The increasing calls for nonprofit or public media to be ended or privatized is an example of the increasing control of information. The biggest media giants are not threatened economically by it just their control of what people see, hear and know. Celebrity B has movie coming out in a week, website posts pictures of her skirt blowing up, website is owned by same parent company as movie studio, coincidence or manipulation?
Add into all this the constant attack on science and expertise. Why is it we are to trust someone who heard it from someone they bummed a smoke off of? Byt not to trust the people who have studied the actual data for a decade. Yes experts can get blinders, why we need to let them out to talk to the public not humiliate them to build secret labs. The internet was developed by scientists for scientists. It was cheaper than airfare and conference space, still is. Sharing information leads to more science and technology the science-phobic can’t do with out once it is packaged in a slick marketing campaign.
The current cult of amateur is why we are building on flood plains, why Mike Holmes has a century of Making Things Right ahead of him and why we have a environmental policy that doesn’t connect with what we see out our windows. When economists are demanding changes to environmental policy maybe the climate scientists were right. The whole ‘Trust Us’ approach to defence is another example; the Harper government listens to their industry experts who expertise is to inflate defence budgets for their bonus and company profits. Corporate information management is well beyond government in secrecy and manipulation.
The biggest guilt in the era of information darkness is the individual citizen. We were helped by education that is underfunded and lacking in depth or developing critical thinking. We are easily distracted by porn, that isn’t a bad thing (yes, I mean the cute kittens kind, yes), gossip is okay in moderation too. But when we finish looking at naked kittens or reading what clothed celebrities are doing for the holidays, let’s all read something written by those experts. Articles on urban crime strategies, why Sandy was a whopper of a storm, who finances city council campaigns or what ever is interesting. We all have to become experts in something and share the knowledge.
I believe the alternative is to allow our selves to slip back into tyrannical ignorance.