A lot needs to be done to re-establish democracy in this country. Murray Dobbins writes that the place to begin is with our corporate media. They almost universally endorsed Stephen Harper. That was, perhaps, a blessing:
But the newspapers perhaps did us a favour in the last week of the campaign with their inane endorsement of the Harper autocracy for yet another four-year term. Post Media -- the most recent iteration of the Conrad Black coup in 1999 -- and the Globe and Mail without an iota of embarrassment or shame actually managed to write editorials justifying the re-election of a man turfed from office by a tsunami of voter revulsion.
The shamelessness extended without a pause to outright untruths in the Globe and Mail and the National Post editorials -- both of which declared their support because of Harper's economic record. The Globe declared: "The key issue of the election should have been the economy and the financial health of Canadians. On that score, the Conservative Party has a solid record." And the National Post: "Harper's commendable record in office cannot be dismissed. Our economy is in good shape..."
Obviously, the majority of Canadians weren't listening -- or reading. Nonetheless, the blanket endorsement of Harper underscored whose interests the media were serving:
Those who run the country's daily newspapers reveal themselves to be as contemptuous of democracy and society as the party they endorsed. They reveal themselves as concerned only about "the economy" but for them this is just a code word for the corporate elite, the 1% -- not the economy of ordinary wage and salary earners.
The irony of this endorsement is the endorsers' fundamental belief that government -- and by extension, the voting rabble -- should not be interfering in the economy at all. It is something to be clinically separated from the exercise of public policy. Government should simply facilitate economic growth by "getting out of the way" of business by signing "trade" deals, gutting corporate and wealth taxes, and driving down wages.
In the last thirty years, ownership of Canadian media outlets has been concentrated into a few hands, even as readership declined:
Today we can take some solace in the fact that the same demented "free market" ideology that continues to play havoc with the real Canadian economy (the 99%) is helping to weaken the newspaper industry in Canada. Newspapers that continue to ignore the wave of contempt that swept the Harperium from power will deserve their fate.
Reading the Postmedia papers is a demoralizing experience given that nowhere do you find Canadian values reflected in their reporting or opinion pieces. But when you learn that the National Post's paid subscribers (2014 numbers) total only 83,671 out of 24 million-plus eligible voters it sort of lifts your spirits (though they do get an additional 100,000 digitally). The Vancouver Sun, another Postmedia paper, manages just over 86,000.
People are going elsewhere for news. Online media experienced a big bump in visits during the election. The Tyee saw a 70 per cent jump in visits to their site during August to October as they ramped up election coverage, and rabble.ca's increased by 50 per cent -- with 880,000 individual readers and close to five million page views -- demonstrating voters' considerable appetite for "fact-based" journalism.
If the corporate media are to survive, they will have to be democratized. They will have to re-learn the definition of the phrase, "we the people."