Sunday, August 29, 2010

How Harper's Fox News North Will Turn us Into a Nation of Idiots

There was an interesting column in the New York Times this week by Timothy Egan: Building a Nation of Know-Nothings. In it he discusses the absolute dumming down of American politics, and the selling of lies, that have become "facts", to that dummed down populace.

But it was not just the Religious Right that made American politics so toxic, but media outlets like Fox News. The same Fox News that Stephen Harper and his trusty sidekick Kory Teneycke are trying to flog to the Canadian people.

As Linda McQuaig reminds us:

My guess is it's pretty easy to arrange lunch with the Prime Minister. No doubt Stephen Harper often lunches with labour leaders and advocates for the homeless [she says tongue in cheek]. So it should be considered no big deal that, among those the PM has lunched with, is U.S. media billionaire Rupert Murdoch, who has probably done more than any single individual in recent years to push American politics sharply to the right.

It's interesting to imagine, however, why our Prime Minister would want to meet with Murdoch, whose Fox News TV channel has poisoned U.S. political debate and nurtured America's extremist right-wing Tea Party movement. If you subscribe to the notion that Harper has no particular political agenda, his lunch with Murdoch in March 2009 might seem harmless, perhaps a purely social affair.

But the evidence suggests they were discussing plans to transform the Canadian political landscape by creating a right-wing, Fox-style TV station in Canada. Present at the lunch was Fox News president Roger Ailes, known for bringing cutthroat Republican campaign tactics to the screen. (Ailes designed the infamous race-baiting Willie Horton commercials that brought George H.W. Bush to power.)
Also present at the lunch was Harper aide Kory Teneycke, who has since become the front man in the bid by Quebec media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau to get a specialty TV licence for a Fox News-style network in Canada.

Then there's the fact that the lunch, during an official Harper visit to New York, was kept secret -- until being unearthed recently by Canadian Press reporter Bruce Cheadle.

So in fact, the Canadian taxpayer foot the bill for Teneycke's job interview.

And Egan of the New York Times describes what this will mean for Canadian politics, which have already become hyper-partisan and toxic under Stephen Harper.

And how the Republicans sell lies and half truths as "facts".
It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush ... a president’s birthday or whether he was even in the White House on the day TARP was passed are apparently open questions. A growing segment of the party poised to take control of Congress has bought into denial of the basic truths of Barack Obama’s life. What’s more, this astonishing level of willful ignorance has come about largely by design, and has been aided by a press afraid to call out the primary architects of the lies.

In the much-discussed Pew poll reporting the spike in ignorance, those who believe Obama to be Muslim say they got their information from the media. But no reputable news agency — that is, fact-based, one that corrects its errors quickly — has spread such inaccuracies. So where is this “media?”

Two sources, and they are — no surprise here — the usual suspects. The first, of course, is Rush Limbaugh, who claims the largest radio audience in the land among the microphone demagogues, and his word is Biblical among Republicans. A few quick examples of the Limbaugh method: “Tomorrow is Obama’s birthday — not that we’ve seen any proof of that,” he said on Aug. 3. “They tell us Aug. 4 is the birthday; we haven’t seen any proof of that.” ... On the Muslim deception, Limbaugh has sprinkled lie dust all over the place. “Obama says he’s a Christian, but where’s the evidence?” The design is to make Obama un-American, (aka "Just Visiting")

Finally, there is Fox News, whose parent company has given $1 million to Republican causes this year but still masquerades as a legitimate source of news. Their chat and opinion programs spread innuendo daily. The founder of Politifact, another nonpartisan referee to the daily rumble, said two of the site’s five most popular items on its Truth-o-meter are corrections of Glenn Beck. Beck tosses off enough half-truths in a month to keep Politifact working overtime. Of late, he has gone after Michelle Obama, whose vacation in Spain was “just for her and approximately 40 of her friends.” Limbaugh had a similar line, saying the First Lady “is taking 40 of her best friends and leasing 60 rooms at a five-star hotel — paid for by you.” The White House said Michelle Obama and her daughter Sasha were accompanied by just a few friends — and they paid their own costs. But, wink, wink, the damage is done. He’s Muslim and foreign. She’s living the luxe life on your dime. They don’t even have to mention race. The code words do it for them.
And Teneycke is already playing around with the race nonsense, dissing Muslims at every opportunity. But he also threw out a little colour when his Sun Media lauded Stephen Harper for choosing a "white guy" as governor general. He put it out there to see how we'd respond. We did nothing, so expect more of the same.

There is another important point to consider here, with the realization that we are poised to become the next nation of know-nothings.

The Americans appear to be about to give the Republicans control of Congress in the mid-term elections, proving they've learned nothing from past mistakes (Weapons of Mass Destruction anyone?)

The last sweep was in 1995 under Newt Gingrich. Would it surprise you to know that Gingrich claims to owe his success to the Reform Party? Stephen Harper's Reform Party under Preston Manning, when Harper was his lieutenant?
Canadians became exporters of neo-con innovation in the 1990s. 'I would say Margaret Thatcher and Mr. [Preston] Manning are the two non-Americans we learned most from'', said U.S. Republican House Speaker, Newt Gingrich in 1995.'I know him [Preston Manning] because I watched all of his commercials. We developed our platform from watching his campaign.' Like cowboy culture, Canadian neo-conservatism is a growth industry, spawning a whole generation of Will James outlaws in hot pursuit of political power." (1)
Before that Gingrich was thought to be from the fringe.
"Newt Gingrich was no Ronald Reagan. A career politician, he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1978, at the age of thirty-five, and became the Republican Whip in 1989. Despite this measure of success, however, he was never part of the Republican inner circle, largely because of his extreme views ... (2)
So while many in the media correctly suggest that Stephen Harper's ideology is pure Republican, in many ways the "new" Republican ideology is also pure Reform Party. Stephen Harper's Reform Party. The Party he wrote policy for and morphed into the Conservative Party of Canada.

Are you looking forward to Fox News North as much as I am?


1. Slumming it at the Rodeo: The Cultural Roots of Canada's Right-Wing Revolution, Gordon Laird, 1998, Douglas & McIntyre, ISBN: 1-55054 627-9, Pref. xiv-xv1.

2. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada, Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2, Pg. 32


  1. Hmmm...well done. Enjoyed every bit of it. Although despite Linda's guess is that Murdoch picked up the tab and Harper just smiled and rubbed knees with Teneycke, as they both wiped their chops with their sleeves.

    I have to say that I am looking forward to the advent of Harper-Fox-North, because it will give me one more reason to justify the fact that I stopped watching television 7 years ago when I retired from the business. I stopped watching on the grounds that even CBC was taking part in the dumbing-down process.

    Incidentally, I commend you for picking up on that Egan piece...what a nice bit of writing.

  2. Thanks. I stopped watching television news myself, and in fact rarely watch TV at all.