“Political candidates are products, and political advertising is advertising.”
— Elissa Moses, chief analytics officer for EmSense
Monday night’s battle for the vote was a giant fail as either entertainment or informed debate, and we can blame a limousine of privileged nitwits for allowing this significant electoral opportunity to devolve into all-party high school brawl.
But it was doomed from the beginning. Its unimaginative, glammed-up reality show format was more Judge Judy, Celebrity Apprentice and Geraldo than a TED-styled forum where matters of importance could reasonably be discussed.
Predictably, mass media covered it in a typical CNN tabloid-style, reducing political leaders to contestants in a fifth-rate quiz show. What we saw were lame actors cast in a sanitized, manicured, pedicured, quaffed and blown dry puff-piece devoid of anything close to real content.
What a sad state of affairs.
PPC’s Maxime Bernier, Bloc Québécois’ Yves-François Blanchet and Green Party’s Elizabeth May at least were civil and willing to state uncomfortable truths. Jagmeet Singh has fashioned a bespoke platform that checks off all the right boxes designed to win over a block of blue and white collared families with a list of programs that would have him spend like a reckless drunk in a casino with a pocket flush with a week’s wages.
As for Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer played the part of Laurel and Hardy, but without the laugh track to make their bad performances half-way funny.
These kinds of forums make a charade of democracy and show us how media have diminished the message to the point where we’ve just plain lost interest. These dinosaurs are out of sync with the times, and desperate to seem involved and important.
What if instead of the mainstream media sludge we had lo-fi town-hall meetings with the leaders in a legion hall in St. John’s, or a net café in Montreal, or a bar in Toronto’s banking district, or on a university campus, or an impoverished reserve where the water is poisoned, or a dormitory where oil sands workers are billeted, or a café where SNC-Lavalin workers grab a coffee?
Better still, a roving eye that travels to all these places.
The mainstream media’s staging and coverage of the leadership debate are both discourteous and emblematic of a deeper problem that is undermining democracy, and that is how news has become a ‘for’ or ‘against’ message that's driven by economic need. The need for eyeballs, ears and subscriptions.
It’s an insidious Trojan Horse in the democratic process, and what this particular show has made abundantly clear is that Donald Trump’s will to undermine truth, honesty, courteousness and debate has not only reached our shores but made its mark. Media have reduced themselves to tweet-length news bites and don’t get the fact that its audience is hungering for a great deal more.
This wasn’t an all-party debate. It was legacy media, corporate Canada, and status quo politicians giving us the finger with one hand while jerking off with the other.
The media outlets excel in providing ample news reportage online, but when it comes to radio and TV the glossy packaging seems to dwarf the content and some bright new minds need to address this very big shortfall.