Saturday, February 02, 2013

On trade-offs

Dan Tan has put together a noteworthy series of posts comparing the NDP's actual position on trade to its portrayal in the media, then discussing the effect of the gap between the two on party members. But while Dan seems to show some sympathy for an attempt to cultivate a difference between media portrayals and actual policy, I'll suggest the NDP's goal should instead be to make sure that its real position is known and promoted to the greatest extent possible.

Of course, it will help to keep the party's policy book accessible and ensure easier access to the NDP's trade policy on its website. But the root of the current problem of perception seems has plenty to do with the fact that even people with a strong connection to the party are looking to the media for guidance about its positions - meaning that sending different messages through different channels won't particularly help other than with a narrow group of people who are monitoring the website religiously without looking at what MPs are saying about the topic at hand.

And indeed, any attempt to finesse the corporate media is almost sure to be too cute by half. There's no feasible means of sending a distinct message to supporters which will completely escape the media's notice - so while the stenography pool might be happy to eat up whatever message the NDP chooses to send in one-off interviews, the corporate apologists in the media will only find fodder to question the party's beliefs. And the only way to deal with the resulting questioning is to have a strong answer.

(Not to mention that a future NDP government could face far more pushback in actually giving effect to the party's values if those pushing the "NDP=Libs!" line blame the party for their own failures when the government tries to implement its agenda.)

With that in mind, the NDP should use the media exposure available to the Official Opposition as directly as possible in promoting the party's actual values - including the reason why they differ from those of the Libs and Cons. And when progressive Canadians hear the message that free trade is just one possible tool which carries significant risks and downsides (rather than the be-all and end-all as believed by the other parties) from the NDP through all available channels, that will ensure that everybody with an affinity for the NDP's views knows exactly which party to support.

4 comments:

  1. Greg,

    When did I show any "sympathy"?
    (re: "Dan seems to show some sympathy for an attempt to cultivate a difference between media portrayals and actual policy")

    I suspect there were two sections in "Part 3" that you misinterpreted.

    When I noted that Davies was "skillful" & "successful", it was not a value judgement. I was merely pointing out that Davies achieved his own goals (regardless of the wisdom of such pursuits).

    When I suggested that my proposals would "allow the leadership to engage in risky marketing efforts", it was not encouragement. I was merely offering them a way to prevent future "collateral damage".

    Correct me if I cited the wrong things. Otherwise, I hope that clarifies things.

    On a separate note, I would like to consider the ideas in the rest of your post...but right now, time does not permit.

    Till tomorrow,
    Dan Tan

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    1. That's one passage I'd point to; the other is in the first part where you describe the party using journalists to get out a message of its choosing. In effect, I see more value in discussing whether the NDP should play the "dangerous game" in the first place rather than how to slightly improve its chances of winning at it - though it's good to clarify that you weren't making a value judgment about whether the risk was one worth taking.

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    2. Greg,

      Again, like the quote about Davies...I was merely pointing out that they achieved their own objective. Not an endorsement of such pursuits.

      If you care to know what I think: I am agnostic. While I am not impressed by the initial "type" such a "re-branding" seduces...I recognize that it will actually facilitate a more open & effective airing of our worthy policies (as my later comment to you will explain).

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  2. Greg,

    Now, I would like to address the alternate strategy proposed in your main post.

    In isolation, such a strategy would fail: "the NDP should use the media exposure available to the Official Opposition as directly as possible in promoting the party's actual values".

    You harbour the assumption that we have a "straight reporting" press that accepts the NDP as an alternative voice on economic matters.

    We have no such thing.

    What we DO have are "interested" political journalists. They harbour silent hostilities & assumptions derived from years of elite-financed thinktank instruction.

    If the NDP were to approach these political journalists without finesse (as you suggest), biases would kick-in & colour any reporting on substantive trade policy. As the Campbell Clark article exemplifies...the reader would be "led" to a hostile conclusion before an NDP official uttered a single quote.

    The NDP leadership recognized this challenge, and devised such a "re-branding" strategy in-response. Those who wish to formulate "alternate strategies" must include this sad-reality in their calculations.

    This was not mentioned in my series of articles, but there is a longer term benefit of Davies' successful outreach. Because he neutralized their initial hostility, he can now convey substantive policies & critiques - without being subjected to the editorial sabotage the NDP previously faced.

    Hence, Greg, Davies has created the conditions that allow the NDP to: "use the media exposure available to the Official Opposition as directly as possible in promoting the party's actual values".

    Best,
    Dan Tan

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