Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Nadir Khan interviews Linda McQuaig about her choice to run for the NDP in Toronto Centre - and confirms that McQuaig's commitment to progressive politics fits neatly with her participation in a caucus:
NK : You mention that you’ve been outspoken and taken a strong stance on issues you care about. Certain research groups like Samara have found, through interviewing MPs, that MPs are surprised by how much party discipline is present in Parliament.

What are your thoughts on that? If you’re elected, do you see your outspoken and combative approach changing within the context of how disciplined our Parliament can be?

LM : I mean I certainly didn’t get into politics to kind of modify my voice. Or cease to be outspoken on issues. You know, that would be counterproductive. At the same time, I would say that I understand that if you enter politics it’s a different process than being a writer. You belong to a party and you make decisions collectively within that party on what the stance is going to be. And I accept that as part of the democratic process. I understand that that it is…the way it should be.  So, among other things, one of the things I look forward to is to be a strong and effective voice within that NDP caucus. Advocating those progressive positions that I’ve long done publicly.
- Andrew Jackson and Jonathan Sas observe that the Cons' response to growing awareness of inequality and poverty as policy issues has been to push income-splitting and other schemes to divert still more wealth to the top of the income spectrum.

- Michael Harris highlights about the Cons' continued contempt for science - and indeed their efforts to make money attacking it.

- Robyn Benson writes about the future of the union movement - pointing out that even now organized labour speaks for a substantial proportion of the public, while hinting at the importance of both organizing and communicating with still more potential members and supporters. And Julian Beltrame reports on the PBO's finding that the Cons' attempts to invent a need to slash public-sector wages are utterly misplaced, as actual wages have barely kept up with inflation.

- Thomas Walkom echoes my question as to whether Nova Scotia's election results should serve to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy that bland centrism is a path toward political success.

- Finally, Colin Horgan discusses how a talking-point culture both reflects and contributes to a lack of substantial discussion about political issues:
(W)hat’s really being promoted here isn’t time-saving or even effective communications. This is a way for governments and parties to say even less. That prospect might be very appealing to a lot of people — but it should be worrying us.

There is a very simple reason why politicians tend to sound idiotic when given less space and time to speak. There are clear restraints on nuance and considered thought when you speak in sentences that can be clipped by the news networks. At party HQs, where those sentences are dreamed up, they know this very well. And we all know the result. Language and arguments are dumbed-down, simplified and filled with hyperbole and outrage — a mélange of emotion based on limited knowledge.
While the minimalist-statement, talking-point strategy doesn’t always work (not everyone can win an election, after all), parties have to use it now merely to level the playing field. You have to fight your competition on common ground, and by and large the talking point battlefield is that place. But it relies on people not paying attention. After all, you can only really vote on what you know and, as far as politicians are concerned, the less you know, the better. An uninformed populace is more likely to either believe the last lie they heard or disengage altogether. While parties probably would prefer the first scenario, they know that if a voter doesn’t vote, at least he’s not voting for the other guy.

So now imagine less. Less information, less communication. Fewer words and fewer thoughts. Less nuance and less understanding. We go from the inane and ridiculous to, for all intents and purposes, nothing at all.

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