Monday, October 08, 2007

Recognizing the bias

Lawrence Martin points out the media's (largely) inexplicable habit of hailing nearly everything the Cons do as sheer strategic genius, rather than paying attention to Stephen Harper's obvious failure to even hold on to his party's previous level of support:
Stephen Harper's disdain for the fourth estate has been well documented. His government has allowed less access than almost any before it. In his latest salvo, he is snubbing the annual press gallery dinner.

But rather than hurt him, Mr. Harper - is there method in his badness? - is getting increasingly favourable media treatment. To look at the recent coverage, you would think his government is on a roll. Breathless reports follow breathless reports on how he could destroy all opponents in an election this fall.

That's not bad for a governing party stuck at 33 per cent in the polls for months, one that has fallen six or seven points since it tabled its last budget in March, one that has lost more support in that time than the Liberals or NDP, both of whose numbers have remained stable.

This is usually the kind of news that gets you booed out of town. But, in the case of Mr. Harper, the scribes are doing more cheering than jeering. They look at opinion surveys on who would make the best leader and see that he is far ahead. Given the built-in advantage a prime minister has in such a ranking, any PM who doesn't enjoy a wide spread over a relatively unknown opponent should take up lawn bowling...

If it so desired, an ornery-minded press could find much fodder for trashing the Tories: They're running all over the map on the environment file and coming up with not much; they lack clear direction on a war that has no foreseeable end; they have a small list of accomplishments; and they failed, after following a modest five-point plan in their first year, to give the country a sense of direction in their second.

But, instead of targeting the PM, the press has chosen Mr. Dion. For the most part, the Liberal Leader is well deserving of the opprobrium. But the fact remains that the Harper Conservatives have been losing the most ground in terms of public esteem.
Unfortunately, Martin makes exactly the same mistake that he observes elsewhere by giving Harper credit for being "crafty" in his consistent scorn for the media. Which suggests that it's going to take an awful lot of work to try to get the current narrative turned around.

But at the very least, it's significant that at least some prominent columnists are waking up to the free ride that Harper has received so far. And if that leads to anywhere near the scrutiny the Con government has earned, then Harper's stay in power may not last anywhere near as long as most media commentators seem willing to assume now.

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