Thursday, March 31, 2011

Media Shuts Out the Green Party, Reduces our Voting Choices

Democratic deficit. Falling voting rates. Apathy. We think this is solely about our first-past-the-post system and the concentration of power into the Prime Minister's Office away from Parliament. But there's another source: the media.

Last Fall, here in Toronto, the media used polls to whittle the field of mayoralty candidates down to their chosen one plus one. They lost. But so did we because we were deprived of our original choices through media machinations. By voting day, the candidates we liked were gone.

In a Federal election the leaders and parties are well established and so the big boys can't make em bow out of the race, but they can work to help the Liberals and Conservatives create the idea that there are only two choices. They can make it seem that we are no different than the Americans in having only two credible parties, even though in Canada we have a diverse choice of four national parties that reflects all of us. They can keep us uninformed, for most won't work to inform themselves through independent research.

Their first big salvo in this mission is to shut out Green Party leader Elizabeth May from the televised leader debates. Their reasoning -- she doesn't have a sitting MP -- dismisses the one million Canadians who voted for her, dismisses the fact that she leads a credible, national party, and ignores the fact that if we had a different voting system, the Green Party would have a sitting MP. More than one actually.

But May was awfully effective and informed in the last debate. She made the men look like the sound-bite machines that they had become. She challenged them directly. She knew the issues cold. And if there's one thing a person seeking power can't stand is someone showing them up, especially if it's a woman.

Visually her presence around a table of men with a male moderator, highlights much more obviously how few women leaders we have -- never mind leaders, how few MPs! -- in comparison to, say, those backward third world countries we're busy helping with aid.

The broadcast consortium (doesn't that sound like fat-cat big boys chomping cigars, swilling Scotch, manipulating people and goods from their luxe secret location?) decided to exclude May not for the stated reasons, but for keeping the choices in front of Canadians as small as possible. Like the Liberals and Conservatives, they want their chosen party to win a majority. To do that, they have to manipulate Canadians into thinking there are really only two choices. There are a few ways to do that other than keeping information on the Green Party's campaign on the back pages: boost the idea of strategic voting (as if it works), the idea that a vote for the NDP or Green is a vote for the boogie man, and most of all present visually a small slate on TV -- not the full one.

I spoke to someone the other day. He opined what he'd like to see in a party. I said that's the Green Party you've described. The what? he asked. He'd never heard of it (that boggled my mind, for he was an educated man), and if the mainstream media have their way, he never will.


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