Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is this "so-called" Liberal media bias?

You may have read today that PEI Premier Robert Ghiz is endorsing the Liberal Party's Green Shift initiative to reduce carbon emissions, including sweeping tax cuts for Canadians and specific help for those living in poverty.

“I think green shift is the way to go,’’ Ghiz said in an interview with The Guardian.

“I think it’s a good idea but what we have to do is make sure it doesn’t hurt jurisdictions like Prince Edward Island.

“What we have to do as a provincial government is make sure that we work with whatever party is in power federally to make sure that when that tax shift does take place tha
t seniors have more money, that low-income Islanders do have more money.’’

Here's how the major paper in the province, The Guardian, which “covers Prince Edward Island like the dew” by the way, headlined the story:

A fairly neutral headline I think. Now, the Guardian put the story on the Canadian Press wire, and it was pulled down by a one of their maritime cousins, the Turo Daily News in Nova Scotia. They decided to put a different spin on the story by re-writing the headline thusly:

“So-called green shift”? Well, at least they didn't totally adopt Conservative talking points (like, say, the National Post editorial board) and call it a tax trick. But it's not a so-called Green Shift. It is called the Green Shift (pending the outcome of assorted wacky and contrived legal tom foolery). The headline writer may have their doubts on how green it is, or how shifty. But it's not their place to editorialize in the headlines of newspaper articles.

On another note, after the comments from Ghiz the article features commentary from the PEI Conservatives' energy critic, Mike Currie. His party has crunched the numbers and, surprise surprise, it's the end of the world as we know it. But here's what I found quite amusing:
“I think that this guy (Ghiz) is running this government off the seat of his pants,” said Currie, who has spent 20 years in the oil business.

Trust the oil man folks, this environment plan is all bad. Global warmin', schmobal swarmin'. Consume!

P.S. I tried mightily to work a Anne of Green Gables or Road to Avonlea reference into this post, but I could not. I apologize. I have failed you.

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Idealistic Pragmatist said...

But it's not a so-called Green Shift. It is called the Green Shift [...]

Um...isn't that what 'so-called' means? "The thing that people call the object in question"? That's what it means in my dialect of English, anyway. I'm not seeing any bias in the headline, and I'm squinting pretty hard. (And I say this as someone who thinks the Green Shift is a pretty decent idea.)

Frankly Canadian said...

totally typical, we see this type of so called journalism in every city. Who really owns or runs these media companies, it would almost seem as if all the big consumer based companies have a stake in getting the right twist to every story. The message is always keep consuming or the economy will collapse and life as we know it will fall apart. Even George Bush's response to a consumer credit collapse, was to issue cheques to every American and tell them to get out their and spend and all would be well again. How did our democracy get so distorted so quickly?

Jeff said...

ip, in my view it reaks of sarcasm, and expresses doubt and skepticism. If we said the "so-called Conservative Party" would we be saying that's what they're called, or would we be implying they're not as Conservative as they claim. If we said the NDP's "so-called green agenda" would we just be saying that's what its called, or would we be again saying they may call it that, but we know better?

That's what it's called is the literal meaning of the phrase, yes. But it's also not commonly used in this context. How often do you see the use of the phrase in a neutral context on everyday writing? The sarcastic usage is far more common, and likely in the context.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

If we said the NDP's "so-called green agenda" would we just be saying that's what its called, or would we be again saying they may call it that, but we know better?

In my dialect, at least it would depend entirely on whether people actually do call it that. In this case it sounds far more sarcastic because the NDP doesn't actually have something that is widely called a "green agenda," so it clearly can't mean "this is what people call it." You know what I mean? The Liberals, however, do have something that is widely called a "Green Shift," so I really can't find a way to read sarcasm into it. To me it really does read neutrally.

Dialects can vary, though (trust me, I'm a doctor ;-), so I'll take you at your word that you really can only read this sarcastically.

Jeff said...

Actually Green Agenda is the name for the NDP's environmental plan/cap and trade scheme:

Even if you don't see in sarcastic in the Turo context though, is it natural? It doesn't seem like a natural usage of language to me. It would be like saying so-called blogger idealistic pragmatist. Sure that's what you're called, but why am I saying so-called? Why not just say blogger idealistic pragmatist? Unless I'm trying to imply something.

Anyway, speaking of dialects, maybe its a Maratime thing...

Barcs said...

You have picked out why journalists annoy me so. Unlike you and me they claim to be unbiased.

You cherry-picked one that is anti-liberal (or atleast anti greenshift)

Kate picked out one off her cherry tree this week that is anti-west/conservative/etc.

Watch how many new services endorse a party or a person in an election and then try to tell us later that they are presenting an unbiased viewpoint.

In my opinion there is more journalists who lean left than right...

But then again. I am biased.

Red Tory said...

I think the so-called Idealistic Pragmatist is being rather willfully obtuse about this.

These days "so-called" is generally used in a sarcastic vein. The exception to that is when referencing a popular term that's used to describe a more complex phenomenon.

For example, if you were talking about the reduction in U.S. military spending following the collapse of the Soviet Union you might refer to the "so-called peace dividend." (Maybe not the best example, but the one that came first to mind. Science provides a lot of these. So-called Frankenfoods for genetically-modified produce, for one.)

In this case however, the program has actually been branded "The Green Shift" so it doesn't apply other than in the sarcastic, editorializing manner.

Bailey said...

To be honest, I think Nova Scotia and P.E.I. could potentially be hit hard by the Green Shift as the cost of home heating oil will rise even more and the majority of the people in those two provinces rely on home heating fuel not natural gas. It's something that Liberals have to be careful about when campaigning out east.

The Rat said...

What I love is how Ghiz supports it "as long as it doesn't hurt PEI". Wow, how big, how far seeing, how national in understanding he is! Of course, being a small non-energy producing province he can support it. And he can give that qualification without being called a separatist a la Garth Turner. How dare Alberta and Saskatchewan oppose the tax because it hurts their province

Saskboy said...

This whole "hurt" business is really wimpy. The POINT of the tax is to shift priorities from one industry to another, in a way that isn't completely destructive over night. That gives people years to rearrange, retrain, and rethink how they are living, so they become more efficient, consume less, and get all of us out of the pickle we're in.

The Rat said...

Saskboy, I hope you'll forgive this skeptical BCer if he thinks the point of switching from Cap and Trade to a Carbon tax was to finance all the goodies in Dion's "richer, fairer, greener" anti-poverty plan. And if it happens to hurt areas that don't vote Liberal more than areas that do, well, that's just a bonus

Jeff said...

What switch rat? The Liberal plan isn't just a carbon shift, it will also incorporate cap and trade. Neither in isolation is the answer. We need both, and the Liberal plan includes both.

The Rat said...

Umm, the switch where a year ago Dion was describing carbon taxes as the wrong way to go?