People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.
The next time the man on the white horse comes in, he may not be so benign. He could be a real racial hater or a divider of people.
Jim Squires, one-time spokesperson for Ross Perot.
Squires made the comment after the 1992 U.S. election, which showed that millions of Americans were ready to go crazy for a thin-skinned, TV-adept billionaire who promised to shake things up in Washington, D.C.
Quoted in The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism,
by Steve Kornacki (p. 209)
With politics around the world increasingly characterized by lies, fear, and anger, Frontline, on the U.S. PBS network, is looking at how Facebook has been used to drive voters apart.
John Doyle reviewed the show in the Globe and Mail and offers this observation:
At the core of the matter is one key discovery about social media that’s not new any more: Fear and anger create ‘greater engagement’ online and therefore more advertising value.
Think about that for a minute. Irrational garbage isn’t an unintended consequence of social media — it’s part of the business model.
Lucy Kellaway is my hero.
Kellaway recently wrote a column for the Financial Times that is the best thing I’ve read in a long time.
Before I stumbled over this piece via Twitter, I had never heard of Lucy Kellaway. Nor, I’m sure, has she ever heard of me. Sadly, it’s a valedictory column of a sort, in which she sums up her long and futile campaign against corporate codswallop.
“For nearly a quarter of a century,” she writes,* “I have been writing columns telling business people to stop talking rot. For the same amount of time they have been taking no notice.”
When she began, she believed corporate jargon had become so ridiculous that people would soon come to their senses and begin using plain English again. No such luck.
“Over the past two decades, two things have happened. Business bullshit has got a million per cent more bullshitty, and I’ve stopped predicting a correction in the marketplace.”
James Ralph was an 18th-century content creator, scratching out a living in England’s New Economy. In an age of political, social and technological upheaval, life could be precarious for those who kept the printing presses stoked with words.
Writing in 1758, Ralph said “there is no Difference between the Writer in his Garret, and the Slave in the Mines; but that the former has his Situation in the Air, and the latter in the Bowels of the Earth: Both have their Tasks assigned them alike: Both must drudge and starve; and neither can hope for Deliverance.”
The quote comes from The Age of Authors: An Anthology of Eighteenth-Century Print Culture, a remarkable collection of writing about writing and the plight of writers. Editor Paul Keen writes that Ralph was “often dismissed as a Grub Street hack writer,” but managed to produce some important work, including the essay quoted above.
The essay, The Case of Authors By Profession or Trade, Stated, marks the decline of the era when writers relied on patrons. The new commercial model of publishing was generating profits that were being denied to those slaves in the garrets, Ralph argued.
In the new world of letters, anyone, it seemed, could be an author – even women. (Anyone, that is, who belonged to the educated classes. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the literacy rate in Great Britain rose above 60 per cent.)
The second part of the Tyee’s look at the British Columbia Liberal party in power is up.
The Tyee has just published the story below, which lists some of the more dubious elements of the British Columbia Liberal government’s record. I played a small part in creating it, along with David Beers and a bunch of other Tyee folks.
Thomas Vinciguerra has written a hopeful piece for the Columbia Journalism Review that looks at the unlikely Internet stardom of copy editors.
Says Mark Allen, of the American Copy Editors Society:
People are getting more information than they ever have, whether it’s in ink or electronically. People want to read, and they want to read without stumbling. And that’s where the copy editor comes in. The copy editor is the bridge who keeps the writer from tripping up.
You can find most anything online, including a million reasons to believe that most folks these days think clear writing went out with the Lindy Hop. But here – on the Internet! – is proof you don’t have to leave your readers stumbling around like a bunch of drunks in a sack race.
My campaign to have “shitgibbon” declared the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2017 is gaining momentum with a ground-breaking revelation in the search for the term’s origin.
“I’m surprised and delighted that a word I made up in the 1980s to insult British indie rock stars has resurfaced in the context of 21st century US politics and the shitgibbon in the White House,” Quantick told Zimmer. “It’s bizarre and a very odd journey for a very silly word.”
From the irksome Mark E. Smith to a strange-haired delusionist strongman is indeed an odd journey. Let’s hope the Oxford folks are listening.
(By the way, I’m following Zimmer’s practice and dropping the hyphen from “shitgibbon.” As the Canadian Press Stylebook notes, “in North America, the tendency is to drop the hyphen as soon as a new compound becomes familiar.” I say it’s time we all got familiar with this exemplary bit of invective.)
It’s a key question, given the swarm of public opinion reports on the horizon.
By Tom Barrett
In recent weeks, pollsters have asked us questions about UFOs, cyberscams, the coming federal election and Metro Vancouver’s transit plebiscite. But there’s one question many of us are asking the pollsters: Why should we believe you?
The 2013 B.C. election fail did for the polling industry what the Hindenburg did for the dirigible as the last word in air safety. Since then, pollsters have been struggling to find ways to better measure what we’re thinking.
For pollsters, there’s no money in asking questions about elections and releasing the numbers to the media. They do it as a marketing tool to attract clients who want to know what people think about, say, shampoo.
Because the numbers in marketing surveys are difficult to verify, calling elections correctly is one of the few ways pollsters can show they know their stuff. Calling elections correctly, however, is becoming increasingly difficult. And bum results don’t attract clients.
University of British Columbia political science professor Richard Johnston said he understands their plight. “If I were in the firms I would almost ask myself, ‘Is it worth it to be in the prediction business?'” he said.
But if pollsters quit doing public polls, voters are left with less information, said Johnston. Voters have a valid interest in knowing how their fellow citizens are going to vote because it allows them to decide how to vote most effectively, he said. “If you can’t make sense of the polling information, then what do you do?” Continue reading