Truth decay

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.

Sluggo is lit


As you may have heard, Ernie Bushmiller’s comic Nancy has been dragged into the 21st century. Its new look is heavy on smartphones, selfie sticks, online videos, and other things all the cool kids are so interested in today.

It seems to me like a strange fate for a bizarre, minimalist comic that seemed to exist outside of time. Even in the ’60s and ’70s you had the feeling Ernie listened to the phonograph and kept his milk in the icebox.

In any event, my wife informs me that the term “Sluggo is lit” is now a meme. (Or at least it was last week. You know how these things go…)

I, of course, had no idea what this meant. Lit? Turns out Nancy is saying that Sluggo is awesome, exciting, or excellent. Which, of course, he is and always has been.

And the strip, despite its obsession with modern technology, is still pretty surreal.

And kind of lit.


The immersive, ultra-hooey, gibberish-forward experience

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.”

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A word I just learned

… reading the Strong Language blog. (Warning: the Strong Language blog is all about very rude words. You may be offended.)


n. (a term of abuse for) an insignificant, unscrupulous, or contemptible person (cf. wrastler, variant of wrestler n.).

1954   R. Jenkins Thistle & Grail (1994) iv. 61   Am I Carnegie, that I can throw away fourpence on that shower of chanty-wrastlers?
1988   G. M. Fraser Sheikh & Dustbin (1989) 41   A chanty-wrastler is a poseur, and unreliable.
2016   R. Gavin 3 of Kind 76   If ah get mah hands on that chanty wrassler.

From a new update to the Oxford English Dictionary.

(A “chanty” is a chamber pot.)



The Writing Life

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 Distrest Poet, by William Hogarth.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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.)

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The Liberal record, updated

 The Tyee has posted the final version of our look at 15 years of Liberal rule in British Columbia.

You can read the full story here.

117 BC Liberal Falsehoods, Boondoggles and Scandals: The Complete List

The Tyee’s updated tally of 15 years of public messes, sourced and explained.

TheTyee.caDavid Beers is founding editor of The Tyee and Tom Barrett is a long time contributor to The Tyee and before that covered B.C. politics for the Vancouver Sun. Grateful thanks to other Tyee team members who assisted in compiling this list and checking its accuracy.

[Editor’s note: This list, which combines the Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark eras, grew from an original 98 items published last week to 117 after we invited Tyee readers to suggest additions. Some definitions: By falsehood we mean promises broken or assertions that proved demonstrably untrue. By boondoggle we mean significant public money lost to waste, overruns, or ill-conceived initiatives. And by scandal we mean moments when government was revealed to have seriously broken rules or caused harm either deliberately or through neglect or incompetence. The Tyee chose these categories with the assumption that all voters, no matter their political leanings, would prefer their government tell the truth, spend money responsibly, and avoid embarrassing breaches of ethics or the law. We also present sidebar items that don’t fit the categories, but also aren’t anything a premier might put on her podium sign.]

The BC Liberal record, part 2

The second part of the Tyee’s look at the British Columbia Liberal party in power is up.

98 BC Liberal Falsehoods, Boondoggles and Scandals: The Clark Era 53

Part two of 15 years of public messes, sourced and explained. If we forgot any, please remind us.


David Beers is founding editor of The Tyee and Tom Barrett is a long time contributor to The Tyee and before that covered B.C. politics for the Vancouver Sun. Grateful thanks to other Tyee team members who assisted in compiling this list and checking its accuracy.


B.C.’s high-flying premier ran up more than half a million dollars in private jet flights during her first five years in office, at times managing to squeeze in Liberal party fundraisers among the government photo ops. On at least two occasions, Clark flew on jets chartered from companies owned by wealthy Liberal backers.

BOONDOGGLE: Stanley Cup Riot Report Topped $300K, No One to Blame

After the 2011 Stanley Cup riot, the government hired former Olympics boss John Furlong and Former Nova Scotia deputy attorney-general Doug Keefe to co-chair an inquiry. Their report was criticized for letting Canucks brass, senior bureaucrats, police and politicians off the hook. The inquiry did manage to go over its budget, though, running up a bill well over $300,000. Documents showed that Furlong billed for four hours of work the same day he spoke to the International Olympic Committee in South Africa….

Read the full story here.