The Ignorance Enabling Industry Comes To Canada

by Graham Cox last modified 2012-01-17T09:47:39-04:00
The Ignorance Peddlers have come to Canadian air-waves. They are turning off thoughtful people and undermining informed debate and comment. They are using Internet chatroom and comment thread antics, but it is organized and corporate-funded and has one goal: distort the message. Thinking people need to respond.

by Graham Cox — last modified Jan 14, 2012

Corporate-backed ignorance peddlers have come north to Canada to assault both the intelligence and ears of the Canadian news-watching public. As insulting as the arrogant grin on an oil executive's face saying sorry about the massive oil spill that put your livelihood out of business and as slick as your father's suit you wore to the high-school formal that is two sizes too small, these professional liars, cheats, and immoral peddlers of fairy-tales have invaded our country.

These ignorance enablers are focused on undermining thoughtful dialogue, interrupting informed analysis, and repeating contradiction-fueled and seizure-inducing corporate double speak in three-second message boxes.

We have all heard it on the US cable "news" shows from our neighbour to the south and we have all shaken our heads while reaching for the remote, wondering how the Americans had allowed the level of debate to fall so far. Around the world, people have wondered if it was the US education system, the short attention span of the MTV generation, that gives support to the proud to be an ignoramus culture that oozes from their cynical populist politics. In Canada, we had hoped it was a uniquely American fault and that our borders, even though open to all forms of content, would somehow keep it out. Well, it has turned out to be wishful thinking. The menace of the mega-corporation funded ignorance-producing industry has setup a base in Canada, and it has seemingly setup inside the Conservative Party's office of public relations.

Now, it is no secret, even to the world, that the vast majority of Canadians enjoy or even crave informed debate. We, in Canada, like watching people who know more than us tell us how it is, challenging us to think more critically. We do not take ourselves so seriously that we devolve into feces throwing exercises at the drop of a point that we disagree with. This is not just a Canadian trait, but I think it is generally recognized that Canadians have an abundance of this tolerant-to-alternative-views trait. It is because, if we cannot be as big and powerful as our neighbours to the south, we are at least going to be taken seriously by the rest of the world. We understand, like that old saying that starts "do onto others", that to get respect and to be taken seriously, one must dish-out the same to others.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the attitude that allows the cry-baby ignorance peddlers to operate so effectively in Canada. They have mastered the dubious art of rehearsed lines that make you feel bad for them because they do not get it or, in some cases question their sanity, and in the moment that you have paused to say "there, there, we can think through the problem" they, the Ignorance Peddlers, have turned on you like a rabid zombie, bit you on the leg and spewed another pre-packaged, freeze-dried line that at once attacks your man/woman-hood, calls you a traitor, and makes that tiny percent of ignoramuses accidentally watching the show feel good about themselves.

It is hard to know how to deal with these kind of people who are increasingly appearing on-air and in our papers, but the thinking people of Canada better figure it out soon. While it is not hard to spot these menaces as they are usually speaking on behalf of some mind-bendingly contradictory position (oil being ethical, good for nature mining, public services you pay for out-of-pocket being cheaper than those that are free), it is hard to limit their impact.

Of course, this is not a new problem. This new version of the charlatans, coming from the line of (ethical) snake-oil and Ponzi Scheme salespeople, however, are more dangerous. They now come with professional trickster certificates from university and one heck of a lot of money. The only way to deal with them is the same as before.

First, it is best just to identify and avoid, but when that fails, and you end up face-to-face with one on TV or radio, do all us thinking people a favour: call them out, tell them that they are hurting debate in the country, that the majority of people do not appreciate being dragged into the mud. Then immediately go back to the rational, informed comment you were so rudely interrupted from making. In short, follow the Internet comment-thread wisdom and don't feed the trolls.

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