Category Archives: Psychology

Globe and Mail’s Irony: Calling The Yes Men Cynical

The Globe and Mail‘s editorial yesterday calling the Yes Men cynical is a classic example of psychological projection, calling another group cynical when corporate media today cannot likely be any more cynical.

The entire editorial is below, but here are ten comments about how deluded the editorial department at the Globe and Mail is.

  1. We live in a post-modern world, if not a post-post-modern world. Corporate media is modernist by design; its paradigm is authoritatively objective, one-way, profit-driven, broadcast and top-down. That sounds pretty jaded to me. The Yes Men can only be seen as jaded because they no longer recognize the primacy of modernist corporate media as being much of a useful force in society unless it is subverted and manipulated.
  2. Since the medium is the message, increasing proportions of the population are rejecting the message of corporate media’s medium.
  3. The Daily Show and Colbert Report are not anomalies today, but they do threaten corporate media’s monopoly over news/truth/opinion. In fact, just today someone’s again writing about how newspapers could even have a future!
  4. The Globe and Mail got quite badly punked by the Yes Men in Copenhagen in December, as did all other corporate media. In fact, much corporate media in Canada showed themselves with their pants down when they recently reported the death of Gordon Lightfoot while he listened to it all on the radio while in his dentist’s chair. Fact-check much?
  5. Suggesting the Yes Men are the actual threat to the believability of all forms of communication is laughable since corporate mainstream media are constantly guilty of suppressing critically important news while promoting their neoliberal politics and politicians while marketing sensationalism for maximizing their corporate profit.
  6. Suggesting that all forms of communication are threatened by the Yes Men is itself sensationalist, reactionary and further proof that the editorial staff doesn’t really get post-modernism in media…but then how could they, they are the established paradigm.
  7. The first half of the editorial describes the Yes Men antics, thereby demonstrating the potency of their brand of satire with free publicity.
  8. While the Globe editors are correct in describing satire as a “legitimate form of comment,” their demand that there be “sufficient warning for the public” indicates a few things. The Globe editors didn’t get the joke in Copenhagen and feel embarrassed. They think the public is too stupid to get ironic messages. Again, see The Daily Show and Colbert Report. Those in the public who are duped need to learn the lesson that we should question information authorities and verify sources, then compare stated messages with confirmed messages. Then we need to evaluate in our own minds what policies ought to be. This is the point of satire, which the Globe editors are clearly missing.
  9. Their example about no one ever showing up for real free concerts in Missoula is a small risk to society as a whole that is being constantly misinformed by corporate media neglecting its investigatory role.
  10. I refuse to allow the Globe editorial staff to be the ones to inspire me to ask the question of whether anyone believes a message. Corporate media is so compromised when it comes to truth, they have very little standing to even pose that question. That they end their editorial with it, with presumably a straight face, is laughable.
  11. A bonus comment: ultimately, I hope I am being duped by an editorial that is actually ironic in itself. That perhaps the Globe actually welcomes the antics of the Yes Men and their disciples and have written this editorial in an attempt to mock their own paradigm. If so, I will gladly tip my hat to them. But I’m not holding my breath.
May 23, 2010

Say no to the jaded world view of the Yes Men

From Monday’s Globe and Mail

Their ilk threatens the believability of all forms of communications.

Gresham’s Law holds that devalued money eventually drives out good money. The more inferior currency floating around, the harder it is for people to believe in the real thing. The same goes for the news.

Last week, a widely circulated news release claimed, “Shell halts Nigerian offshore drilling in visionary new remediation plan.” The document carried a Shell logo at the top and was distributed via a legitimate-looking website. At the bottom was a media-relations contact number (answered by a real person) and all the standard legal boilerplate. The message: After the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, Shell was halting all its drilling operations in the Niger River delta and embarking on an $8-billion environmental rehabilitation program.

It was, of course, entirely bogus.

A group calling itself the Nigerian Justice League later claimed credit for the ruse, saying they drew their inspiration from the Yes Men, a group of anti-corporate pranksters familiar to Canadians. In December, before the Copenhagen climate change summit, the Yes Men produced a realistic-looking press release purportedly from federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice, claiming Canada was adopting strict carbon-emissions targets and donating $13-billion to Africa. It was accompanied by a fake Wall Street Journal article, a fake endorsement from a Ugandan politician and, later, a fake retraction by Mr. Prentice. All this to draw attention to what the Yes Men considered Canada’s lack of commitment on climate change.

Both pranks got enough press coverage to be considered successes by the perpetrators. With the Yes Men now drawing eager imitators, we’ll likely be seeing much more of this sort of thing. And that’s bad news for everyone.

Satire is a legitimate form of comment. But it requires a deft hand; and sufficient warning for the public to get the joke. A recent prank in Missoula, Montana, falsely promoted a free thank-you concert being staged by Smurfit-Stone, a container company, and Macy’s department store, two firms that recently shut operations in the city. But to what greater purpose? It had no discernible impact on the corporations in question. And if Missoula ever hosts a free concert in the future, no one will show up.

The jaded world view of the Yes Men and copycat pranksters threatens the believability of all forms of communications. It could eventually undermine the very kinds of positive achievements the activists claim to demand.

Consider the historic truce last week between environmental groups and the Canadian forestry industry on logging practices. It seems such a surprising and radical departure from both sides’ normal behaviour, after years of animosity, that it might easily be considered a prank. In fact it is very good news. But will anyone believe it?

Reports from Haiti by CUPE and the Red Cross

Claude Genereux, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE, Canada’s largest union, shares his impressions on where Haiti is at 4 months after their devastating earthquake, which compounded the neoliberal economic earthquake Canada and others have been perpetrating on Haiti for decades.

Saddest for me is the lack of time and opportunity for children to play. This is why we have Clowns Without Borders.

Here is a brief, yet expansive report from the Canadian Red Cross. There are more details at the Canadian Red Cross Haiti page. Hurricane season is coming. We need to keep building relationships to restore and enhance stability compared to where they were before.

Pettiness: the Defining Quality of Politicians?

I regret to say that in the 21st century so far, I see little gravitas and profound pettiness among politicians and political operatives. With a dozen or so exceptions, the gang is not up to the challenge of integrity.

Last night I watched the movie The Contender [see here and here]. Nice film. Full of manipulation, ego, opportunism, a light dose of self-righteous McCarthyism, gender politics and an appeal at the end for people to choose integrity when it’s just as easy not to.

It was made in 2000, so it missed the decade of cynicism, lies and despair that we’ve seen, but even if it were a worse movie it still provided a litmus test we can use to determine if someone in politics [elected or otherwise] is worth your time. Just how petty are they?

Cynicism and self-absorption are one thing, but real pettiness encompasses those and other discouraging traits.

So if pettiness is currently the defining quality of politicians, we are truly in a shitty state. And is it any wonder why so many people of substance are avoiding the traditional political arena, choosing to make a difference elsewhere.

Don’t expect voter turnout to start climbing back up any time soon. The people seem to be using the pettiness scale already and I don’t expect they’ll stop.

Emotional Emancipation

As a Jungian, poet and former high school English teacher, I should say that the following two songs and music videos are a solid and inspiring testament to the human process of emotional emancipation and liberation that comes from rejecting manufactured consumer culture. Aaaaaaaaaaah.

Jaded, by the way, is right up there as one of the perfect rock songs along with Born to Run, Blinded by the Light, Year of the Knife and about 4 songs from The Wall. A nice bonus.

View and enjoy and if you need to download my lesson plan for how I used to teach these videos, just let me know. 🙂

On Carole James Being a Woman

On Monday and Tuesday I wrote about reasons I had been hearing from people about why they think we lost the election. It was a list of reasons I had heard, presented in no particular order.

The only order jigging I did was to put my belief at the end, the one about engaging with members and the progressive social movement in BC that I contributed to Think Forward BC NDP.

In describing the category of reasons why people think we lost that dealt with Carole James, among the 5 reasons I included that people were suggesting, one of them was that she is a woman.

Not explicitly writing that I don’t necessarily believe this list of explanations of the electoral loss meant I left some ambiguity about what I do believe.

I don’t believe we lost the election because of any of the first 8 categories of reasons, including that our leader is a woman. I believe we lost because we alienated our members who chose to not fund, volunteer for or vote for a party that no longer reflected what they felt the party should be.  I don’t think it was the gender of the leader.

I think people who don’t think women should be premier wouldn’t vote NDP anyway. I have also talked to party members who were concerned about having a female leader because they feared sexist voters wouldn’t vote for the party. But like I said, I don’t think they’d vote NDP anyway.

The sexist reality of this province is that one’s gender can be an element in their political success or failure. There are also racist elements in the political culture in BC. We don’t talk about either of them too much, though. They are very touchy subjects, understandably.

But we need to talk about race and gender and all sorts of demographic issues that unjustifiably bias the public’s political decision-making.

These are real issues to discuss, not in the context of deciding how to let racism and sexism sway our political existence, but to figure out how to build a progressive society in BC that is beyond this kind of bigotry.

Two days ago, Carole James discussed one example of this bigotry in politics:

“It’s difficult for women because you can be seen as shrill very easily,” Ms. James said. “You can be seen as haranguing in a way that men aren’t. When you take on tough issues I think there’s also a tougher standard for women to find that balance.”

What kind of civilized, enlightened society exists in which a provincial political party leader who happens to be a woman has to moderate her political existence to accommodate troubling perceptions in the population? It turns out, ours. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a few things to say about how we ought to judge people. Decades later, we still have a way to go.

And when we voted for an equity policy at the 2007 convention, there was much debate: uncomfortable and touchy, but necessary.

This weekend we’ll receive the Equity Mandate Report and decide what to do in the future to encourage more diversity in NDP candidacies.

Having had the pleasure of watching the equity policy contribute to a number of successes like Mable Elmore’s election in Vancouver-Kensington, I will encourage continued discussion about the various forms of bigotry that exist in our political culture, with a goal of moving past it.

I voted for the equity policy in 2007 and I will vote for the new Mandate recommendations this weekend.

Dialogue is important.

It isn’t always easy and it is often cumbersome to the point of wondering if it’s worth it. But in a progressive political party, earnest members of good intentions deserve the space and the freedom to discuss controversial subjects in a productive way.

While I don’t think we lost either of the last 2 elections because our leader is a woman, some people still do. And that is worth discussing because if we don’t, the elephant in the room will remain, which is what we’re trying to avoid when we examine equity issues in the first place.

The Sick Government BCers Just Re-Elected

$2m is less than 50 cents/resident of BC.

Matt Good’s profound review of contradictions in, around, during and after Woodlands will pummel your soul, but in a good way, unless you’re a heartless misanthropist. And this first bit is just emblematic of how this government views its social responsibilities:

In 2005, Stan Hagen, BC’s Children and Family Development Minister, claimed that the Provincial government did not subscribe to the view that systematic abuse took place at Woodlands despite the fact that in 2002 the Provincial government issued an official apology to some 1,500 survivors of Woodlands, Essondale, Valleyview, and Tranquille. Unfortunately, the $2 million dollars promised to provide counseling for them has never materialized.

Decades ago, as families picnicked across the highway in Queen’s Park, children were being tortured within view of it. The headstones of those unclaimed victims of Woodlands were, over the years, thrown in the nearby ravine, used to build a staff barbecue patio and stairs, and 1,800 of them were ripped out of the ground in late 70’s so that a park could be built. All that is left now is a small memorial that some believe to be enough to mark their passing, a small park in which local residents allow their dogs to defecate and urinate, were graffiti defames shattered headstones.

via » Archive » A Cannon In My Chest.

Bill Bennett: King of Plausible Deniability!

The ad reads, “You want someone who pays taxes and is concerned about how the money is being spent,” underneath a photo of Bennett and his family and a slogan that reads, “He’s one of us.”

So Kootenay East Liberal Party candidate Bill Bennett did it again. First his campaign planned to host a beer night at a pub, advertising free beer. Bennett claims it was not his idea, but some over-zealous person on his campaign. Plausible deniability. Have a seat in your throne, Mr. Bennett!

Now he runs an ad talking about how voters want to elect someone who pays taxes BLAH BLAH BLAH. I’m trying to think of a provincial politician in a scandal about not paying taxes. Maybe that’s why he mentioned that idea.

Tom Daschle lost his chance at a cabinet post because of tax problems. Oh, wait. He was looking for a spot in Obama’s cabinet.

Ok, there appears to be no obvious context for him to make that comment, unless not living in Kootenay East means I’m missing out on some local controversy.

It is only when you look at the heredity and policies of his opponents do we see value in the statement.

NDP candidate Troy Sebastian belongs to the Ktunaxa First Nation and lives on an Indian Reserve so is exempt from federal and provincial taxes under the Indian Act. Wilf Hanni, leader of the BC Conservatives, and one of his party’s top contenders for winning a riding, is opposed to the governing Liberals’ Recognition and Reconciliation Act.

Bennett has recently broken with party policy to also oppose the new relationship, all to remove one of Wilf Hanni’s greatest wedge issues. He has also run ads recently that neglected to include the Liberal Party branding, since it carries such a stink to it these days.

So, if Bennett is more crafty than daft, his tax comment is all about continuing to remove Hanni’s wedge and play the race card against his NDP opponent. Plausible deniability exists again. Here is your scepter, Mr. Bennett!

And while daft and clueless [and arrogant and out of touch, the quite accurate NDP mantra against the Liberals] are possibilities, my money is on Bennett being crafty, sneaking free beer and racism against First Nations in because he is desperate to keep a seat he only barely won.

And in the end, he’s in trouble either way. If he’s too daft and clueless to see how free beer and a comment about paying taxes might be spun badly, why would anyone vote for him as their MLA?

And if he’s crafty, then he’s a lying, scheming, opportunist who will flip on party policy and attack an opponent by pandering to racists, and that is not a person worthy of representing any British Columbians, except of course for Liberal voters who happen to be bigots.

But then again, the BC Liberal Party has a convicted drunk driving for a premier, a former mayor under criminal investigation, a now-resigned cabinet member with a suspended driver’s license, a few others with drunk driving or a plethora of moving violations and a homophobe. And don’t get me started on the sick and disgusting things I heard come out of Harry Bloy’s mouth during question period while I was sitting in the gallery several years ago when there were two female NDP MLAs in the house. That vitriol steams me to this day.

And while the NDP has its share of candidates with some speeding tickets, the trophy with the headless bowler goes to the Liberals for either criminal or madly anti-social behaviour–and don’t get me started either on how anti-social their policies have been for 8 years.

So in the end, Bennett seems more crafty than daft to me, in part because he would fit right in with his party.

So when you go vote tomorrow, Saturday and Tuesday, if you live in Kootenay East, ask yourself if Bill Bennett is just stupid or a lying racist. Whichever answer you get, make sure you don’t vote for him.

Regrets? Super-Human Gordon Campbell Won’t Tell

If we have learned anything about new higher expectations of politicians in the 21st century, it’s that they have to acknowledge they aren’t perfect. Obama gets it, Bush and Campbell clearly don’t.

It was astonishing to watch Campbell interviewed on the CBC tonight. When asked at the end if he could do anything over from his eight years as premier, he said there were things but refused to give an example, instead embracing his “tough choices” mantra. What about drunk driving in Maui? Come on.

Sure, one political stance is to say it’s a sign of weakness to admit you ever have made a mistake. It means you aren’t resolute and it gives ammunition to your enemies. But none of that matters. We know they aren’t super-human. Maui?

Bush admitted the Mission Accomplished banner on the air craft carrier was a regret, as was goading terrorists to attack by saying “bring ’em on.” But Bush only admitted these things after Obama was elected and he was a lame duck president.

Obama, on the other hand, admitted on CNN just two weeks into his administration that it was a mistake suggesting Tom Daschle for Secretary of Health and Human Services because of his past tax problems.

Here’s how Obama expressed himself: 

“I’ve got to own up to my mistake. Ultimately, it’s important for this administration to send a message that there aren’t two sets of rules — you know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.”

What kind of weakness lies in this statement? What kind of signal that the president is not resolute? How does this admission of an error bring any more ammunition to opponents than the fact that it was a mistake? Admitting it did not cause any further criticism of his nomination of Daschle. In fact, admitting he made a mistake probably defused the problem faster than otherwise.

Gordon Campbell is a dinosaur. Obama has led us all to have higher expectations from our public servants.

Last week, Gordon Campbell tossed a loonie to a striking paramedic, saying “don’t spend it all in one place.” How many of us remember a drunk Alberta Premier Ralph Klein wandering into a homeless shelter demanding explanations for why they don’t have jobs, then tossing some cash on the floor? He admitted to a drinking problem and 2/3 of Albertans forgave him. And while Campbell apologized for Maui, on the CBC tonight he couldn’t bring himself to mention even that as an example.

Then Campbell parroted an absurd line from liquor privateers that an NDP increase in the minimum wage from $8 to $10/hour would raise the price of a 6-pack of beer by the same percentage. The arithmetic inherent in that analysis is pathetic and wrong. Campbell, who criticizes Carole James for lacking business experience though he himself has spent most of his adult life in politics, should have been able to do some arithmetic to conclude that the data is shoddy. Liberal apologists all over BC have been claiming that he was given wrong information. Right, I see.

Then on Sunday during the leaders debate, he patronized Carole James by admonishing her with his brilliant insight that his job is big and hard to get a handle on, implying that she might be too stupid to do the job. Polls indicate women are far more likely to support the NDP. So was he pandering to the sexist male element of his base to get out their vote by insulting a woman? I think so, but that’s hard to tell, Perhaps we can make up our own minds when we think about why yesterday he cancelled an upcoming CBC radio debate with Carole James. That may be his backwards way of admitting that it’s wrong to call someone stupid like that.

Finally, today he refused to tell a reporter what he wishes he could do over again, though he acknowledged there were things. He should have been infinitely grateful that he wasn’t asked why he cancelled his CBC radio debate. Instead, he put on his bold, resolute hat and refused to discuss it and instead spun his tough choices. That’s his prerogative certainly. But it says something about the man. This also helps explain why John van Dongen waited a week before telling the premier that he had his drivers license revoked. Clearly, there is a dysfunctional lack of humility in the Liberal Party.

It is simply sheer arrogance to refuse to discuss mistakes.

And in the 21st century, voters will not stand for it. We have seen Obama admit mistakes and British Columbians want and deserve that same kind of political integrity.

Gordon Campbell and his party are thoroughly incapable of delivering it.

Politics, Re-Spun on Coop Radio, 5.4.09, a Vista Video Podcast

On Monday, May 4, 2009, Politics, Re-Spun met Coop Radio on “The Rational”, a Monday evening issues program. This is the second visit, with the next scheduled for Monday, May 11th, the night before the BC provincial election.

Imtiaz Popat and I talked about the leaders debate last night, how horribly condescending and unprofessional Gordon Campbell was, how the parties are polling, why STV is so important, all parties’ environmental plans that generally need to be far more expansive and robust, how the BC Conservatives’ leader, Wilf Hanni, will beat BC Liberal Bill Bennett [not that Socred guy] in Kootenay East, the carbon tax, the Port Mann bridge, the Gateway project, who will win the election, how much corruption in candidates the BC Liberals tolerate, why Mel Lehan will likely defeat Gordon Campbell in Point Grey, John van Dongen’s teflon political career, and the importance of voting on Wednesday to Saturday in the advance polls to set the trend of a higher voter turnout which will signal a change in government…so vote early! But we didn’t get to how Campbell cancelled his upcoming CBC radio debate with Carole James because of how poorly he did last night, and we again missed a chance to debrief the Billy Bob Thornton mayhem.

The video podcast of the conversation lives at Vista Video. 

You can watch it in Miro, the best new open source multimedia viewing software:


You can watch it in iTunes: itpc://


The podcast file is at