Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Canadian Conservatism

Babble on.

Kate at small dead animals has received a most interesting e-mail:

I work for a fairly prominent Conservative politician and am quite interested in hearing how you think blogs could be used to change the dynamic in Canada.
Having seen first hand how the media could twisted and spun the Conservatives in the last election I am highly eager to see the blogosphere develop into a actual force that can counteract the Globe/CBC/Toronto Star near stranglehold on the Canadian media. So far I don't think it's happened and if you have suggestions as to what politicians can to do encourage it I would interested in hearing about it.

As tz says in her opening comment to that post: such a kettle of fish you've opened.

There are two separate questions in that e-mail that form part of a bigger question. First, how can we increase the general influence of conservative bloggers? Second, how can the conservative political establishment help in this process? The answers to these questions lead inexorably to this: the intent of creating a conservative voice to counter the media chorus from the left isn’t for it to become a comfortable but impotent echo chamber. It is for the conservative voice to win currently liberal minds and hearts over to our side, and thus eventually see our great country governed in a way that befits a great country.

A kettle of fish, indeed.

The comments section of Kate’s post is filling up with insights, and is well worth reading: Dr. tz and Jay Currie offer up some fantastic ideas. But I’d like to focus on The Flea for a moment:

But this should be our primary main objective: bring Fox News to Canadian basic cable. Without the support of CBS rivals on television and radio it is doubtful even Matt Drudge could have called enough attention to the yeoman work of LGF, Powerline and INDC Journal [regarding the Rathergate fiasco].

Beyond the question of whether Fox would be the best choice for Canadian conservatism (Kevin has good things to say, and it can't be worse than this, for gawdsake), I think Nick makes a critical underlying point here: that the blogosphere at its most effective has a symbiotic relationship with the MSM, not simply an adversarial one. Small blogs need larger ones to get their stories out (hence the importance of an Instalanche). And like it or not, even the largest blogs still need the mainstream media to push the largest stories into – stay with me here – the mainstream where they can have a real effect on life outside the pixelated online world.

The Voldemort affair is a prime example. My hundred readers (and Patrick’s) would have been the only ones privy to the tactics used had not some of the bigger blogs picked up the story. And even now, nobody outside the blog community knows what happened, because he MSM didn’t care enough about it (rightly so in this case). It was a small echo-chamber victory.

How do we move beyond the echo-chamber? Political blogging is not a standalone activity. We rely on a support network of information sources. And here in Canada, that network isn't strong enough.

Adam Daifallah has run with this idea, and opined in a column a few months back about the creation of a conservative infrastructure in this country:

Wealthy, conservative-minded benefactors must come forward with the dedication and resources necessary to fund alternative media. New foundations and think-tanks must be endowed. Political campaign schools must be started to find and train Canada's Reagan. Without a stable of intelligent, articulate and ideological writers, thinkers and political activists, conservative ideas are bound to continue to fall on deaf ears.

The seeds of this movement exist -- in organizations such as the National Citizens' Coalition and the Fraser Institute, and in media like these comment pages and the feisty new Western Standard magazine. But these efforts have their hands full competing with a billion-dollar-a-year behemoth like the CBC or the litany of government-funded groups and organizations promoting leftist causes with our own tax dollars.

He’s right. I haven’t yet bought the Western Standard article he’s written that expands upon the column quoted above, but you can bet I will. And I'll be supporting important initiatives like Billy as they come online. You can’t change an overwhelmingly liberal political culture overnight, no matter what we in pajamastan might want to believe.

Which, in an extremely roundabout way, brings me back to the two questions posed by Kate’s correspondent.

Bloggers can counteract the leftist MSM bias in Canada by continuing to do what we’re already doing: blog like pitbulls with a sore tooth. Fisk like Tarantino. Inspire like Flea. Dissect and ridicule like Kate. Analyze like The Tiger, or Chris Taylor. Rant like Dr. Monger or Occam's Carbuncle. And continue to grow like by supporting some of the best of the newer blogs: Shenanigans, Jerry Aldini, and others I haven’t even discovered yet.

The conservative political establishment, such as it is, can support this tectonic shift by acknowledging bloggers. Grant an exclusive interview to someone like Damian Penny or Kevin Jaeger or Sean McCormick. Let the political guerrillas of the blogosphere have the information we need to be effective. We have jobs and families and we do this mostly for free. We rely on the MSM for information because we haven't the time or the resources to dig this stuff up by ourselves. Keep us in the loop – but as Dr. tz says, “don't try to control blogdom” because it will blow up in your face. With the notable exception of Liberal lawyers, we play by our own rules down here, and we resent any attempt to manipulate, so don’t even bother.

The glacier is moving in the right direction. It will take some time, but it won’t be stopped.

Babble off.


At 3:02 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

I applaud your efforts B., but for God's sake shoot higher than Fox News. If you guys are serious about creating a conservative alternative, at least make it a Canadian conservative alternative. We don't need an echo chamber for warmed over Republican spin lines. We need conservative voices who reflect Canadian circumstances. I am sure you are probably thinking along those lines anyway, but Fox raises all kinds of flags.

At 4:33 p.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Great post Damian, and I don't say that just because I earned an honourable mention.

Blogs do have a symbiotic relationship with the MSM, and without mainstream coverage, blog stories never gain widespread traction. In our triumphalism over Memogate and Bombgate we often overlook that salient fact. Blogs plant the seeds and the MSM waters them.

Canada does lack a viable conservative voice in most media sectors. I had high hopes for the National Post, but since Lord Black's flight it has become a pale shadow of the Globe & Mail. On the TV front, things are even bleaker; CRTC permits no conservative contenders there.

I'd go one step further though. Wealthy conservative philathropists are a boon but not a requirement. Each of us can help out by getting a subscription to the Western Standard, or a donation to the Fraser Institute. Sometimes the things in the Standard can bore me to tears because they are so focused on Western concerns. But I choose to support them with a subscription so that in the future, one hopes, they'll be able to cover conservative concerns in Ontario and the East with the same vigor.

The little guys have to support conservative enterprises to demonstrate that there is an audience and a market hungering for these viewpoints. The rich guys (left or right) will get involved once it's apparent there's money to be made by servicing this market.

At 11:12 p.m., Blogger Sean McCormick said...

Thank you for the props, but the truth is that I'm something of a wingnut and I blog for therapy. Anyone who takes me seriously probably has worse problems than I do (and mine are considerable).

BTW, Billy's site is live now:


Plz feel free to stop by, kick the tires, and give us some feedback.

At 1:44 a.m., Blogger Captain Flynn said...

Hi, a voice from the left here.

It is very interesting reading this, and I wish you all the luck.

The one thing I'd like to offer from my perspective is in regards to the CBC. Conservatives, might, at the very outside be able to make CBC TV into an NPR-type listener/ad supported network. But I honestly think it would be impossible to modify CBC Radio in any drastic way from its current form.

I wonder then, if the goal of the Conservative movement to win Canadians to their message might not be served well by trying to get this message onto the CBC? You might only get a token show, like those to the left of the Liberals do (eg Counterspin) -- but if this show was on CBC radio, it would reach all Canadians.

I understand your position does not accept the CBC, but you would be missing a great opportunity. Just my two cents...

--the blogger formerly known as Simon

At 2:01 a.m., Blogger Sean McCormick said...

My only particular objection to the CBC is that I'm footing part of their bill. If they were a private company I wouldn't give a tinker's damn what they do or how biased their programming is.

I would regard being forced to pay for Fox News as being equally repugnant.

At 2:09 a.m., Blogger Sean McCormick said...

My only particular objection to the CBC is that I'm footing part of their bill. If they were a private company I wouldn't give a tinker's damn what they do or how biased their programming is.

I would regard being forced to pay for Fox News as being equally repugnant.

At 2:41 p.m., Blogger Captain Flynn said...

How do you feel about helping fund public libraries? After all, there are tons of books holding opinions dymetrically opposed to ones own.

At 2:56 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

I'll bite on that one, Simon.

If the public library bought 9 liberal books for every conservative book on their shelves, I'd be pissed off and resent funding it.

CBC News can't even pretend they present balanced coverage anymore.

At 6:54 p.m., Blogger Captain Flynn said...

That's what I thought the answer would be -- but I thought it was worth a try :-)

I actually agree with your description of the CBC, but with one distinction -- fiscal conservatism vs. social conservatism.

I believe the CBC does give a balanced view of fiscal conservatism _in the Canadian context_ -- which means a larger role for the state than in some other countries. The debt-reduction and the passge of NAFTA in the 1990s could not have been accomplished if all media were not onside in Canada, and that includes CBC TV. The CBC newscasts through this time period supported NAFTA and debt reduction.

On social conservatism though, you are right. In the last campaign CBC radio was giving Stephen Harper generally fair converage. That completely changed when hints of social conservatism came out (the pro-life comments, the Randy White interview). It was kind of amazing.

My opinion is, distrust of social conservatism is ingrained in our elite because of the problems of intolerance in the past. The example I usually use is the Orange Order of 19th century Ontario that prevented Francophones from participating in the life of the large country. When they finally stood, it was almost the end of Canada. So, I guess, even the whiff of intolerance sets off alarm bells.

Some Conservatives seem to sense this. Peter MacKay called social conservatism the "nuclear bomb". So I guess I would ask, how important is social conservatism to the new Conservative movement?

At 10:30 p.m., Blogger Sean McCormick said...

"How do you feel about helping fund public libraries?"

I'm all for privately operated libraries. The concept works well with DVD rentals, so why not carry it over to books?

At 10:33 p.m., Blogger Sean McCormick said...

"So I guess I would ask, how important is social conservatism to the new Conservative movement?"

You'd best ask a socon that. I'm pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and generally don't give a tinker's damn what people do in the privacy of their own homes so long as they aren't harming me or mine.

I'm no fan of social engineering, and view the crap that comes out of both Ottawa and The Vatican with equal contempt.

At 5:43 p.m., Blogger Doug said...

Lol! That's the first time I've ever seen Ottawa and the Vatican equated in any way...

FNC to Canada might make some brute-force ideological headroom, but it's not an answer. Canada needs its own FNC. There is at least one generation of Canadian kids who have rarely encountered another point of view - FNC might introduce or reinforce a few ideas, but not in relevent ways to them. I think they need to see and understand how the ideas apply to Canadian issues to have any basis for evaluation.


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