Tuesday, May 22, 2012

And I'm back.

Since leaving the academy -- gladly, willingly -- I've found myself a position at a media monitoring company. The basic idea is that corporations, unions and other organizations approach us with a set of keywords and topics they want us to find in newscasts, including print, tv and radio sources. The system automagically pulls relevant chunks of the broadcasts that contain the keywords, but these then have to be inspected for relevance by folks like me.

So, that's what I do. I also, however, have to skim through four nightly commentary shows on Sun News Network, pulling out the topics that are discussed in each segment. (This then goes into a larger report which is sent to part of the federal government.) And, generally, it's driving me frickin' crazy as Sun seems to be involved in some sort of outreach project to the terminally stupid.

Okay, to be fair, Daily Brief is watchable. David Akin is slanted, but at least he's honest and intelligent, and has a genuine sense of humour. I watched him interview Tom Mulcair a little bit ago and, while he was tough, he was also scrupulous and decent. So, I don't mind that one so much. It's also, I note, the least opinionated of the four, so that might be helping.

I also have to watch The Arena, hosted by the fortunately inimitable Michael Coren. Good lord, but the man is a smug bigot. Every show has something about the evil scary Moozlemz and the threat they pose to sweet innocent Christians like him. And that alternates with sneering at people whose views differ from his, while simultaneously complaining that people sneer at him for having differing views! Last night he opened with some maudlin nonsense about a childhood friend -- who I have no reason to believe existed -- who ended up killing himself. Not sure what that had to do with Victoria Day, but there you go.

Then comes Adler, hosted by everyone's favourite creepy uncle, Charles Adler. The opening segments of this show are hilarious, if only because they are completely incoherent. It's pure stream of consciousness, as delivered by a fragmented and uninformed consciousness. Then there's Coren-esque sneering at everyone who dares disagree with the mighty Adler, plus a lot of pandering to old folks. (I have no particular problem with old folks, but 15-20 minutes of "young people don't know how good they have it" every day is a tish bit tiresome.)

And, finally, Byline, hosted by Brian Lilley, the man for whom the word "git" was invented. Insufferable and hypocritical, Lilley's show is little more than the sound of the bottom of the barrel being scraped. For example, one show -- I swear this is true -- Lilley complained about Tom Mulcair being divisive for daring to say that oil sands development should be sustainable and benefit Canadians, rather than foreign multinationals; and then, after the commercial, suggested that Quebec should be kicked out of Canada. Somebody hand the man a dictionary, with the word "divisive" bookmarked and highlighted.

The commercials are equally funny. Most of it's late-night fare -- considering the shows start airing at 6pm and finish at 10, this is pretty sad -- informing us of useful kitchen gadgetry. These are supplemented with self-promotional nonsense -- I swear one commercial (I've never seen the whole thing) ends with the sound of a mooing cow -- and fringe political douchebaggery -- some group called Merit Canada which wants unions to disclose all financial information to the public, but is totally cool with corporations keeping their information secret.

To preserve my sanity, going forward, I'll be using this space to snark on the idiocy that I have to sit through each night. The phrase "embarrassment of riches" comes irrepressibly to mind.

Here's one. Adler's on vacation for the next few weeks, and is replaced by some Sun "journalist", who manages to be even creepier. For example, in his Victoria Day intro, he aired footage of a Victoria's Secret fashion show. Remember: these people are conservatives. And nothing says "conservative" like drooling over lingerie models.

Still, onward. He managed to scaremonger about schizophrenics while talking about Vincent Li. That's the guy who beheaded a guy on a Greyhound; he was found not competent due to mental illness and institutionalized; he's now on escorted community release, given that his delusions seem to be well-controlled with medication. The whole argument, such as it was, against letting Li out was based on the claim that Li was still a threat, because mentally ill people just can't be trusted. So, everyone who's ever had any problems with depression or anxiety or the like -- congratulations, you should be kept in jail away from the "normal" people. (Wasn't it Freud who said that everyone is neurotic?)

And then there was Coren, cheering on the thought of police beating up Quebec students, ignoring the fact that there are serious constitutional questions about the Quebec government's arbitrary and far-reaching ban on the freedom of assembly. Because nothing says "conservative" like hating the Constitution. You've also got to love how the periodic "news updates" which appear in the middle of Coren and Lilley refer to students' actions as "thuggery", but conveniently excuse any and all police violence. (To be fair, at least Lilley seems vaguely troubled about police going too far at the G20; but he tends to express the concern while complaining that the poor innocent police didn't have any choice when dealing with unarmed, unarmoured protesters.)

Honestly, I don't really know where I'm going with this, except to express some of the obvious errors of logic and fact that populate these programs -- I have no other venue, given that my job is just to report what they're saying, not argue with it. But I'll keep going; Aristotle teaches us of the value of catharsis, and who am I to disagree with him?

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