Archive for February, 2007

Propaganda in action: The closure of the Hershey plant

Welcome to the second installment in the ongoing series “Propaganda in action”.  In each installment, I analyse a current event’s coverage through multiple media outlets in the West to uncover the hidden, systemic propaganda in our speciously-free media.  (For the original installment on Pinochet’s death, click here).

As Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman note in their “propaganda model”, what characterizes propaganda in the West is not so much that what gets covered are lies.  For the most part, journalists are honest people who want to do good in life and in their employment.  Rather, our experience with propaganda is centred around sins of omission.  Let’s explore with reference to the media’s coverage of the Hershey corporation’s closure of its Canadian flagship plan in Smiths Falls (just outside of Ottawa).

Here’s what the Canadian media – even the supposedly “left-wing media” (and even that supposed bastion of socialism:  the CBC) – had to say about the closure.

#1)  The CBC

“Hershey confirms Smiths Falls plant will close”

This story on the plant closure demonstrates several levels of propaganda very much in line with Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model. 

Firstly, the story is told almost exclusively from the perspective of management.  The corporation, or its spokesperson, Kirk Saville, is given a total of precisely 100 words. The union, or its spokesperson, Henry Gadhan, is given just 19 words.

Secondly, nowhere in the article is it mentioned that the Hershey factory is the primary employer of the small town of less than 10,000 people.  Moreover, nowhere in the article is it mentioned that this move will essentially destroy not only the city’s primary industry, but will destroy the property value of anybody who lives there.

Thirdly, nowhere is the corporation’s reasons for relocating to Mexico given.  In fact, even the new location for Hershey’s factory (Mexico) isn’t given at all.

#2) A Channel News

Smiths Falls Hershey Plant Closing?

Continue reading ‘Propaganda in action: The closure of the Hershey plant’

Update: the ongoing saga of the “hard left” feed aggrigator

Okay, for those of you who missed the drama at Progressivebloggers.ca or my original post on this topic, here’s the deal:

1) We’ve decided (and this shouldn’t be taken as a small accomplishment – it may sound like a small accomplishment merely to decide something, but for those in doubt, just check the progressivebloggers thread linked to in the original post) that it may be a good thing to have a far-left feed aggrigator for a wide range of people on the far left who don’t quite fit in with existing feed aggrigators like vast left wing conspiracy, progressivebloggers.ca or the blogging dippers.

2)  I’ve imagined this feed aggrigator as being in a simple “river-of-news” format akin to vast left wing conspiracy simply due to the fact that: a) it’s simple and b) because I’m already pretty inept at this stuff that I imagine right now I’ve gotta crawl before I can walk and something more complex like the voting system at progressivebloggers.ca is way beyond me right now.

3)  Okay, here’s the important part:  I’m having some difficulty finding something that’s suitable.  Nothing seems to work.  Here’s a list of the failed attempts thus far:

#1. creating an account with feedbucket.com in order to share it with everyone

Problems: 

a) Can’t publish one master feed list (unless I’m doing something wrong). 

b) If we go low-tech and give everybody the username and password, then anybody can just add whatever feeds they want and there’s a risk that as the community grows, it gets out of control.

c) can’t delete feeds once added

#2.  Creating an account with feedbite.com in order to share it with everyone

Problems:

a) feeds are not ordered chronologically.  So, for instance, when I up all of the feeds for the blogs I have on my blogroll, Scott Neigh’s blog somehow got to go first and everything he’s written in the past couple of months went first, followed by everything Louis Proyect’s written in the past couple of months et cetera all the way down to some very recent stuff that Anna Marie and myself wrote which gets burried at the very bottom.

b) other than that though, this solution would be great if we could fix that problem.

Now, there are still some problems in and above these.  For instance, I don’t think either solution solves Red Jenny’s problem of insufficient room for discussion.

We can still do April Reign’s solution which would be setting up a wordpress blog and then just having us carry the feed on each of our respective blogs.  The only problems with this that I see is that, firstly, I don’t know if blogspot blogs can host other feeds on their sidebar like wordpress blogs can.  Secondly, we would all have to make a point of logging on to this joint wordpress blog and post whatever we’ve written on our regular blogs.

Any thoughts and/or ideas?  Any comments on the item’s I’ve tried or on April Reign’s suggestion?

A call to organize!

Kuri was very good to start the discussion at progressivebloggers.ca (here) on why we members of the hard-left are so invisible and lacking a loud voice in the blogosphere.  I’m fed up with that threat since it’s apparent to me that the left cannot agree on the colour of s#!&.   However I do still feel that what she spoke about is important and worthy of action on our part.

I won’t post all of the comments on this thread since there’s actually at least three different threads all jammed into one.  However I did want to post the thread that I was most involved in.

It all began with this very simple and innocent comment by me on the question posed.

Kuri, I think you’ve got a point there.

There are quite a few Anarco-syndicalists, Marxists, Socialists et cetera kicking around but I think we’re in a bit of a tight spot right now. The problem as I see it is that there are no blog aggrigators (that I’m aware of) like the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy or Progressivebloggers.ca which cater to our views. I mean sure my feed’s carried on both vlwc and PB, but the vast majority of the readers in either place merely want the capitalist system managed differently or feel that if we just elect a more virtuous bunch of people into the halls of the bourgeois state aparatus that all of a sudden we’ll be so much better off.

So without one of these aggrigators, I see us as something of a diaspora without any central hub. I’ve tried figuring out how I can go about hosting something like this on my blog, but alas, no luck yet.

If you want more far-left blogs, I don’t know if you’ve looked, but I’ve got a few really good ones listed on my blogroll on my site.

Paul

(P.S. thanks for including me in your list of hard-left individuals along side Eugene – he’s so much more established than I am, I consider that something of an ego boost.)

“I mean sure my feed’s carried on both vlwc and PB, but the vast majority of the readers in either place merely want the capitalist system managed differently or feel that if we just elect a more virtuous bunch of people into the halls of the bourgeois state aparatus that all of a sudden we’ll be so much better off.”

This is why I shy away from calling myself ‘left’. It seems as though left these days is just a softer form of neo-liberalism. It would be nice to see more discussions that challenge pro-growth, neo-colonialsim, etc.

Then about a dozen comments passed and I posted this comment:

Kuri – I want to thank you for starting this discussion as it is desperately needed.

To address a few points:

Firstly: I think we have a big problem with nomenclature here. I don’t have an issue with the left/right nomenclature, however what I was referring to rather was what exactly is meant by “hard left”. What I mean by this is that the NDP seems to have gotten the idea — most likely because they’re often the farthest left voice in mainstream discussions — that somehow they’re “hard left”. With all due respect to the New Democrats (and I know quite a few and I do like them as individuals) the NDP is so far from “hard left” that I wouldn’t even know where to begin to prove that point. They merely want the global capitalist system managed differently — which in Europe would make them, at best, centre-left. Thus, even the NDP’s “socialist caucus” isn’t really “hard left”.

The second problem that I see stems from the first problem discussed above and also points directly to what I see as the only viable solution. The second problem is that we, as true far-lefters, haven’t been able to enter into the discussion in a significant fashion in even the most left-wing of the existing blog aggrigators.

If it weren’t for the NDP’s presence, the Liberals would, like their US Democratic counterparts, think that they’re the voice of the left. And on this front the NDP deserves praise. But the just as Canadian politics benefits from the NDP’s presence as a simple reminder to the other parties of a whole other set of ideas, so too would the NDP benefit from our presence for the exact same reasons – to constantly confront them, like they do to the Liberals, with the reality that they are not the be-all and end-all of the left and that they are, at best, mere left-moderates.

Therefore, the only feasible solution I see is for the development of some kind of blog agrigator like vast left wing conspiracy, but for the “hard left”. I do feel that all of us getting together and adding each other to our respective blogrolls would help, but it wouldn’t create the kind of dynamic discourse necessary nor would it create a central hub which can connect the “hard left” community in the same fashion that the NDP uses to gain some presence for their ideas.

Now, seeing as how I was posting this on a BLOG discussion board where DISCUSSION takes place, I wouldn’t have thought that too many people would be opposed to more efficient platform for discussion amongst the hard-left.  I was wrong.

The last thing we need is for us to spend all of our time talking among ourselves–that’s been the problem with the “hard left” all along. Not that we couldn’t have fascinating discussions. But we need to find ways of talking to others–a new set of organizing principles.

On another thread I mentioned the NPI. That promised something new, but was derailed after Layton won the leadership. (He actually attended our swan-song meeting–told us that his screensaver consists of the word “dialectics.” Yeah, I know.)

The NDP is travelling the left side of the corporate highway, when what we need is to blaze a trail through unknown territory. But I’m not sure the party is susceptible to left ginger-groups. That “socialist caucus,” by the way, is “hard left” in the most odious of senses–machine Trots, for the most part, with old language, old ideas, bankrupt organizing principles, authoritarian sensibilities….

We need alternatives. Radical alternatives. And that means redefining politics–what they are and how we do ‘em.

So with this pair of exchanges, the discussion was shifted a fair bit.  So the discussion continued:

Of course, we need to discuss things because as Paul rightly points out, the formal ‘hard left’ is perfectly happy to keep colonizing the rest of the world.

Discussion might provide concrete ideas (i.e. strategies, experiments that have worked in other cities).

I am particularly interested in child/elder care sharing strategies that might have worked elsewhere if anyone knows anything about this…

The problem with being pargmatic is that people will always tell you that your ideas are otherwise. You need to discuss and develop a vision and then start LIVING IT until people can’t deny it as a valid alternative.

I would have to disagree with Dr. Dawg.

Anybody who’s read Gramsci knows that one of his central concepts is the concept of the hegemony of capitalism. Closely related to this concept is the idea that since capitalism is stable (for now) and has won against socialism (again for now), a ‘war of manoeuver’ (his terms, not mine) is not possible. The best the ‘hard left’ can hope for is to engage in a semi-organized and coherent ‘war of position’ which is requires both discussion with outsiders AND precisely what we’re doing now.

In short the ‘war of position’ which we need requires that we do have a platform to come together and discuss matters otherwise, as this thread demonstrates, we won’t even be able to agree on the colour of shit. (pardon my vulgarity).

Now, Dr. Dawg, I don’t see why you’re opposed to this as I see no reason why this platform or “hub” as I’ve been calling it can’t also be used to reach out to a larger audience and address other groups and concerns. In fact I would argue that my proposal would do precisely this.

The only reason the NDP has gotten it into their heads that somehow they’re the be-all and end-all of the left is that we haven’t organized within our own group and in relation to other groups in order to make our presence known. My proposal would address this point which, coincidentally is another aspect of waging a Gramscian “war of position” – namely, it’s the idea that your mere presence is a force to be reconed with.

I have a wordpress.com blog, but if anybody is willing to host a wordpress.org blog, I can point them to a program which will enable a feed aggrigator to be imbeded into the blog akin to what vast left wing conspiracy has.

Then, much to my surprise, I get slapped with the idea that I’m trying to enforce a Stalinist or Leninist “platform”.

On intellectual honesty and the Cuba debate

I’m not one for hero-worship, but it’s hard to resist when listening to stuff like this.  Seriously, Noam Chomsky is amazing.

Can anybody have any remaining doubts that Marx was right when he wrote that the ideas of the dominant class in any given epoch constitute the dominant ideologies of the populace?

I’ll leave it for you to decide.

On changing our electoral system

In today’s edition of the Toronto Star, Ian Urquhart – somewhat of an electoral reform reactionary – reported that the Ontario Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform is overwealmingly in support of the electoral system known as Mixed-Member Proportional (or MMP for short).

For those of you who don’t know what MMP is, you can follow the link I’ve pointed out, but simply put, it’s a system whereby you have two types of representatives:  One type are elected exactly as we currently elect our MPs – most votes wins, doesn’t matter if you don’t have  a majority of the vote, but so long as you have the most votes.  The second type are elected en masse based on how everyone else voted so that parties that get screwed in the first type of MPs are rewarded with MPs in this second type, the idea being that in the end, we still have geographic MPs while having a legislature which still represents how the public actually voted.  For specifics, again, see above.

Now I have been an opponent of MMP for several reasons.  None of these, mind you, are because I’m opposed to electoral reform, in fact on the contrary – I’m strongly in favour of another type of electoral system called Single-Transferrable Vote or (STV).  But, I disagree with MMP on the following grounds:

#1)

  While MMP is proportional, it still clings to this archaic notion that the lifeblood of representation and our interests are more or less defined by where we live.  Yes, 200 years ago when Catholics settled in town A and Protestants settled in town B and nobody moved and everybody was born, lived, and died in town A or B, geography was a hugely important feature of who you were.  As I wrote on Greg’s blog a while back:

     “The fact that I happen to live just south of the Ottawa-South/Ottawa-Centre riding boundary has much much less to do with the aspects of my person I would like represented than, for instance, my age, gender, education, economic class etc… In my submission to the Citizen’s assembly I quoted polling data which showed that people’s attachment to their community has steadily decreased over the past 20 years. In short, the constituencies people belong to now are socio-cultural and span geography.”

So to me the central feature of MMP is it’s attempt to fuse a desirable proportional aspect into our absolutely outdated notion that we need to have one MP paternalistically look after and somehow be accountable to a small geographic area. 

Ah — the supporters of either our current system or MMP will retort — but without a direct linkage between one (and only one) MP and constituency, there would no accountability.  But this is specious logic. 

First of all:  with the vast majority of ridings being safe ridings in this country (which wouldn’t change under MMP), most MPs could hold puppy-kicking competitions on the first wednesday of every month and would still get elected!  Is that accountability?

Second of all: with the vast majority of MPs being elected under either our current system or under MMP are elected without majority of support.  In other words, most of their constituents, who they claim to represent, are people who voted against that MP.  Is that accountability?

Continue reading ‘On changing our electoral system’

2 New Polls Released: Greens surge; Tories widen lead

With two new polls released, we’re seeing some interesting developments in the Paulitics Polling Resource.

The first poll released by Strategic — that’s right, the one which caused the Liberal blogosphere to explode — had the following results:

Lib:  29, Con:  34,  NDP:  14,  Bloc:  11,  Green:  12  (source)

The second poll released by Decima showed the following numbers:

Lib:  30, Con:  32,  NDP:  15,  Bloc:  9,  Green:  11 (source)

A few things are interesting about this pair of polls:

Firstly, the Conservatives have now taken a statistically significant lead in at least the weighted trend line and, for all intents and purposes, in the rolling trend line as well.

Secondly, the NDP continue to inch up in the polls at a rate which would make them competitive in about 2 years from now.

Thirdly and most significantly, after  a brief downturn by the Greens earlier this month, we now have the Greens once again charting new heights with these polls.  For the first time ever, the Greens have surpassed the Bloc not only on a given poll, but in their weighted avereage trend line.  With these polls, the Greens also have now broken the 10% threshold with at least one of the trendlines, for the first time ever – simultaneously becoming the first minor party in over 13 years to break this barrier.

Ladies and gentlemen, it seems as though the Greens are here to stay.

With these polls, the Paulitics Polling Resource has the parties standing as follows:

2007-02-22-results.JPG

(click here for the Polling Resource & long-term trend lines)

The Liberal blogosphere just exploded

We have unconfirmed reports that the Liberal blogosphere has just exploded, however some eyewitnesses are claiming that it was more of an implosion rather than an explosion.

The cause of the event is universally agreed to be the recent poll which was released by the Strategic Council (available here) which put the Liblogers beloved party down in the polls (gasp!) and the Conservatives up in the polls (double gasp!).

Now, information is sketchy at best at this time, but we have one eyewitness describing Libloger Scott Tribe writing:

“I don’t need to remind you about their Harper majority government poll numbers last year, do I? 2ndly, despite the aforementioned scepticism [sic] of any poll commissioned by SC, the poll still shows a neck and neck when the MOE is factored in. That would put it in line with the Decima and SES polls which showed a virtual tie between the Liberals and the Tories last week.” (source)

We have other eyewitnesses describing blogger Stephen Downes as writing:

“It is irresponsible journalism to merely repeat poll results with no analysis or criticism.  This is especially the case when the response to the question “How would Canadians vote if an election were held today?” is misinterpreted to read “How would _you_ vote if an election were held today?”” (source)

Moreover, we have further reports of the king of the Libloggers Jason Cherniak has written about “Polls Schmoles” (source).

We’re going to turn this over now to our Senior Asian Reporter Trisha Takanawa who is interviewing Paul from Paulitics:  Paul’s Socialist Investigations.

Trisha:     Paul, thanks for speaking with us, today.

Paul:     My pleasure.

Trisha:     Paul can you talk to us a little bit about Scott Tribe’s attack on the Strategic Council’s methodology.

Paul:     Well, Scott actually makes two accusations against Strategic.  The first is that since they were in his opinion inaccurate in last year’s election, they ought not to be taken as seriously as other polling firms.  As I discussed on my Polling Resource Page, it is true that SES had by far the closest predictions, Strategic actually came in second (behind SES) of the four polling firms that I analyzed in terms of accuracy.  So I don’t know if it’s entirely reasonable to just write their methodology off.

     The second reason for disregarding this poll that Scott makes is that “This poll still shows a neck and neck when the MOE is factored in.”  Now, I have to admit that I’m not a polling expert.  My background is in Canadian politics, political theory, media studies and Marxist philosophy.  However, I did take a stats course in my undergraduate degree and I do still have my old textbook kicking around.  So, I may be missing some aspect of this or I may be confusing some aspect of this (for instance, multi-directional or uni-directional z-scores always tripped me up) and if I am, then I’ll be the first to admit it.  But here’s what I found when I examined Scott’s second claim.

     What Scott’s claiming is that, since the Margin of Error (MOE) of this poll is +/-3.1%, and since the Liberals are at 29% and the Conservatives are at 34%, then they’re only 5% apart.  Hence, since (3.1) x (2) = 6.2 > 5, then the Liberals and Conservatives are actually tied.  This is highly problematic reasoning.

I’ve brought along some diagrams with me, do you mind if we show them to your audience Trisha?

Trisha:     No, not at all, Paul.

Paul:     Thanks.

     Well here we see two normal distributions which illustrate the probabilities that we’re looking at.  I’ll explain the math later, but let’s go ahead and take a look at these right now.

image-a.JPG

image-b.JPG

Continue reading ‘The Liberal blogosphere just exploded’

A word on my partisan affiliation

Some comrades and regular visitors to my blog may have noticed that I have recently added a Blogging Dippers button on my sidebar.  I felt it was prudent to take a moment to talk about why I chose to do this and what this signifies about my party affiliation.

Firstly, allow me to be plain:  I remain a devoted communist and Marxist and I have no intention of abandoning what I see as the rich tradition of the revolutionary movement (no pun intented).

Secondly, those of you who know me personally know that while I’ve never been a card-carrying member of the NDP, I have nonetheless worked on Parliament Hill with the New Democrats.  As such, you know that I have felt for some time that there is not insignificant co-operation which can fruitfully be had by working with certain segements (especially the Socialist Caucus) of the NDP.  I see this decision of mine as the natural extension of this position.

Thirdly, to reiterate, nothing has changed with regards to my party affiliation.  I still do not hold membership in any political party:  not the Communist Party of Canada, nor the Marxist-Leninist Party, nor the New Democrats.

Fourthly, this move of mine ought not to be taken as an endorsement of the NDP or Jack Layton.  I have given praise to the NDP in the past when deserved – such as in my post “The difference between Dion and Layton” – and I have also been highly critical of many of the NDP’s other policies ranging from their (nebulous) support for the WTO, IMF and the global capitalist system to their downright embarrassing position on our involvement in Haiti.  Both my criticism and praise for the NDP shall continue unaffected in the future. 

Lastly, and most importantly, I feel that if there were ever a group of non-Marxists who generally wish to do good in the praxis of politics and as such, would be most amenable or willing to hear socialist, communist and/or Marxist arguments, then it would surely be New Democrats.  I see this as a chance to engage in this very dialogue.

On the fiction of Canada & Quebec

On the eve of the start of a Quebec election, it’s worth taking a few moments to preempt one of the claims – in fact the central claim – of the Quebec separatists in hopes that we may actually have at least some semblance of an honest debate.

The claim has been repeated by various separatists ranging from Jacques Parizeau who said “Canadian culture is a fake” (source) to, most famously, Bouchard who exactly 11 years and three weeks ago, famously quipped:

“Canada is not a real country” (source)

Let me start off by saying, Bouchard, Parizeau and Duceppe (who repeated more or less similar claims during this past election) are, on the whole, insightfully correct in their respective statements but utterly wrong in their associated assumptions.

If we take these statements individually and isolate them from the meaning and implications imposed on these statements by federalist or separatist rhetoric, it is more or less a truism that yes, Canada, like every other state on the planet is fictional and artificially constructed.

Historically, it is undisputed that we obtained our country by: deliberately obfuscating our intentions to the aboriginal original inhabitants of this country; illegally disavowing or at least failing to uphold the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and, by extension, the rule of law; and by attempting to make the aboriginals in our own, Christian images, through residential schools and the pass system which served as the model for Apartheid South Africa.

Continue reading ‘On the fiction of Canada & Quebec’


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