In a recent Sun editorial John Robson claims to have avoided watching the
leader’s debate. The general assertion of the editorial is that televised debates display more style than substance while failing to provide a forum for digging into the details of issues. Of course, one could easily make the case that this is precisely the type of shallow, sound-bite, image-driven content offered to Sun readers on a daily basis. Ontario
Robson’s editorial is a plea for more depth in public discourse. As a way to demonstrate how substance could be added to debates he argues that politicians should be drawing from previous thinkers and authors. By way of illustration, throughout the editorial Robson quotes from Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences. While the book is worth reading according to Robson, the leader’s debate, by contrast, only offers, “synthetic people flapping their arms, smiling on cue, reciting talking points and telling contrived anecdotes with mechanical insincerity.” The trouble is that this quotation perfectly describes the newspaper in which this editorial appears.
The Sun is the most predictable read on any given day. One knows automatically what the cover story will be and what slant the editorials will have. This is the same newspaper which featured a cover comic of the
premier as a devil and a post-election cover which tastefully and respectfully read: 'We’ve Got A Liberal Minority: Welcome to Hell’. So, yes to populism but in reality the electorate are a bunch of idiots. And if Robson really wants to see all which he criticizes (blustery, over-confident, surface-oriented gimmicks which lack detail, balance and careful research) he only need to look a few inches from his own writing in the Sun to find the sloppy, hysterical and mechanized work of Ezra Levant. Yes, yes, Ezra, we know: free-enterprise great, CBC the root of all evil. You have told us a thousand times in a thousand clumsy and frenzied ways. In the Comment section of the Sun what is on offer is monotony, scare-tactics and stunts as content. Hey, just like the debates. I wonder if Robson reads Ontario Levant.
Early in the article Robson attempts to maintain his salt-of-the-earth non-egghead credentials. Following a recommendation of a Weaver’s book he writes, “I’m not trying to seem snobbish or overeducated here.” Heaven forbid that any signs of a formal education, much less the recommendation of a book (gasp!), should be displayed in the Sun pages. Robson is calling for a more serious debate on issues while at the same time suggesting there is something unseemly or elitist about having an informed opinion. Yes, we should be quoting from books – but not too extensively.
Of course the Sun is all about what Robson purports to be disgusted by. The bottom line is that the newspaper uses the same easy-answers faux-populism that is witnessed in televised leadership debates. Kind of makes you wonder why Robson writes for them. Also makes you wonder why he hangs out with folks like Ezra. Never mind the politicians for a moment, what reasons do we have to trust the Sun?
In the spirit of Robson’s call for the use of more quotations I offer up a pair:
“It ought to be possible to have convictions but to be open-minded at the same time; possible not to sound as if one had an easy answer to all political problems.” – Stuart Sim (Empires of Belief)
“The secret, then, is that we must alter our civilization from one of answers to one which feels satisfaction, not anxiety, when doubt is established.” – John Ralston Saul (Voltaire’s Bastards)