Monday, June 25, 2012

On importance

There's been plenty of debate about the protest which caused Joe Oliver to move a funding announcement. But I'd think there's a more fundamental question we should ask about the event, particularly when the indignant response of the event host was to the effect that "this is an important announcement!".

To wit: how exactly is it important for the Cons to be able to dictate that a public venue serve as a resistance-free backdrop for their PR efforts?

To be clear, there may be circumstances where the announcement of a policy may have a significant effect on its implementation. If the public needs to know about a service to make use of it, then by all means there's a need for unimpeded communication in some form to reach the target audience.

But in this case, the announcement itself was of zero importance to the effectiveness of the funding: money for medical isotopes research is presumably well-known within the hospital involved and among the research community without a need for anybody to play to the cameras. And so the main goal of Oliver's press conference involved a bare grab for media attention on the public dime, rather than serving any substantive purpose.

Of course, we've all too often come to accept that it's the divine right of Cons to assemble a compliant media and no dissenters wherever they please (and at our expense) to deliver talking points. And I'm sure the lesson they'll take from Oliver's press conference is that they should crack down even further on anybody who might disagree with any of their policies.

But there's a more basic question worth asking as to how publicly-funded political propaganda fits with the need for genuinely free speech. And the answer may be that we shouldn't be so ready to see our money and civil service co-opted to PR stunts in the first place.

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