The #EthicalOil meme is pathetic PR bullshit | #cdnpoli #tarsands
Yes, I said it, the whole concept is brilliant.
This is a fantastic way to change the debate to an issue that doesn’t really matter. Has anyone seriously thought that we would not be able to sell our oil?
Come on. This is much ado about nothing. Actually, I’m sure the outrage has more to do with the fact the claim is based on the carbon footprint reasoning than anything else.
@wicary has done yeoman’s work on this already, but in subsequent surfing, I can’t really improve on this.
Really, what’s the EthicalOil meme missing? It’s got it all:
- manufactured outrage
- artificial crisis
- conveniently swarthy boogeymen that just happen to feed into a parallel Islamophobic narrative
… and of course the gibbering, adolescent “victimhood” of its smirking mouthpieces …
And Canada II knocks it down like a house of cards in just a few short paragraphs.
Here’s an idea for 2012: let’s reclaim public discourse from the gutter into which the Ezra IrreLevants of the world have dragged it.
- @wicary rules. That is all. | #tarsands
- Chris Hedges: No Act of Rebellion Is Wasted | #classwarfare #OWS
- Far-right wackjobs: they’re not just tedious - they’re a genuine threat | via AlterNet | #uspoli
- @GeorgeMonbiot on the subversion of ‘freedom’ | #winningbackthewords
- Don’t Betray Our Generation. Get It Done. | Common Dreams | #climatechange #kyoto
- Why conservatism needs to be rescued | #cdnpoli
- The Sixth Estate on who pays for Canada’s right-wing think tanks | #cdnpoli
- @Cityslikr, @NickKouvalis, and the need for civility in public discourse | #TOpoli #TeamFord
@GeorgeMonbiot on the subversion of ‘freedom’ | #winningbackthewords
Modern libertarianism is the disguise adopted by those who wish to exploit without restraint. It pretends that only the state intrudes on our liberties. It ignores the role of banks, corporations and the rich in making us less free. It denies the need for the state to curb them in order to protect the freedoms of weaker people. This bastardised, one-eyed philosophy is a con trick, whose promoters attempt to wrongfoot justice by pitching it against liberty.
Every now and then, you run across something that underlines the need to be vigilant about the meanings of words. Tonight it’s this essay from Monbiot.
One of the reasons public discourse has become so debased, I’d submit, is because that vigilance hasn’t been there. It’s because of this that it’s become so easy for words to be stripped of their meanings and then repurposed in the service of destructive and antisocial agendas. This, in turn, enables the anti-intellectual and authoritarian currents so much in evidence everywhere from City Hall to Ottawa and beyond.
The antidote, one can only reiterate, is a recommitment to traditional notions of citizenship, civic engagement, and enhanced public discourse. Redefining and reclaiming the linguistic turf makes it that much harder for those who would debase the conversation or reduce it to mindless sloganeering.
In that light it’s worth noting, once again, that we needn’t apologize for wanting public affairs conducted in an intelligent, thoughtful way by educated people capable of seeing nuance, of deliberate reflection, of holding complex and occasionally contradictory thoughts. It starts with a commitment to accuracy and clarity.
I’ll say it again: elitism in the conduct of civic affairs isn’t a bad thing. And by the same token: stupidity is not a civic virtue.
Beyond the Port Lands: Dragging Swamp Ford for the remnants of civic engagement
As the facts trickle out of the waterfront kerfuffle, it’s becoming pretty clear where Team Ford wants to take us – not only the waterfront, but Toronto as a community. The end run they’re doing around the rules and conventions is there for anyone who cares to look, and the potential consequences aren’t pretty.
As Jonathan Robson puts it:
Acting more-or-less unilaterally, the Fords appear to have authorized this corporation to retain CivicArts, a private-sector developer with a reputation for planning fantastical mega-projects in Kuwait (a one-kilometre high tower with a mosque, synagogue and a cathedral on top of three separate spires, anybody?) and Abu Dhabi, to run up an alternative development proposal which, in theory, will bring the Port Lands into play much more quickly then the 25 year build-out set out in the existing Waterfront Toronto plan. Did TPLC comply with the City’s rules and regulations regarding sole-sourced contracts when it awarded this gig to CivicArts? Is CivicArts taking the project on on spec? Where does Westfield, the Australia-based international mall developer fit in? What do local businesses think of these new plans? Has anyone asked the nearby BIAs? You see how quickly things get confusing when you don’t follow the rules?
Again, nothing new about any of this, really. By now we ought to know – this is how these guys operate. Anyone who’s purporting to be surprised by this is either being disingenuous (more on that in just a second) or just hasn’t been paying attention. The questions this raises have been pointed out by several folks already.
So, once again, let’s step back and take a big-picture view. Team Ford’s disdain for facts, for the truth, for the whole notion of transparency in government is a matter of public record by now. The implications for the shape Toronto’s urban form takes in the next decade or two are obvious.
But there’s a more immediate effect, one that’s already showing up in our daily lives and in the way we relate to one another. The most immediate example, of course, is that of Denzil Minnan-Wong going on the CBC this morning and accusing Kristyn Wong-Tam of being “disingenuous.”
I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself. When someone uses that word, I think of this:
But when Denzil Minnan-Wong uses it, it’s in a different context. I’m reminded of the old cliché about the pot and the kettle.
I’ve written previously about the debasement and vulgarization of contemporary discourse and the attendant coarsening of our political culture. I’ve also written about the strategy of stripping words of their meanings so that they can be repurposed in the service of various agendas. In Denzil’s case this morning, we’ve got it all in one nice little package; it’s just one more example of language being used not for reasoned and civil communication, but for emotional manipulation and tribal division.
In sum, it’s not just about the disregard for the rules, for transparency, and for the notion of responsible government. It’s about the obvious contempt for voters and other councillors, and the continuing insults to our intelligence. How in God’s name are we supposed to have an intelligent reasoned discussion in an atmosphere like this?
It’s a nasty dilemma. One wants to elevate public discourse from the sewer of stupidity and misdirection into which Team Ford has dragged it. One wants to be civil and thoughtful, and engage with people in a spirit of respectful collaboration. That’s the whole basis of healthy civic engagement, and of the lofty notion of citizenship. But what is one to do when the other side clearly doesn’t give a fuck?
(In fairness, it’s not just Team Ford. We’ve seen this nauseating strategy at work for years now, in more contexts than I can count. I’m focusing on Toronto for now simply because of the obvious and immediate impact this is having on the quality of our civic life.)
Some months ago, a U.S. blogger writing at Down With Tyranny came up with this gem. Different context, but the principle is the same. And I haven’t found anything that puts it better:
But it goes deeper than that. I’m citing this guy at some length because I just can’t put it any better than he did, so I’ll paraphrase: the lies are barely even the tip of the iceberg in terms of the damage these guys are doing. The effect, if not the intent, of this sustained campaign of misrepresentation and mendacity isn’t just about doing an end run around Waterfront Toronto, or union-busting, or whatever; it is to Destroy Civic Debate. It creates a climate where what matters is not truth or facts or reasoned discussion, but name-calling and brute force, enabled by accumulations of money and power. It is the very antithesis of civil society.
Again, I’ll paraphrase KeninNY (who is, in his marvellous post, referring to an earlier piece by Jeffrey Feldman): this continuing campaign of smear, fabrication and misdirection is not only antithetical to functioning democratic governance. It destroys the very possibility of civil discussion by debasing the language and shifting the discourse into emotionally volatile terrain where the meanings of words count for nothing. It is not just about the lies any more. It is, as Feldman argues, wildly immoral. (Can I borrow a rhetorical device from Ivor Tossell and call it UNmoral?) Whether or not the Fords and their handmaidens are lying isn’t even half the discussion we should be having.
To hell with trying to be better or nicer or more noble. These guys are lying bastards with no regard for the truth, the voters, councillors, the rules, or the future of the city. They are betraying the trust of the people who put them there. And they are slowly destroying the very fabric of community itself by undermining our ability to reason with one another and resolve our differences. There’s nothing to be gained by taking the high road here if it means they get away with it.