Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Signs and Portents and Lying in Canada

with 4 comments

I don’t believe in signs and portents,  of course, at least not on any conscious level, but I’ve been having an interesting couple of days.

The thing this morning was just peculiar.  I have a 40 ounce tea cup, a huge thing, but not a very well made one.  In fact, I’ve got three identical ones, one I use every morning, one that I left at my parents’ house and that is probably now in storage somewhere, and one that I keep as a spare on my kitchen counter.

It turns out to be a really good thing I keep a spare, because this morning, while I was pouring boiling water over my usual two Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey tea bags, the thing just cracked apart.

And it made a really good job of it, too.  It came apart into three pieces and drained weak tea water all over my living room floor, since I’d decided to go in there and listen to some music this morning before I went off to teach.

I recouped and got the spare and made myself another pot of boiling water, but the thing was strange. 

I bought those cups as part of  a big gift package of coffee that was being offered in grocery stores a many Christmases ago, and then I brought them to Florida with me.  My father was still alive.  The hurricane that killed his roof was still far in the future.  And my mother still recognized me at least half the time when I went to visit her in her nursing home.

At any rate, it turns out that I’m just too restless to do nothing.  So here I am, and I’ll have you know that I sat down last night and did an entire set of grades and alphabetized the hand backs. 

I got my galleys sent back to St. Martin’s, too, and a ton more paperwork signed and sent for Greg’s surgery.  I think Matt thinks I’m crazy.  Sometimes I think I’m crazy.

At any rate, I’ve got two things, one a response to one of yesterday’s comments, one new.

The response to yesterday’s comments is this:  Robert noted that if you get your degree at one of the extension campuses of the main state university, all anybody knows is that you got it at the university.

And, I agree–the University of Connecticut does indeed have extensions.  In my day, they were limited to the first two years, with the rest to be completed at Storrs.  That might be different now.

But what I was talking about was not UConn extensions but a separate state university system.

Connecticut–like, I think, California–has a three tiered system of public tertiary education.

At the bottom are the community colleges.  At the top is UConn and its extensions.  In the middle are the old state “colleges,” now predictably called “universities”:  Western Connecticut State, Southern Connecticut State, Central Connecticut state.

These are more selective in their admissions than the community colleges, but not by much.  And they are a lot less selective in their admissions that UConn and its extensions.  The standards are middling, too.

And the graduate and professional schools–at least the good ones–keep sliding scales for judging the transcripts of different institutions.   If want to go to Harvard Law or the Yale Graduate School, you will in fact get less credit for an A from Wesconn than you will for an A from UConn. 

What’s more, if you want a traditional academic major–which you can get at UConn and its extensions–you can’t always get it at one of the States. 

I’ve never thought it was the case that only “trust fund babies” could, or should, or could benefit from a liberal education–but in a situation like this, only relatively well heeled ones can afford one.   It’s rapidly getting to the point that only the most expensive places offer a student the chance to get what was once universally considered to be a college education.

The last thing is about a link that showed up on FB from several people this morning, and that is about the Canadian Parliament’s rejection of a bid by the prime minister to get a law repealed that forbids “lying” on the Canadian airwaves.

This, the article exulted, was a great victory for “civility” in public discourse,  and it just went to prove that lying is what Fox and those right wing radio talk shows hosts know they do.  If they didn’t, why would they need to repeal a law against lying in order to get on the air?

It was one of those times, you know, when I had to sit there and wonder if people were actually this obtuse, or only this disingenuous.

So, first let me clear up a few things.  Do I think that Fox News and right wing radio talk show hosts like Limbaugh lie? 

Yes, all the time.

The problem is, I also think that MSNBC and Keith Olbermann lie. 

Fox lies about liberals and MSNBC lies about conservatives.   They lie outright, they lie by omission, and they lie by deliberately misrepresenting the positions of their oponents. 

I’ll admit that I don’t listen to talk radio–mostly because I can’t stand all the yelling–but both Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow are former radio talk show hosts, so I figure I have an idea.   Both of them either lie about their oponents or do absolutely no real research into their oponents ideas and views before they blast off with an opinion.

The problem with a law against “lying” on the airwaves is that the “lying” is always going to be in the eyes of the beholder.   When the American left wing was sending out nearly daily bulletins about how Bush and Cheney meant to declare marshall law, suspend the Constitution and install a fascist Republican regime that could not be voted out of office–all while stuffing ballot boxes and practicing wholesale election fraud–they were lying. 

When Canadian media repeated this sort of thing, it was lying, too.  But nobody, as far as I know, prosecuted any part of the Canadian media for doing it. 

My guess is that if Fox moved into Canada and started saying the same thing about Obama, they would be prosecuted for lying–and they would, in fact, be lying.

It’s the selective enforcement that’s the problem, and such selective enforcement is inevitable.  That’s why Swedish television wouldn’t allow Alan Dershowitz to be interviewd about his book The Case for Israel unless the station wanting to interview him also interviewed an opposing Palestinian view–but never required any station presenting the Palestinian review to also interview somebody defending Israel.

I wouldn’t go in to a country that had such a law even if I expected to tell nothing but the truth twenty-four seven, because I could not be assured that what I honestly believed to be the truth wouldn’t be labeled a lie and used to harass me simply for disagreeing with the conventional wisdom.

And I would know, up front, that my opponents could lie all they wanted to and never get called on it.

The Canadian Parliament’s decision not to repeal that “law against lying” isn’t a victory for “good journalism,” or for “civility in discourse.”

It’s a victory for censorship, pure and simple. 

My teacup seems to be holding up.   And I need the caffeine.

Written by janeh

March 2nd, 2011 at 6:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'Signs and Portents and Lying in Canada'

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  1. This is weird. While not as much of a news addict as in the past, I was astonished to discover a law about lying that I hadn’t even heard about! I rarely if ever do FB, and my favourite Canadian news source, CBC, wasn’t terribly helpful, providing only a link to a 2008 story about a law in BC that only applied to politicians and had only been enforced once, in a mayoral election. I got that with difficulty since their website changes seem to mean that they don’t play well with Firefox any more, and besides, they’ve well-hidden the suduko and crossword puzzle.

    A wider search turned up an obscure story from early February about the CRTC (NOT, note, the Canadian Parliament) finally getting around to re-wording a regulation for the broadcast industry which an obscure parliamentary committee had informed them years ago might infringe on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    So, OK, we have a Parliamentary committee recommending to an independent regulatory board a change in a regulation, not the parliament and/or the PM changing a law. And the recommending had been going on for years.

    I decided to look at the change.



    (d) any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public;

    to replace:

    (d) any false or misleading news;

    So what was proposed was in fact a LOOSENING of the kind of regulation you object to. Not enough to satisfy you, I’m sure, but you’re talking as though the proposal was to INSTITUTE regulations about lying.

    However, it’s all moot anyway. The left objected loudly – not loudly enough for me to hear about it before now, but loudly enough to change the mind of the committee and the CRTC, and according to the Globe and Mail, the original, more restrictive, wording remains.


    The NDP and allies appear to have mounted a clever anti-change campaign, and the Conservatives don’t appear to have mounted much of a defense. How on earth the business morphed into a story about the Conservative PM trying to allow ‘lying’ from an attempts covering YEARS of a parliamentary committee to make the regulation more compatible with legal opinions on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so beloved by most of the people ranting about lying, I don’t know.

    Outside three or four stories in the Globe and Mail, no one seems to know much about the issue, probably because the regulation is rarely if ever enforced. I think they tried with Zundel, years ago.

    I never supported getting a Charter anyway. I preferred to depend on common law.


    2 Mar 11 at 8:49 am

  2. <>

    Hm. Have you even watched Rachel Maddow? I can’t say I spend a lot of time watching tv (well, any, really) but I regularly listen to the podcast of Rachel Maddow and I continue to be impressed at how even-handed she is, and even gracious to her guests – even when she clearly disagrees with them. She tends to present facts backed by research, not vitriol. She even corrects the record when she is in error. Yes, she’s a radio talk show person. She’s also a Rhodes scholar with a doctorate in politics from Oxford – not that such credentials are an imprimatur, but I’d sort of guess they trump a rodeo clown.


    2 Mar 11 at 11:52 am

  3. I can’t catch Rachel Maddow as often as I would like, but I have to agree with Klingon.

    Can’t speak to Olberman. I found him grating on a personal level so never watched him. Rachel tends to repeat her points a bit too much, but I’ve found her intelligent and well prepared and accurate.


    2 Mar 11 at 4:02 pm

  4. Ah! I knew about California, but not Connecticut. There’s only one standard for admission to public universities in Indiana, though students–like, say, me–have been known to shuffle through for less strenuous majors. Quality of instruction probably balances out. The “prestige” professors are usually main campus, but the staff at the extensions have no graduate student ringers. (Yes, I know: a well-known professor is not necessarily a good teacher, nor a GTA a bad one.)

    Yeah, Canada chucked free speech some time ago. In addition to “lying” there’s speech offensive to the flavor of the month–and in that case there’s not even a trial. There’s a “panel” and a “hearing” to avoid little inconveniences like juries, defense attorneys and the presumption of innocence. I’d be very careful north of the border.

    And given similar laws, I’d be even more careful down here. What organization was it who denounced the description of Obamacare as a federal takeover of health care as the biggest political lie of last year? I don’t think you could prove that a lie under any objective standard at all. At the very least, a standard stretched that far would include every speech and article I read in defense of the law.

    Balance: C-SPAN used to have a morning call-in show which had no moderator but one conservative and one liberal guest at all times. The one caught in some embarassment couldn’t plead ignorance, because that effectively gave the mike to the other side, and there was someone on hand to catch an outright untruth. The format went away, though. I suspect it wasn’t very popular with the commentators.


    2 Mar 11 at 6:34 pm

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