‘Shattered Mirror’ report’s suggestions to fix Canadian media wonderful for a Black Mirror episode

On Thursday the Public Policy Forum (PPF) released its government-commissioned report, “The Shattered Mirror”,  which depicted today’s world as a “post-truth” dystopian nightmare. According to the report’s ominous introduction, “Established news organizations have been left gasping” and  “native digital alternatives have failed to develop journalistic mass.”

Then the report–GASP!–asks the reader to “imagine a world without news: how atomized and dysfunctional it would be.”

Of course the premise is absurd in the information age, where information is more accessible than ever before, which Toronto Star columnist Paul Wells pointed out so well in his scathing “Politicians guiding journalism? No, thanks.”But this report–given $200,000 from the Liberal government–cites the supposed rise of fake news “outperforming” real news in Facebook engagement as a main reason the government needs to bail out the legacy media.

However, Buzzfeed‘s coverage of fake news–which Shattered Mirror heavily relies on–didn’t account for the fact that the supposed rise in fake news corresponded with the firing of the human curators of the social media giant’s trending news module, which then allowed fake news to break into the Facebook trending list because the algorithm didn’t discriminate fake from real. The report does take this into account, but dismisses the scandal of Facebook’s human curators removing legitimate conservative news as “conservatives complaining” and welcomes wholeheartedly Facebook’s and Google’s renewed efforts to target fake news sites. The report shows no real reservations towards the tech giants’ censorship,  even though Facebook’s partisan censorship scandal was a major revelation last year.

Even more egregious, the report claims a poll from Buzzfeed and Ipsos supposedly “found that large majorities had believed such stories as Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump.” However, as I pointed out in my Loonie Politics piece “Hype over rise in fake news is fake news“, Buzzfeed‘s data shows only an average of 16.8 per cent of respondents had heard of the fake news stories, and 75 percent within that group believed it, or only 12.5 per cent of respondents on average.

Shattered Mirror’s implied conclusion that the vast majority of American’s were duped  is flat out wrong, although to be fair to the creators of the report, a cursory glance at the misleading click-bait article–“Most Americans who see fake news believe it, survey shows” probably duped most readers. The data shows only a small minority of the American population, probably about the same portion of the population that believe The Onion or National Enquirer are real, actually fell for these stories. The report’s omission of the total number of respondents (1,809), insults the intelligence of average Americans–especially smearing Trump supporters as largely gullible and stupid, when in fact largely they hadn’t been duped by fake news. On top of this, Shattered Mirror notes how closed “bubbles” of like-minded users form on Facebook, so it is very likely that only 16.8 percent of Americans had ever heard of the fake news, and 75 percent of that low-information group were susceptible to believing in it, because the fake stories were circulated within bubbles of made up largely of uneducated people.

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Shattered Mirror report misrepresents data on fake news, showing data that suggests large majority of Trump supporters believed fake news, only actually 12.5 percent on average.
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Original Buzzfeed article shows the amount of Trump supporters who had heard of the fake news stories was low. Shattered Mirror report omits this part of the Ipsos poll.

The report uses this fake premise of fake news influencing large majorities of the populace as a major reason why the government should step in to fund the legacy media. The report repeatedly cites Trump’s populist victory, supposedly largely fueled by fake news, as a failure of a weakened and private news industry in America. The report implicitly reasons, if the people don’t listen to the legacy media ordering them to vote for one candidate the media as a whole must be broken, so the Canadian government should come in and prevent this from happening here. Ultimately the report seems to conclude that the government should restore the legacy media’s power over the news narrative: “The 20th-century news media are less and less prominent, except to provide grist for a public conversation they no longer control.” (Civil discourse, yuck.) And then this government-indebted media–according to the report–will be healthy enough again to bite the hand that now feeds them, keeping government institutions’ accountable and politicians’ feet to the fire. Let’s be honest, we all know wild animals become docile when repeatedly fed by humans; the press is no different when fed by the government. To many Canadians, our legacy media have already become far too tame, compromised, and ingratiating with those in power.

Sadly, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly says she is “very proud” that her government is at the forefront of wanting to combat fake news internationally and believes in the reports premise that fake news is a sudden phenomenon that the government needs to play a role in quashing.

The report also tries to downplay the successes of digital-only news startups, highlighting how most have failed thus far to be financially successful and haven’t reached as large an audience as the legacy media. But PPF’s report fails to recognize the elephant in the room. Legacy media are giving away their content for free and already have an unfair financial advantage of government subsidization in the forms of government advertising, government subscriptions, tax breaks to their advertisers, the Canada Periodical Fund (hundreds of millions of dollars), postal discounts (tens of millions), the Canada Media Fund ($371.2 million in 2016-17), the $1.2 billion annual subsidy given to the CBC, etc. The report also notes only 9 percent of Canadians pay for their news (have hunch a large portion of this group are disgruntled conservatives funding Rebel Media because the government-funded media doesn’t speak for them).

But when most of the government-funded legacy media is giving their content away for free, subsidized by taxpayers, why would Canadians fork out more money from their own pockets when they are already taxed to death, and so much news is readily available free of additional charge?

If the legacy media were weened off government welfare and forced to compete in the free market, they would quickly develop a more competitive business model (like locking valuable content behind a paywall), or they would die. A drying up of free access to journalism would prompt more Canadians–ideally with extra money in their pockets from lowered taxes–to pay for the news of their own choosing (the horror!). Also, the increased free market competition would promote more hunger for organizations to get regular scoops. With the inevitable death of some of these redundant legacy media organizations, new media would have more room in the market to flourish.

This “non-partisan and independent think-tank” PPF’s Shattered Mirror–that just coincidentally has PM Justin Trudeau hosting its 30th Annual Testimonial Dinner–came up with 12 recommendations to staunch the “bloodbath” of “journalistic carnage” (and journalists thought Trump’s inaugural address was hyperbolic). I’ll only discuss the most important one here (I’ll save the rest for another piece), the report calls for the government to tax Facebook, Google and other foreign media, and then redistribute funds to domesic outlets which legacy media will undoubtedly get the lionshare. Although the government is supposed to be at double arms-length in redistribution of this $300-400 million fund, the deciding on who gets funding will undoubtedly become politicized, like the current process has.

It’s in the Liberal’s interest to have the major media organizations more dependent  upon them for survival. Pesky new media like Canadaland, The Rebel, Raving CanuckBlacklock’s Reporter, Loonie Politics, National Observer, and The Tyee are leaner and meaner organizations that give the political establishment headaches. Necessity is the mother of all invention. These startups must have interesting and original content to attract enough customers in order to survive. On the other hand, legacy media tend to regurgitate press releases and politicians talking points. The new media punch well above their weights, often beating the lethargic legacy media for scoops.

Like Canadaland‘s Jesse Brown said at a symposium: “leave me alone, so I can continue to bother you independently. When you fund my competitors, you are endangering me. Do not fund Postmedia if they are failing.”

The government isn’t likely to listen to the little guy. The Heritage Committee in the coming weeks will release its own proposals for how to proceed, and one would expect them to echo the call for a government bailout for the legacy media, if Minister Joly’s recent rhetoric is any indicator.

When the Liberals inevitably bailout the terminally-ill legacy media, expect more of this type of journalism from Globe and Mail‘s Simon Houpt:

Sure, this honour is premature: What, after all, has Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly actually achieved? Still, in initiating a wholesale review this year of the federal policies that oversee the country’s $48-billion broadcasting, media and culture sector, the rookie MP is in the promising first moments of what could be a historic performance of political plate-spinning. “Everything is on the table,” she declared in April, simultaneously enthralling and alarming the industry, aspiring creators making videos in their basements, and regular people who think it’s important to be able to watch and read and listen to Canadian stories but also want the government to keep its grubby hands off their Netflix. In a world of peak TV and shrivelling news coverage, does Joly side with those who believe the CRTC, the Broadcasting Act, the CBC, Telefilm, the NFB and other legacy instruments of government cultural policy have outlived their usefulness? Or with those who believe regulations and agencies need to be strengthened to help preserve a space for Canada amid a global flood of content? Stay tuned; it’s going to be a hell of a show. Simon Houpt

If Shattered Mirror and it’s absurd recommendations are enacted, Canada will get more and more fake state propaganda like the drivel above. The Liberal elites of Canada are absolutely petrified by the populist movements of Brexit and Trump. Both movements shattered the idea that the mainstream media has the power to control how the majority of the populace thinks and votes (okay, maybe not quite in Trump’s case, but maybe after the voter fraud investigation). The Liberal government wants to glue the shards back together again, place the mirror back up on the wall, and be told they’re the fairest of them all. Media entrepreneurs must oppose this and reflect the government and its policies for what they truly are–warts and all.

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2017 is the year Canada goes full Pravda

Today a report from a Public Policy Forum study–contracted by the federal government–is going to be released recommending that Canadian media be further subsidized by the government. PPF touts itself as “an independent, non-governmental organization dedicated to improving the quality of government in Canada”, but the first thing one sees on the think tank’s site is a picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will be hosting the organization’s Annual Testimonial Dinner and Awards in April (with other progressive politician Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also in attendance).

Yesterday, The Globe and Maclean’s both had the inside scoop on PPF’s report–and both have their hands out begging–on how the government-funded PPF report will advise the Liberal government to give the failing legacy media more money. Bombardier move on over, there are plenty of other companies joining the corporate welfare line. According to The Globe piece (“Ottawa facing growing calls to bolster media industry“) the report “is expected to provide a road map for government to bolster professional journalism as a key component of the political process.”

Apparently PPF members aren’t aware that state-funded journalism like the CBC produces government propaganda, failing to be an independent fourth estate holding the government to account. One need look no further than CBC’s fawning coverage of Trudeau during last election cycle, and the TV special “Face to Face with PM” to see the favourtism and partiality the broadcaster has for the new PM. Trudeau has repaid the favour by giving the state broadcaster another $150 million more in annual government funding, adding to its $1.1 billion federal subsidy. Now the government broadcaster continues to downplay Trudeau’s gaffes and scandals in its coverage, as it awaits to see if its request for $400 million more in annual funding ($300 million to go ad free, and a bonus $100 million thrown in for the hell of it) will be granted by the PM’s government.  He who pays the piper calls the tune.

The Maclean’s piece (“Canadian news industry at a ‘crunch point’ report argues“) suggests the author of the report, journalist Edward Greenspon, thinks the Canadian news industry “finds itself at a mission-critical crossroads, and needs a helping hand if it is to resume its role as a guardian of democracy.” Apparently the report is going to recommend tax breaks and a potential bailout for the industry, but not annual subsidies. Whatever the suggestions are in the report today, the government propping up major media outlets in any way is a horrendous idea. The industry is already de facto funded by the government with government ad buys and grant money, like aid to publishers of which Roger’s Media receives just under $10 million annually for its failing magazines.

Looking at the proliferation of new media popping up across the Canadian media landscape, there seems to be promise. Canadaland, iPolitics, Loonie Politics, Blacklock’s Reporter, Queen’s Park Today, Vice Canada, BuzzFeed Canada, and The Rebel–along with bloggers–are all new media that are growing. Some of these new media outlets were consulted by PPF for its report. Canadaland responded in an open letter that its business model was successful because it has the most popular podcasts in Canada and has broken many stories, essentially from merit and hard work. Canadaland founder Jesse Brown stressed that his news outlet believes in an even playing field where no one is given government subsidies:

What we do not welcome is government subsidies for our competitors. Too often in Canada, tax breaks, funding and other programs intended to help small startups and innovators like ourselves get hijacked by legacy players. It’s a trivial matter for a newspaper to launch a digital lab or project for the sole purpose of tapping these funds, leveraging their brand and status to take the lion’s share of the subsidies. At this point, with their efforts underwritten by the government, our competitors could conceivably undercut us on advertising rates and push our revenues down to the point where we would no longer be profitable. We run our organization on a budget lower than the annual salary of one top Postmedia or CBC executive. As sustainable as we are, we are also vulnerable to market interference.

On top of the PPF report, the Liberal government’s Heritage Committee was tasked with reviewing the future of Canadian media last year by doing a series of public consultations, and will come out with its conclusions and recommendations in a report to be released in a few weeks time. Although the new subsidies or bailouts for the industry won’t likely be implemented until the 2018 budget, Canadian news media’s fate will likely be foretold in these upcoming reports from PPF and Heritage Committee.

Sadly it appears the Liberals enjoy giving Canadian legacy media money because of the reciprocated fawning coverage paid to them in return. This propping up of failing legacy media by the government won’t just compromise these outlets’ journalistic integrity, but will stunt the growth of new media’s entrepreneurial spirit when the incumbents are given an advantage of millions of dollars in welfare from the government.

Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly continues to signal the Liberals intentions to step in to fund the legacy media, tweeting on Monday:

Reiterating and further hinting at the government’s plans again on Tuesday, Joly explained to Liberal-ally and host of CBC’s Power and Politics Rosie Barton the following:

“Having access to credible and reliable information was important [to Canadians]. Now, the government has always been involved in supporting the media sector in different ways. First of all, by funding CBC, our public broadcaster. Second of all, through supporting weeklies and periodicals, and also through tax policies–industries have been supported and certainly that can be an issue for the media. Ultimately as a government, the most important thing we are asking ourselves is how can we foster a healthier democracy, like we asked in our public consultation process. And ultimately why we needed to make sure that we work on this important pillar is that–in the context of fake news–we need to make sure that we understand the impact of social media, the impact of the filter bubble, the impact of digital literacy–people understanding –digital innovation, while there is so much going on. How they can be able to understand facts and differentiate fiction from reality. So this is an important question. I’m very proud to say that we were ahead of the curve and we’re one of the only governments really talking about this internationally and moving on this subject in 2017.”

So it appears Canadians are too stupid to discern real news from the fake stuff, so we must have our information filtered from more state-funded public relation firms sanctioned by the government. What could go wrong with the government teaming up with Facebook, Google, and legacy media in policing and deeming what is fake news?

Financial Post columnist Kevin Libin soundly mocked Joly and the government on their ridiculous suggestions of intervening to combat fake news in a humorous column entitled “The only fake news the government wants you to see is government fake newsThe only fake news the government wants you to see is government fake news“, which I highly recommend everyone read. Libin, myself and any self-respecting journalist see the government as the antithesis to journalism, and don’t want an already heavily government-dependent industry even more reliant on its adversary.

Instead of letting the legacy media die, allowing for the space and talented people it leaves behind as room and compost for new media to grow, the Canadian government is going to stifle natural growth and prolong the inevitable decline and death, by scrapping completely the competitive free market. The report coming out later today and in a few weeks time will be very telling on just how Pravda-esque Canada will become in 2018. The Heritage Minister’s comments don’t bode well.

 

Full disclosure: I have contributed to Canadaland and am a columnist with Loonie Politics. If you’d like to support me and other independent journalism at Loonie Politics, please go to my about page to find out how.

As a freelancer I also submit opinion pieces to the CBC’s opinion section and have had a couple pieces published thus far with the public broadcaster. Although this may appear as gross hypocrisy on my part, since I write for a publication I criticize so vehemently and believe its journalistic integrity is by-and-large compromised because of its government funding, I justify my contributing to the broadcaster as a freelancer because I am submitting conservative opinions that would otherwise not be published by the CBC. I’m also not an employee of the CBC, so I am in no way beholden to the national broadcaster. Furthermore, as I try to establish myself and eke out a living as a freelancer I have to send pitches to as many publications as possible, and CBC–flush with $1.2 billion of taxpayers’ money–pays well. Kudos to my editors at CBC for publishing me with the full knowledge of my anti-CBC sentiments, I’ll concede the CBC isn’t all bad–and does do some good work by talented people. The plan is to eventually become self-sufficient from my work on this blog and contributions to other new and independent media.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canadian Journalists’ Tactless Reactions to President Trump Egg on Trudeau to be Inadvisably Adversarial

Last week, right-wing journalist Ezra Levant published a book entitled Trumping Trudeau: How Trump will change Canada even if Trudeau doesn’t know it yet. In an excerpt provided and published by Breitbart, Levant explains how Liberal cabinet ministers and PM Trudeau have tacitly and explicitly voiced their disapproval of President Trump. But politicians, especially in Canada, don’t usually do such brash belligerence without the blessing and backing of the press. The mainstream media in Canada is practically goading Trudeau to oppose Trump.

When many Canadian journalists from all the major news outlets express their disdain for Trump in their tweets and articles it sends a signal to the PM that it is acceptable for him too to criticize the mercurial Trump. Of course the visceral hatred for Trump has been frothing from the mouths of the chattering classes in Canada–the Laurentian Elite–ever since Trump announced his run back in June of 2015. But now that the billionaire iconoclast has (for better or worse) become the leader of the free world, the media hasn’t really curtailed its attacks and become more pragmatic in its criticism of our neighbour’s thin-skinned commander-in-chief. They continue unwisely ridiculing the US president because of the inherent groupthink that pervades the Canadian elite, suffering from garrison mentality. There is one correct way of thinking, and in the case of Trump, it is complete and utter revulsion. Anything outside of this correct view is reprehensible.

The Canadian press continue to prod the Trudeau government into opposing Trump, despite the risk of severe consequences. As Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland was in Washington trying to develop relations with the new administration during the inaugural festivities, Freeland had staff and volunteers participating in the protest marches back home. Trudeau switched between subtly and bluntly admonishing Trump’s rhetoric throughout the U.S. election cycle. Now after helping stoke animosity within Canada, Trudeau has suggested Trump and himself meet in America because protests would likely erupt if Trump were to come visit Canada. And now as Trudeau and the PMO try to ingratiate themselves with the Trump administration, Trudeau waffles with tweets like this:

Canadian journalists praised this ambivalent behaviour as “Trudeau” walking tightrope” and “Liberals walking fine line on Trump”. If Trudeau continues this equivocation, Trump will likely blast Trudeau for being two-faced and our nation could face severe ramifications from his politicking.

Of course Trump deserves plenty of criticism, but it isn’t the job of the Canadian press or our PM to take on that role of challenging him. Canada needs to continue to cooperate and collaborate with our closest ally, and striking frosty relations, like during the Bush-Chretien and Obama-Harper eras, is ill-advised when dealing with Trump, someone who doesn’t hold any punches back against adversaries.

Below is a sample of the screeching from Canadian journalists in the past few days of Trump’s nascent presidency. The point of this exercise is to highlight how the Canadian press are applying immense pressure on Trudeau to foster an adversarial relationship with the American President, which could lead to a backlash from Trump, hurting our national interests. (Today, Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was supposed to visit Trudeau and his cabinet at their retreat in Calgary, but the meeting appears to have been cancelled. Late last year it was reported counselor Kellyanne Conway was going to visit the Alberta oil sands business community, but that meeting was also cancelled.)

Maclean’s: 

CBC:

National Post:

Toronto Star:

Globe and Mail:

 I was going to do CTV, Global and Ottawa Citizen as well, but you get the point. 

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Mydemocracy.ca Creator, CBC rolling out Canada 150 survey in early new year

canada-150

canada-150

 

The creators of the MyDemocracy.ca debacle have been granted $576,500 from the hundreds of millions splashed around by the federal government for the Canada 150 celebration. Vox Pop Labs is creating a survey “to engage Canadians in a process of self-exploration and a reflection of who we are at this particular juncture in our history,” explained founder and chief executive officer Cliff van der Linden.

The Vox Pop grant money is divided for $300,500 in consultancy fees, $175,000 in outreach costs, $63,000 in seminar costs, $24,000 in equipment costs and $14,000 in venue costs .

The grant amount for the early 2017 survey “Project Tessera” is $250,000 more than what the Liberals expensed on this week’s electoral reform survey so scorned by opposition MPs, journalists and academics. Vox Pop stated in its grant application form (obtained via an access to information request) that it “is committed to operating Project Tessera exclusively on a cost recovery basis.”

Linden explained by email why this upcoming project has a much more expensive price tag.

“Project Tessera is a much larger undertaking than MyDemocracy.ca. It involves national focus groups, a respondent panel five times the size of that used for MyDemocracy.ca, a working conference bringing together leading scholars in the field, and a more complex design and technical architecture.”

The two-day conference taking place this month includes rooms, food, hotels, and flights for around 30 academics so they can get together to “hone” the survey tool for the Canada 150 initiative. One of Vox Pop’s academic partnerships is with the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. The advisory panel will develop “a distillation of the archetypes for presentation to the public…”

The archetypes used to classify or pigeonhole (depending on who you ask) participants in Vox Pop’s MyDemocracy.ca survey were roundly mocked by the public on Twitter this week, where users used the magic of Photoshop to create their own personalized and hilarious archetypes. On Thursday The National Post’s Tristin Hopper created a parody survey called DemocracyMine.ca, in which unfortunate participants were given off-the-wall questions like “There should not be anything in the rules that says a dog cannot be elected to Parliament and also play professional basketball” and endearing archetypes such as “dinosaur”, “villain”, and “pervert.”

However, the Project Tessera application for the upcoming survey has been given rave reviews in letters of support from political science professors from the University of Toronto and McGill.

For the Canada 150 initiative survey Vox Pop is partnering once again with the CBC. Vox Pop is also the creator of Vote Compass, used in both federal and provincial elections. In the 2011 election, Vote Compass became divisive because some accused the tool of being flawed or skewed, as the needle apparently pointed due Liberal more often than not.

Linden says the accusations “have been entirely debunked, both in the public discourse and academic studies.”

Mario Canseco, vice president of Insight West, in regards to Vox Pop’s recent electoral reform survey believes the segments were not adequately defined. “I was labelled a ‘Pragmatist’, and then they showed all of the things that were the most important for ‘pragmatists’, and I had answered ‘No’ or ‘Opposed’ to all of them. It’s almost like labeling someone a ‘bird’ and then saying: ‘You live in the sea and have gills.’ Unless you have some behavioural questions that go beyond saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to a proposition, you can’t just place people in categories at your leisure. Properly done segmentations work well, particularly in consumer research, because they go beyond asking about a logo or a plan. This is why MyDemocracy.ca reminded me of the Cosmopolitan quizzes of the past,” explained Canseco.

In response to detractors, Linden wrote: “I encourage critics to review the methodology, which is available directly in the application. I think the results will complement existing public consultations related to this initiative.”

In this latest partnership between CBC and Vox Pop, Project Tessera is supposed to, according to a letter of support from CBC Radio Canada, “allow participants to learn more about their own national identities and cultures, and to explore the commonalities they have with other people across the country. This tool would help users learn about themselves and the diversity of identities in Canada.”

Satirists and pranksters may be whetting their appetites for round two, but Project Tessera is touted to be a sophisticated educational tool that aims “to engender among all Canadians an individual sense of belonging within a richly diverse national mosaic.” The tool will survey users on “themes such as culture, values, symbols, belonging, etc.” and “has the potential to generate an unparalleled dataset on public perceptions about Canada and what it means to be Canadian.”

And those concerned with oversimplification a la Mydemocracy.ca need not fret, Project Tesera will use “multiplicity of narratives associated with being Canadian” to make custom characterizations that are “[m]ore than a simple association of user to archetype … each user will be presented with a personalized analysis which simultaneously celebrates their individual identity and inclusion in the broader Canadian collective.”

Every Canadian is a special snowflake after completing Project Tessera.

In the assessment, the Canadian Heritage bureaucrat reviewing Vox Pop was impressed with the company’s “unparalleled levels of online engagement reach” like the over 1.8M Canadians that used the Vote Compass during last federal election. The bureaucrat also was pleased that the digital tool is “particularly well-suited to youth.”

Those eager to test out Project Tessera won’t have to wait long, the online survey should be ready for a spin on CBC’s website by early next year.

Mario Canseco Q&A

1) What are the main problems you see with the government’s electoral reform survey?
The segments are not adequately defined. I was labelled a “Pragmatist”, and then they showed all of the things that were the most important for “pragmatists”, and I had answered “No” or “Opposed” to all of them. It’s almost like labelling someone a “bird” and then saying: “You live in the sea and have gills.” Unless you have some behavioural questions that go beyond saying “Yes” or “No” to a proposition, you can’t just place people in categories at your leisure. Properly done segmentations work well, particularly in consumer research, because they go beyond asking about a logo or a plan. This is why MyDemocracy.ca reminded me of the “Cosmopolitan” quizzes of the past. They would ask:
How do you deal with a break-up?
a) Go for a run. b) Ice cream. c) Step on some ants.
How do you deal with stress?
a) Pushups. b) Chocolate Cake. c) Bite lip until it bleeds.
And so on…
So, if you answered mostly a), you’re a jock. Mostly b) a glutton. Mostly c), a potential serial killer.
Pretty simple, right? Great. You spent 10 minutes on something fun.
Can you follow the same pattern to deal with an issue like electoral reform? Probably not.
Still, the biggest problem I have with the survey is the introduction:
This is utterly disgraceful. No survey, online or by phone, should introduce a topic by saying the survey taker “hopes that you learn something”. Survey takers learn from the audience they are asking questions to (provided they have the right set of tools to analyze the data). What are we, as survey takers, supposed to be learning from MyDemocracy.ca? Using this kind of language is extremely condescending and insulting. I don’t think any person who has conducted polls in a professional manner would endorse an introduction like this one.
2) Do you think the mydemocracy.ca survey is scientific or not? Why?
It depends on what the definition of “scientific” is. There are ways to generate meaningful data from a survey with an open-link and apply weights to it based on census targets. Still, there will be purists who dislike online data collection because the panels are allegedly self-selected, and who say that only the phone can be used because everyone needs to have an equal chance to take a poll (even in a world where fewer people have landlines). In this case, the value of the survey would depend on two issues: proper representation of the population (you can’t have 10,000 respondents, and just three from Quebec, for instance) and assurance that the people who took the poll are who they say they are. This second issue is crucial. On online panels (like the one we rely on at Insights West), we verify that the people who take the survey are who they say they are. Can MyDemocracy.ca assure us that a respondent who claimed to be Female, Boomer and Ontarian is not actually a 17-year-old boy from Tennessee having fun online?

 

3) Can you briefly explain the Myers-Briggs test and if it is a scientific test?
The test has been used as a basis for psychological assessments for decades. But, as is the case with any other application of a theory, it can fail. Trying to justify a segmentation because you based it on Myers-Briggs is not enough. You can use a calculator and still make mistakes.
4) Does using 35,000 respondents powering cluster analysis to determine archetypes a good way to conduct a scientific poll?
Probably not. The essence of proper polling is sample selection. Unfortunately, some reporters and editors have fallen into the trap of assuming that the more people take a survey, the more accurate it will be. This is just not true. You don’t need to talk to 10 million people. You need to talk to the right set of people. Case in point. We had the best online prediction of the popular vote in the United States last month, with a sample of 865 decided voters. We were closer than SurveyMonkey, which had a sample of 70,000 Americans. Sample size means little, certainly less than sample selection.
5) Are you familiar with Vote Compass? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

I am familiar with Voter Compass. It was a fun exercise for a rainy afternoon. Nothing more. It does not supplant properly conducted polling.

Clifton van der Linden Q&A

What is your response to the criticism coming from academics, politicians, and social media that your electoral reform survey is unscientific and biased towards the Liberal government’s desired outcomes? Do you think the results of the survey will be able to inform the government on how to move forward with electoral reform?

I encourage critics to review the methodology, which is available directly in the application. I think the results will complement existing public consultations related to this initiative.

What are Canadians supposed to learn from being classified as an archetype?

The archetypes are empirically derived from a cluster analysis run on panel data comprised of more than 3,000 randomly selected Canadians. The purpose is to provide users with an engaging entry-point into the conversation about democratic values. For those who have not been particularly engaged in the conversation to date, it is an attempt to help them situate themselves within the discussion about how Parliament works. It’s also a way to encourage sharing across social media and hopefully encourage more Canadians to participate in the exercise and the broader discussion attached to it.

Did Pop Vox Labs come up with the questions for the electoral reform survey independently, or did the government give input and specify what questions it wanted asked?

The survey was developed in collaboration with an academic advisory panel and with input from the government.

In the past, your Vote Compass has been criticized for skewing Liberal, with people like Prof. Brock claiming she completed the quiz several different ways and always ended up with a Liberal result. Would you say that quiz was biased towards the Liberals?

The accusations about bias in Vote Compass have been entirely debunked, both in the public discourse and academic studies. There is more than ample evidence available to substantiate the outright dismissal of such claims.

Canadian Heritage granted you $576,500 for this upcoming project, and in your application you stated “Vox Pop Labs is committed to operating Project Tessera exclusively on a cost recovery basis.” Yet the last survey cost the government $326,500, can you explain why the new project that Vox Pop is doing on strictly a cost recovery basis costs $250,000 more than the last survey, especially since this upcoming project has the support of partners like the CBC?

Project Tessera is a much larger undertaking than MyDemocracy.ca. It involves national focus groups, a respondent panel five times the size of that used for MyDemocracy.ca, a working conference bringing together leading scholars in the field, and a more complex design and technical architecture.

What can Canadians expect to learn from Project Tessera?

Details about Project Tessera are still forthcoming, but the intent is to engage Canadians in a process of self-exploration and a reflection of who we are at this particular juncture in our history.

Final Notes: There is another interesting Q&A with Cliff van der Linden done by Maclean’s here.

I will be launching a crowdfunding account for this blog in the near future, but for now if you’d like to support my work please go to Loonie Politics and become a member. A subscription costs $5 a month, but with the promo code Gordon the yearly membership only costs $40, and I get a portion of the proceeds. On top of getting original content by me, you’ll also get pieces from veteran columnists Warren Kinsella and Michael Taube, as well as other up-and-comers like J. J. McCullough, editorial cartoons by Jeff Burney, and podcasts on the latest in politics. Click here to subscribe http://looniepolitics.com/register/.

CBC is Scavenging Vulnerable Canadian Media Landscape

Yesterday the CBC unveiled its website’s ground-breaking new opinion section. No, you were obviously wrong if you’ve mistook CBC’s daily hard news coverage as an op-ed factory of incredibly biased reporting from a state-funded, rose-coloured and -shaped lens. The CBC is unquestionably the last bastion of objectivity in this post-nationalist nation–our Ministry of Truth.

I know what you’re thinking, how can the CBC be in the game of buying hot takes when it’s already providing the one correct way of thinking and seeing the world? How can the CBC buy all these rogue freelancers’ radical ideas? Well, don’t fret progressives, the CBC has the Trudeau-loving leftist Managing News Editor Steve Ladurantaye as gatekeeper to stand guard against anti-PC hate speech and non-CBC values. Ladurantaye is claiming CBC is “committed to getting a wide range of columns onto our platforms.” However, looking into the window of Ladurantaye’s psyche–a.k.a. his tweets–one can establish that only a steady stream of stories reiterating the CBC’s unwritten but ceaselessly-expressed leftist manifesto. This means pro-Islam, pro-Trudeau, pro-Liberals, pro-refugees, pro-immigration, pro-tax increases, pro-carbon pricing, pro-feminism, pro-globalization, pro-native chiefs, pro-SJWs, pro-progressive leaders, as well as anti-nationalism, anti-masculinity, anti-tax cuts, anti-oil, anti-business, anti-America, anti-Catholic, etc. will all be welcome ideas for CBC’s open platform of opinions.

One of the articles in the first batch of columns may have some readers duped into believing the CBC is actually going to allow radically different viewpoints onto its new platform. The CBC published an article by Sheila Gunn Reid, a reporter from Ezra Levant’s right-wing Rebel Media, to the absolute horror of some intolerant progressives. Yet, Gunn’s article only touched upon free speech and the UN attempting to censor The Rebel from covering an upcoming climate conference. Progressives and SJWs can take solace in knowing that with Ladurantaye at the helm CBC will also do de facto censoring of articles containing Gunn and ilk’s actual subversive and toxic ideologies by filtering them into the rejection pile. The other four articles published thus far suggest Ladurantaye is going to keep the CBC mantra intact. A pro-Trudeau piece (advocating for the PM to get a new plane), a grievance culture piece (complaining that social media doesn’t cater to blacks), an anti-men piece (painting all men as sex-crazed assailants like Trump), and a pro-refugee piece (LIberals’ rushing in of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees was great, but more funding for integration is needed) all toe the CBC line.(I will closely monitor the upcoming articles published on the CBC’s new opinion section.)

Furthermore, the CBC’s Editor Blog announced the exciting news that Niel Macdonald is being freed from the shackles of reporting the news and will now be a regular columnist analyzing the news. Macdonald’s corporation has told him to “cease” his “reporting” on how terrible Israel, America, and conservatives are, and instead tell us in his own words how terrible Israel, America, and conservatives are. This line between reporters and columnists, CBC Editor in Chief Jennifer McGuire insists, will ensure the CBC  “preserve[s]” its “journalistic values of impartiality and independence.” (That’s right, the CBC has no dependence on the government or partiality to certain political beliefs whatsoever.)

Now for those wondering how a legacy media corporation is expanding in a time period when old media is headed the same way as the dinosaurs–repeatedly reporting enormous quarterly losses and endless job cuts–the $1.1-1.5 billion (depending on who you ask) annual government subsidy to the CBC courtesy of taxed-to-exhaustion Canadians is the broadcaster’s elixir of immortality. It was shrewd of the CBC to ostensibly campaign for the Liberals last election cycle (e.g. doting coverage, executives taking leave-of-absences to campaign for the LPC, CBC reporters’ union registering to campaign against the CPC, etc.) because of the de facto $150 million additional annual bribe Trudeau promised and delivered the “public” broadcaster. The CBC’s self-interested campaigning paid off.

With this new windfall, the CBC is now poaching dying dinosaur and new media’s talent and very existence. Of course that would be crass for the state-funded behemoth to admit, so Ladurantaye et al. deny they are hiring additional staff. After backlash from others within the industry at the announcement of the expansion of the op-ed section, the CBC did a press release–“Get the Facts: A public broadcaster belongs in the public space“–in which executive vice-president Heather Conway impudently admonished “opinion writers” for decrying the CBC budging its way into the online op-ed market.

“The facts, by now, are pretty clear. The challenges facing media in Canada are many but they are not being caused by the public broadcaster. No one has yet found a reliable way to make people pay for news content on the Internet. Large newspaper companies responded to their challenges by merging the content offered by their smaller papers. This has made CBC/Radio-Canada’s presence more important than ever,” wrote an audacious Conway.

“Limiting what public broadcasting can do only means fewer services for Canadians. It won’t help private companies be more profitable. It won’t increase news coverage or the diversity of views, especially in communities,” Conway baldfaced lied.

Does the CBC and Conway really think that people are that stupid that they don’t realize the news market in Canada is limited to roughly 36 million pairs of eyeballs and a certain amount of clicks in a day? The facts are that the CBC is the morbidly obese white elephant in the room squishing everyone else up against the wall as they suffocate from lack of room to breathe. As one publisher of new media put it to the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee, CBC is an “uber-predator”.

Conway’s claim that others haven’t found profitability online is also patently false. CanadalandiPolitics, et al. have been successful at finding a successful business model. All that they have asked of the government is to stop unfairly subsidizing some players in the market, like the $1.5 billion annually given to the CBC that has made it into Goliath. CBC’s most recent and brazen move into the online market suggests the uber-predator has an insatiable hunger to eat up more and more of the Canadian media landscape and dominate the industry and shaping of the Canadian zeitgeist. It’s time the white elephant in the room got shot, or at the very least put on a regimented diet.

Note to reader: I will be launching a crowdfunding account for this blog in the near future, but for now if you’d like to support my work please go to Loonie Politics and become a member. A subscription costs $5 a month, but with the promo code Gordon the yearly membership only costs $40, and I get a portion of the proceeds. On top of getting original content by me, you’ll also get pieces from veteran columnists Warren Kinsella and Michael Taube, as well as other up-and-comers like J. J. McCullough, editorial cartoons by Jeff Burney, and podcasts on the latest in politics. Click here to subscribe http://looniepolitics.com/register/.

 

 

Clinton Operatives laud CBC’s “Face to Face with PM” as great PR in Wikileaks emails

At the end of last January the CBC did a TV special called “Face to Face with the Prime Minister” in which the CBC did a reality-show-like program where 10 everyday Canadians got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit down one-on-one to interview PM Justin Trudeau.

I (and many others) rolled my eyes at the CBC’s blatant puffery programming. The PR exercise was such translucent obsequiousness to the new PM by our state broadcaster that I wrote “10 Hitches with CBC’s 10 Canadians ‘Face-to-Face’ with PM“. In the successful piece (few thousand views) I deconstructed the disgraceful piece of PR Peter Mansbridge tried to peddle as avant-garde journalism.

Well, if you ask Hillary Clinton’s campaign operatives they would tell you “Face to Face with the PM” was a great PR scheme they would like to emulate. In some of the most recent emails dumped by Wikileaks from today, John Podesta (Clinton’s campaign chairman) and other staffers discussed and lauded the public broadcaster’s propaganda program.

Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook had this to say: “I love it. Will press think it’s “staged”? Or is there a way to structure it so they won’t think that? Also, what consulting firm did Trudeau use? I can’t remember.”

Well, Robby, I don’t think our state broadcaster would appreciate you calling it a consulting firm, but for Justin Trudeau the CBC doesn’t mind because he’s its patron giving it another $150 million more a year in taxpayers’ money. But, Robby, by the look of other Podesta emails it looks like the Clinton camp already has the media wrapped around your little finger.

The now-in-turmoil Huma Abedin thought the CBC PR was great too–“love this idea.”

I’ve been thinking my growing disdain for the CBC may have clouded my judgement and maybe I was overly critical of our public broadcaster. However, when an outside perspective like Clinton’s right-hand woman raves about your supposed journalism as a good form of flattery for a politician then you know you’re in the wrong business.

Another operative then explained CBC’s agitprop and how they could copy it for Clinton.

“Along similar lines, I’d like to try a version of what Justin Trudeau did. He did a 100 minute town hall where 10 real people got 10 minutes each to go up on stage and ask him questions. You see real people have these momentary interactions with her, but never get to see real conversations. Could be cool. And we could hand select for diversity, etc.”

Way to go CBC! You’ve got top political players in the most powerful county in the world following your lead in creating their “staged” propaganda. You should make this a lead story. It’s about you afterall, and you helped your idol, Hillary! Also, now would be a good time as ever for you to lend your sophistry to her floundering campaign.

Note to reader: I will be launching a crowdfunding account for this blog in the near future, but for now if you’d like to support my work please go to Loonie Politics and become a member. A subscription costs $5 a month, but with the promo code Gordon the yearly membership only costs $40, and I get a portion of the proceeds. On top of getting original content by me, you’ll also get pieces from veteran columnists Warren Kinsella and Michael Taube, as well as other up-and-comers like J. J. McCullough, editorial cartoons by Jeff Burney, and podcasts on the latest in politics. Click here to subscribe http://looniepolitics.com/register/.

Medicine Hat Byelection Another Demonstration of Trudeau Wasting Taxpayers’ Money

The Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner byelection is being held today after a month-long campaign in which the Liberal Party of Canada has been devoting significant resources and money.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took time off from his hectic schedule and prime ministerial duties to fly to Medicine Hat earlier this month to campaign with Liberal candidate Stan Sakamoto. The visit—drawing a large crowd of 2,500 constituents (i.e. Hatters)—was somewhat surprising as the riding has been a Conservative stronghold for the last 44 years.

Furthermore, the last federal election in the riding the Liberal candidate at that time only received 17.9 per cent of the vote compared to deceased MP Jim Hillyer’s 68.8 per cent.

In an article with a misleading headline from the Medicine Hat News site (“PM’s trip cost taxpayers nothing”) an LPC spokesperson claimed “taxpayers will not be on the hook” for the cost of PM Trudeau’s trip. In the same article a PMO staffer explained that the LPC would reimburse the cost of travel for the PM and his accompanying staff to Medicine Hat. This is deceiving because Trudeau can only fly on government aircraft—which costs tens-of-thousands-of-dollars per trip—and “the longstanding practice” for non-governmental flights is that the party reimburses the federal government the equivalent cost of a commercial flight to the same destination.

Sheila Gunn Reid, a reporter at The Rebel, estimated the actual cost of Trudeau’s trip—$14,400 an hour while in the air—at over $120,000 for the one flight to Medicine Hat. Reid questioned how the LPC could afford to reimburse the trip when the cost goes well over the $78,000 campaign spending cap. However, the LPC’s campaign is only reimbursing the commercial equivalent cost, so taxpayers will be left likely paying well over $200,000 in flights so the PM could campaign in a deeply conservative riding.

Unless Trudeau and Sakamoto are able to charm many more thousands of Hatters into voting red this byelection it would appear the trip was a large waste of taxpayers’ money (if you believe taxpayers should be paying for partisan trips in the first place, or PM’s should devote time to campaigning), especially when the Liberals already have a strong majority and the riding is non-consequential for them, other than perhaps bragging rights.

On top of the gross waste of taxpayers’ money, Trudeau’s staffers, Liberal MPs and their staffers all spent evenings calling constituents in the riding. Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale and Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr both recently visited Medicine Hat to campaign with Sakamoto as well.

Not to be outdone, late last week the Conservative Party of Canada had Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose door knocking with CPC candidate Glen Motz. Several days prior, former speaker of the house and MP Andrew Scheer—now a candidate running in the CPC leadership race—campaigned with Motz.

All of this excessive time and money spent on a riding that’s not likely contestable reiterates the notion that the Liberals have never quit campaigning since winning the federal election last year.

5,723 constituents voted in advance polls in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner and those results will be made public at around 8:30 p.m. local time tonight, the same time polling stations close. The results of the polling stations and the byelection winner will be announced shortly thereafter.

Note to reader: I will be launching a crowdfunding account for this blog in the near future, but for now if you’d like to support my work please go to Loonie Politics and become a member. A subscription costs $5 a month, but with the promo code Gordon the yearly membership only costs $40, and I get a portion of the proceeds. On top of getting original content by me, you’ll also get pieces from veteran columnists Warren Kinsella and Michael Taube, as well as other up-and-comers like J. J. McCullough, editorial cartoons by Jeff Burney, and podcasts on the latest in politics. Click here to subscribe http://looniepolitics.com/register/.