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Monday, 10 June 2013

Conservatives and the Media Bias

There have been a lot of controversies recently in Canadian politics. While the Federal Government has dealt with the prospective failure of the XL Pipeline, the potential trade deal with the European Union, and the spending scandal in the Senate. While this has been in the news every night, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has managed to surpass the Conservatives in media coverage.

It is alleged that Ford was videotaped smoking cocaine in a suburban neighbourhood of the city. The American website Gawker claims that two of its reporters saw the video and that it is "clearly" Ford, and this was picked up by the Toronto Star. The only information that the public has to go on is a picture that was provided. Attempts to secure the video have proven unsuccessful, and right now apparently the video has disappeared. The people with him were apparently involved in criminal activities and were both killed outside a nightclub earlier this year, leading many to assume that the video has been seized by police as part of the evidence in a homicide case.

Naturally, this has taken off as not only one of the top national news stories, it also briefly enjoyed exposure worldwide, much to the chagrin of Torontonians. Ford, for his part, denied the allegations about a week after they surfaced. During that period he managed to lose three members of his staff. The media storm intensified with nightly attention on The Tonight Show, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show.

All the while, Ford's loyal supporters, who love his "don't give a fuck" attitude, have remained at his side. While he has been vilified for his inarticulateness, his malice, and his outspoken opinions, he has significant appeal for failing to waiver in the face of strong opposition. Ford's image, in fact, is based on him being rough and tumble, and smoking cocaine with criminals has not surprised many, including his supporters. Ford has had a long history of substance abuse problems, most famously getting a DUI in the United States about a decade ago.

It certainly begs the question. What's the relevance of a scandal like this? So far as I can tell, there are two significant angles. Firstly, there is no evidence against Ford. Secondly, many seem to still feel that Ford is still fit to run the city. It's worth remembering that he was fired in 2012 and managed to win his job back.

Nonetheless, Ford has hit back against the media. It's not the first time that he has attacked the press. Far from it: Ford has always claimed to be fighting against a media bias against conservatives. According to Ford, who has taken the same line as Republicans like Mitt Romney, that the "lamestream media" is run by liberals. Ford appears every Sunday on a talk radio programme where he voices his opinions directly, without the filter of any media companies.

While my first reaction is to say that of course the media is not biased against conservatives, as media often serves the dominant class, I'd argue that mass media is not necessarily partial to a party. Instead, I prefer to think of the bias as one against an ideology of public spending on programmes that resdistribute. These are usually packaged as "pro-business" which is coincidentally how conservatives tend to brand themselves.

Sadly, despite the fact that large companies in Canada such as Bell, Qu├ębecor, and Shaw control the vast majority of national media, many Canadians believe that the media is either "unbiased" or that it represents a more "liberal" agenda. This disregards the fact that, for the most part, Canadian media tend to oppose the social welfare state and take positions to uphold the status quo on important issues like women's rights, immigration, environmental protection, or employment security.

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