11 June 2006

The Poll-atariat

The Globe reports on their recent poll taken by none other than Allen Gregg, the statistician who would be policy analyst. Under the sensational headline, "Majority believe terrorists will hit Canada," the Globe goes on to quote Gregg as saying, "There's a recognition that this is just part of the world we live in right now and that we have to participate in it... it's part of almost an international realism." Such insightful analysis of a completely non-critical view of recent events!

And in a related poll, an overwhelming majority of Canadians who participate in polls do not believe that the frenzy of hyped-up news coverage about the recent arrests in the GTA have any influence whatsoever on their opinions about whether Canada is at increased risk of an attack, or whether our troops should be in Afghanistan. Nope, nada, none. No influence whatsoever. And on the question about whether the timing of the arrests were politically influenced based on the prior poll that showed support for the current government's policy with respect to the deployment declining, a majority of Canadians who participate in polls responded, "political influence in law enforcement affairs? Don't be silly!"

Okay, so I made up the last paragraph. The real poll, statistically "accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20," was conducted between June 7 and 8, in the wake of the over-hyped massmedia coverage of the alleged terrorist's arrests in the Greater Toronto Area. When considered from the ground of "spectacle," the news conference in full dress regalia, the repeated showing of the parade of cars taking the accused to be charged, the "evidence" table showing a cell phone, a computer and a bag of fertilizer (okay, so the props department needs work) all served to create an impression of fear in the public's collective mind. Even the depiction of family members dressed in burqas would serve to subconsciously connect Kabul and Baghdad with Toronto for anyone who consumes massmedia impression-making without critical awareness.

Whether or not the allegations will be successfully tried in court remains to be seen. The last time a similarly over-hyped arrest was made because of alleged surveillance of high profile "targets," the charges were found to be completely baseless, aside from some relatively minor immigration infractions. Nonetheless, the political effects of this "showcase of terror" are unmistakeable: Fear and paranoia are being systemically injected into the public consciousness. As "power loves a plague," according to Foucault, those who might consider consolidating their power by appealing to fear with "get tough on terrorists and criminals" policies, are celebrating not only the arrests, but the ensuing circus.

When the massmedia make us feel less secure, our liberty becomes less secure.
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Anonymous said...

When politicians start ruling by fear and feeding off it rather than leading by hope and possibilities- then you know that the terrorists have scored a point. I don't know what's worse, the fact that the leaders shamelessly do this, or the fact that people fall into the trap- again and again and again!

tremolo said...

Ironically, world terrorism is down, but the commodity of fear is still making gains. Harper sends troops to Afghanistan, making Canada a potential target, then finds fertilizer. The Cabadian media have bought into this, with some exceptions, but I hope Canadian's don't. Thanks Mark for posting this.