First published in February 2011. I still agree with the thoughts expressed and continue to believe that corporate media serves us poorly in political reporting.
The genesis of a preceding article, Drive-by punditry, was my effort to look beyond labels attached to politicians. I hoped to better understand the principles and values of people who wish to govern. During a fairly thorough review of media accounts, I kept reading the same superficial characterizations with no elucidation.
Most commonly repeated was the claim that Adrian Dix is a leftist. I wondered what that meant. Certainly, it is foolishness to use a single place on the left-right continuum to describe a complex intellect. Yet, the tag hung on Dix is typical of inane media commentary. People that use it are not seeking to inform, they seek to malign. Unfortunately, too much is written with that aim alone.
I looked through Dix’s published material and reports on issues he raised as a critic in the BC Legislature. My perception was that Dix was an effective analyst and debater and he seemed consistent and sincere in applying humanist principles to the ministries he addressed, including Children and Families and Health.
I suppose some might think it is left-wing to desire strengthened families and improved childcare, prevention of abuse and family violence and improvement and protection of what is already a good public health system. Yet, in my experience, all intelligent people want those results. They might vary slightly in how to achieve the aims but that doesn’t have to be a fundamental difference. I’ve seen arguments about in-hospital cleaning services versus outside contractors but the real issue of effectiveness gets ignored. Driving with three tires on the road may be less expensive than with four but the issue that matters is whether or not the car can run without endangering occupants.
Maybe it is left wing to support the concept of trade unionism, by which workers seek mutual protection and benefit through greater collective power. But, that is what Philip Hochstein seeks to achieve when he gathers allies under the umbrella of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association. Also, John Winter when he tries to compound the influence and financial muscle of the BC Chamber of Commerce members seeking a larger piece of the economic pie. And, Jock Finlayson at the Business Council of BC, Darcy Rezac of the Vancouver Board of Trade, the Law Society and the self-interested billionaires club funding the Fraser Institute and multiple clones.
It is appropriate for common workers to establish communities of interest as do the province’s captains of industry. Surely a desire for balance and fairness is not restricted to the left wing of politics. Then again, maybe Hochstein, Winter and Rezac are left-wingers.
Some of my friends perceive themselves to be conservatives. They worry about rapid changes that BC has undergone in the last 50 years, how culture has changed and opportunities for ordinary people have disappeared. They worry about unsafe neighborhoods, taxation, inflation and lost pensions. People in the province look different, our communities feel and sound distinct from what they used to be.
These friends also worry that the abyss has grown between haves and have-nots, regardless of language and ethnicity. Older citizens value the splendor of British Columbia and remember abundant oceans, unspoiled reserves of wilderness and neighborly towns never targeted by drug dealers and congested by ceaseless traffic. Are those the cares of conservatives alone?
The left/right spectrum is of little value, perhaps best thought of as circular in nature. The most radical of left and right are within reach of each other and equally distant from the center. One much-read pundit admits that Dix has been highly effective in his political roles but supposes Dix is too left-wing. But, the writer gives no example of what the latter statement means. Would we be better off with an incompetent who the pundit rates as less left-wing? The same writer imagines that Dix, for the mistake of backdating a memo to himself in the nineties, can never be absolved, never be worthy of high office. Apparently errors of omission are different than errors of commission, or some such silliness.
I say to Vaughn Palmer that he is wrong when he tries to hold Dix to an ultra-rigorous standard. Like most others, I made bad judgments in the past and took actions that I would never repeat today. Some of those actions were harmful to people, others offended good ethical principles. As humans, we should learn from experience, from self-evaluation and criticism, triumphs and failures. We then move on as better people. We can never change the past but we can do right in the present and the future.
Dix erred in backdating a memo-to-file in 1998. He admitted that fact and his actions over many years reflect an honorable man. Gordon Campbell put lives at risk, driving drunk in Hawaii. I do not understand why any pundit would pardon Campbell for that more recent, more egregious crime while Dix cannot be absolved of a lesser wrong further in the past.
I sense double standard hypocrisy from a pundit who fails to disclose financial benefits gained from those commercial and political interests on whom he reports.