A SaltWire Network Publication

Top News

Russell Wangersky: Learning lessons from south of the border

"Announcing that things are 'Fake News’ and replacing them with your own invented facts is the new normal in politics," Russell Wangersky writes.
"Announcing that things are 'Fake News’ and replacing them with your own invented facts is the new normal in politics," Russell Wangersky writes.

What happens in the U.S. is their business, and we shouldn’t spend time writing or thinking about it.

That’s message I get every single time I write about the country to the south of us. “If Trump is hurtling that country towards martial law, who cares?” is the message I get back. “If basic civil and human rights are being eroded, let them deal with it.”

My answer? For every willing ostrich, there’s bound to be some soft sand into which you can stick your head — but the simple solution of denial isn’t healthy for you, or the rest of us, in the long term.

Why pay attention to the U.S.?

Because while you’re told to learn from your mistakes, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the mistakes of others as well.

The one thing I’ve learned from the almost daily mistakes on both sides of the Donald Trump Show?

Blind dogma is a bad thing, whether it’s right-wing dogma or left-wing dogma. When you pick an absolute, that absolute turns around and defines you.

And I see some of the same hardening of the political arteries here.

The message in all of this? Our neighbours to the south are showing us the clear dangers of uninformed factionalism — something that has become an extremely successful election tool.

One thing that is spreading is the willingness to quickly believe the worst of someone on the opposite side, even if what you are choosing to believe is the “evidence” for your case is an easily disprovable lie. There’s a problem with “Why let facts get in the way?” The problem is that it actually is the opposite of informed democracy. Anyone can do factionalism with a minimum investment of involvement.

There are plenty of people in the political world who are willing to exploit that; now that lying to the public isn’t even a minor sin, politicians are seizing the opportunity and exploiting it. Announcing that things are “Fake News” and replacing them with your own invented facts is the new normal in politics. In the U.S. right now, even the simplest of facts can be erased with a bold-faced lie designed to help yourself with your core supporters.

And if you think some of that hasn’t rubbed off on Canadian politicians, their organizers and their methods, you’re wrong. The decline of the news business pretty much across the board in Canada — the reduction in the numbers of journalists, the speed at which the news cycle moves and renews itself — has not made for more accurately reported news. And that has played into the hands of those who want to dismiss all of what the news media presents and replace it with their own self-serving take — a take that, more and more, those who are already on side use to justify the position they already held.

The message in all of this? Our neighbours to the south are showing us the clear dangers of uninformed factionalism — something that has become an extremely successful election tool.

History repeats across borders, and to think that we’re somehow immune to that is to ignore reality.

Government should change regularly — and if you’re not part of regularly reviewing what governments do (even if the government is currently a party whose broad philosophical tenets are ones you support), you’re not doing your job.

Exactly when and who I’ve voted for is a matter between me and the ballot box, but I can tell you that I’ve voted, at one time or another, for every major party in this country. I’ve voted to support what a government is doing and I’ve voted against governments when it was clear that they outlived their energy and ability.

But if I ever get into lockstep with one party, regardless of what that party does and how far it is willing to go, someone should take away my right to vote.

Vote for who will do the best job, not who’s got the right hat.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 39 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@thetelegram.com — Twitter: @wangersky.

Recent Stories