Deep down inside their ostensibly nosy little souls, journalists know they have only one talent — they can recognize patterns. They’re really good at playing “What’s wrong with this picture?” They know when something looks right and when it smells like dead fish.
John Baird’s sudden and totally unexpected and unhinted-at resignation as foreign minister of Canada – and of the Harper government – smells entirely of dead fish. Ministers of Mr. Baird’s stature in this government do not allow announcements to be blurted out that they are quitting both cabinet and their seat in Parliament once they attend to the small detail of telling the Prime Minister.
Yet the mainstream media practically without exception have treated the story as if God, moving in the mysterious ways of which He is fond, abruptly elevated Mr. Baird to post-politics glory, barely giving him time to order his limousine driver to take him from the Pearson Building to Langevin Block to let Stephen Harper know what was going on.
This is either a few weeks or a few months before an election is called, an election that will be brutal and nation-fracturing.
This is an act by a man who has breathed politics since he was a teen-ager, an act by the minister possibly most trusted to act as Stephen Harper’s mouth, an act by a man who would have been expected to enter the jousting lists as a potential successor to Mr. Harper after the Prime Minister himself got lifted up by the Almighty, an act by a member of a government where every act and utterance are dictated by the Prime Minister’s Office, and an act by a man widely considered to be a chum and confidante of the Prime Minister’s wife, Laureen
What’s wrong with this picture is dead fish — and journalists who either are lazy or have no idea what goes on in the ministers‘ offices of Canada’s Conservative government. Or both.
Some have suggested a certain pragmatic sense of what the next election will bring but by and large the media have reported without a breath of suspicion – quoting over and over again the same anonymous robo-source in the minister’s office using the same words – that “The minister is looking to turn the page on 20 years of public service.” or that “A compelling position in the private sector awaits a man of Mr. Baird’s stature – his prime earning years are now.’ And those closer still to the inner workings of the Conservative Cabinet indicate it really was a new lease on life Mr. Baird was after.
The media have then gone on to lugubriously eulogize Mr. Baird’s behaviour on the world stage as if he wasn’t loathed as foreign minister and considered an embarrassment for Canada’s image by at least half the country’s population – or maybe more accurately at least half that part of the population that follows public affairs.
The late James Carey of Columbia University, one of the foremost media theorists of the past half-century, wrote, “The true subject matter of journalism is the conversation the public is having with itself.” He would have considered the reporting of Mr. Baird’s resignation to be pathetic.
It is evidence that the Harper PMO has been entirely successful at building a wall between the media and the government. It is evidence that the media simply don’t know what the Conservatives are doing and simply don’t know, or don’t care, that repeated polls have shown that the values of the great majority of Canadians are at odds with the values of Mr. Harper’s government.
Mr. Baird’s sudden resignation, the stated reason for it and the way it was carried out, it all looks fishy and those who work in the media know that.