Data Smog

If you have started to suspect that the national media agenda is being held hostage by the travails of Stockwell Day, rest assured. Your suspicions are well founded. It is, indeed, being held hostage, notwithstanding the absence of a ransom note.

The Canadian Alliance psychodrama now so thoroughly dominates the media discourse, it has become difficult to imagine that anything else could be going on in the world. Not the outstanding effort Canada put in to win the 2008 Olympics. Not Canadas position on the United Nations Human Development Index. Not anything at all, apparently, is as important as reporting the sandbox shenanigans of the alleged grown-ups in the Alliance.

In the past few weeks, then, we have had analysis piled upon analysis, minutiae upon minutiae. Could you ever conceive that musings of Myron Thompson (or Art Hanger, for that matter) could be accorded the status of considered wisdom? Can you imagine why it has become so vital to document, in numbing detail, every bit of dyspepsia that emanates from something called the Canadian Alliance National Council?

Lacking many (or any) friends at the National Post, I cannot know for sure that said newspaper – to wit, the founding fathers of the United Alternative, and Tom Long, and Stockwell Day and so on – are fed up to teeth with this goddamned story. But my hunch is that even the Post is getting sick of it all. I certainly know that I am, and everyone else who clings to the belief, na�-like, that there are other things worth writing about.

In the Summer of 2001, when much of Canadian politics has acquired all the attractiveness of a charnel house, it is not likely that you have seen the names of David Shenk and Neil Postman in proximity to Stockwell Days. But that is unfortunate, because Messrs. Shenk and Postman have some useful things to tell us about the kidnapping of our national agenda.

Mr. Shenk wrote a wonderful book about a related subject some three years ago, called Data Smog. Data Smog is a pithy phrase that accurately describes what life has become for too many of us – smothered by veritable mountains of useless information, on the Internet, on TV, in e-mails, on the sides of buildings. Information, to Shenk and Postman, does not equal knowledge. It is, as Shenk puts it, mostly worthless garbage.

Writes Shenk: One of the most vivid consequences of the information glut is a culture awash in histrionics. As the competition heats up, we do what we have to do to make our voices heard. We TALK LOUDER. Wear more colour. Show more cleavage. Say shocking things.

Mr. Day, of course, can hardly complain about such a state of affairs, since – up until this point, anyway – his career has been built upon a foundation of histrionics, loudness and the public policy equivalents of Sea Doos. But, even as a partisan adversary, I confess that I simply cannot conceive what life has become, for Mr. Day or his family. As I have told one or two journalists before, only someone involved in politics knows what it is like to lay awake at four in the morning, listening to the sleeping noises of everyone else in the house – and waiting for the sound of the paper slapping against the front door. And then, plodding downstairs, to read what is, hardly ever, good news.

My point, here, is not that good news is what is required of our national media. I am not Pollyanna, and neither should you be Pollyanna. Instead, I am calling for – right here, and right now – an end to the Alliance news overload. As David Shenk notes: We are bathing in information, and while this is often a very good thing, there is the danger of drowning in it.

The national agenda has been held hostage by this Canadian Alliance mess. It is drowning in it. Enough already. So serious am I about this that I have established an e-mail account – – to determine if others feel similarly. Tell me what you think, and Ill try to print the best comments.

Who knows, folks? If we pull this off, maybe you can start reading, and watching, the news again.


  1. very good information thanks for sharing

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