Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year, Same Tactics

After a bit of a hiatus, it's time to bring this blog out of semi-retirement. In the words of Freddy Mercury, 'the show must go on.'

There is plenty to talk about on the political front; from the Afghan Prisoner Torture Inquiry details, the prorogation of Parliament, and numerous other issues that have come up since I took my break. However, there was something very particular which caught my eye tonight and furthered my desire to come back to this blog.

I was watching television tonight, enjoying my program, when my senses were assaulted numerous times on commercial breaks by an advertisement paid for by the Saskatchewan Party which attacked NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter. I've bemoaned the use of attack ads before in Canadian Politics, and their use and effectiveness before on this blog, and again we've seen the same problems.

What is my main problem with this ad you might ask? It's depiction of facts is what is the problem.

The ad starts by telling us that since coming back to Saskatchewan from ALBERTA (said in a particular way that invokes spookiness) Dwain has called Saskatchewan people 'grumpy', without providing any context to that statement. Unless this is a common comment between the Opposition Leader and the Premier, I believe this is the incident as reported by the Leader Post.
Leader Post: October 21st, 2009

Now imagine that, Lingenfelter said Saskatchewan residents were 'grumpy' over the Premier's Leadership, while meanwhile our illustrious Premier called Lingenfelter himself grumpy. So, we've got one political ad with one out-of-context message so far, and it also ignores the fact that our own Premier tossed the heinous word of 'grumpy' around when directly referring to the Leader of the Opposition. So, if the word is good enough of an adjective for the Premier, what's so wrong with the Opposition Leader using it as well to describe how people are feeling?

After what we'll call 'grumpy-gate', which doesn't have the alliterative appeal I hoped it would, the ad moves on to call other things Lingenfelter has said into question. The ad moves on to to say that Lingenfelter has had the audacity to refer to Saskatchewan's economy as in a 'free fall' and that he would dare challenge our highly respected, non-mistake making Minister of Finance, by declaring we went from 'boom' to 'bust'.

Will someone tell the Premier that these last two statements were actually fact? Saskatchewan's economy has shrunk due to the global recession we experienced, and are still working to correct, as of 2009.

As for free fall, I think that's an accurate phrase for explaining how our estimated potash revenues came in far short of their expectations, which in turn leave our province scrambling to find ways to make up for the shortfall. Is that it? Did Lingenfelter use the wrong fall term? Would our Premier have preferred if he said Saskatchewan was experiencing a shortfall in our economy?

As you can see, the problem you should be having with this ad, is that it is attacking someone for speaking the truth. For simply referring that we are in tough economic times, Lingenfelter is being attacked for 'not believing in Saskatchewan.' Apparently, our Premier seems to believe that if you ignore something and say it isn't happening, that makes it more true than the truth. One can't help but wonder if this was the same thought process that led to our inflated potash revenue projections in the first place.

The ad ends by playing a pity card, proclaiming that Lingenfelter called the Premier a 'loser' and then proceeds to play the video clip of Lingenfelter explaining to a reporter that 'That's what losers do.' Again, taken out of context. In context, Lingenfelter was referring to the spin that Saskatchewan Party was using in the last two by-elections for Saskatoon-Riversdale and Regina-Douglas Park.

So, let's explore this for a moment. Did Dwain Lingenfelter actually call the Premier of Saskatchewan a loser?

Using my good reliable source at, let's see what they call a loser:

A.)One that fails to win: the losers of the game.
B.)One who takes loss in a specified way: a gracious loser; a poor loser.
C.)One that fails consistently, especially a person with bad luck or poor skills: "losers at home seeking wealth and glory in undeveloped countries." (Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.)
D.) One that is bad in quality: That book is a real loser.

Slang: An inept person; an undesirable or annoying person; a social failure: Those guys are all losers. They'll never amount to anything.

Judging from the attack ad put out by the Saskatchewan Party, they would have us believe that Lingenfelter was specifically using the slang term definition for the word loser, directed towards the Premier. However, given the by-elections and the Saskatchewan Party failing to pick up seats in either riding; does not the first technical definition stand?

We've often heard on election night of someone 'winning' the seat, so if someone can win a seat surely that means they can also 'lose' the seat. And remind me again, what do you call someone who doesn't win again? That's right, loser. While it's not a nice term, it is technically the right word for the situation.

So, did Dwain Lingenfelter call Brad Wall a loser? I can't answer that question, since I don't know the thought process behind Lingenfelter's comments. He could have been referring to the fact that the Saskatchewan Party failed to win seats in the by-election, and their attempts at spinning the results as positive for themselves...Or he could have been taking a direct shot at the Premier.

Now, if it was the latter, obviously I must say that was not the right road to take. After all, I'd be pretty hypocritical if I complained about one party using attack ads and slogans and words against another, while letting the other party scoot on by without answering for their comments as well. If it was the former, then I don't see the problem because it was a term which referred directly to how the Sask Party performed in the by-elections. While not the best choice of words, grammatically it is a correct statement in the English language.

Well, if you haven't seen this ad yet, I'm sure you will in the months to come. All I ask, is that you consider the out of context manner in which the ad is presented and question the comments that are being put to you.

To close this post, and perhaps add some thought provoking discussion as to the use of context, here's some famous quote on 'losers'. Tell me if any of them raise the same ire and objections that Premier Wall seems to take towards Lingenfelter's comment.

"Losers live in the past. Winners learn from the past and enjoy working in the present towards the future." - Denis Waitley

"Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people." - Nido Qubein

"Winners have simply formed the habit of doing things losers don't like to do." - Albert Gray

"There are winners, there are losers and there are people who have not yet learned to win." - Les Brown

"Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not." - Bill Gates