Saturday, February 2, 2008
CON GOT YOUR TONGUE...
It's a decision that could be right out of a George Orwell novel, but lives and breaths here in Canada.
The Stephen Harper CONserfative government has sent a chilling message to public sector scientists that they are to hold their tongue and wait for their cue before speaking.
Following the frightening silencing of scientists by the Lame-Quack Bush administration, which has allowed private industry and lobbiests to vet answers for public consumption, Harper has dictated that all responses to media inquiries must be filed on paper and that the response from the government employee will have to meet 'the standard'. It means that Johnny 'Got Your Tongue' Baird won't have to worry about conflicting songs from the official CON songsheet and can avoid any more embarrassing truths.
Well, a few may see this as simply ensuring that ministers and elected officals know of what the scientists speak of in case they are asked for a response, the fact that Harper's ministers are never given clearance to talk unless the Grand Poobah has signed off on a carefully shredded script means this is no more than an attempt to stifle another branch of Canada's public service.
Put it this way: A reporter has a question on some new climate change data, so he calls up the Environment Canada scientist known for climate change. Now the reporter is told that he must submit his questions in writing. The scientist then responds with his answer -- but wait! It then flows to the PMO's office, which seems already inundated with super-big brother tasks like arranging meetings between CON fundraisers and disputing parties, where the answer is put through a meat-grinder to ensure it fits the preconceived message the Prime Minister or ministers have already confirmed. You know, the 'Earth is Flat, Dinosaurs Walked with Man, Canada is Back' trifles. The so-called reply then is filtered back to the reporter, who during this convuluted communication field trip has moved on to the next hot topic. It has become a dated story, nevermind that the response possibly does not resemble anything that the scientist may have said.
Hence, the flow of information is slowed, controlled and contained. Scientists -- actually, all public service employees now, understand that Big Tubby Brother is Watching. The government has slickly created an 'operational matters' minefield for Canada's renowned public scientists, just like the Canadian Forces, Now Harper and his CONs are free to spend more time fighting the evils of women's groups, Canada's aboriginal population and provincial leaders.
Throw in the recent termination of National Science advisor Arthur Carty and their steps that began with gagging their candidates during the last election, the fight with the national press gallery, their decision to make cabinet meetings secret, the PMO's brass knuckle grip on all things partisan, and you get an indisputable pattern of 'prison of information'. Your information-based opinion must coincide with their coda of emotion over factual evidence and partisan robotic mutterings or you'll be silenced or more likely fired. At any hour of the day or night.
Perhaps they should just come clean and admit they meant 'Freedom FROM Information'...