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J.J. McCullough

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Disposable News: Bob Rae and Plastic Bags

Posted: 06/11/2012 11:05 am

Gossip about the political future of acting Liberal boss Bob Rae seems to appeal to precisely two sorts of people: the gossips themselves -- who were in full force this weekend -- and Bob Rae.

Maybe Rae will hang around and lead the party permanently! (As opposed to now, where it just feels that way.) Or maybe he won't, and we can all stop speculating about that and begin speculating about new things, like which cabinet portfolio Rae will hold in the thought-experiment coalition government of theoretical prime minister Thomas Mulcair!

While Thursday's completely overrated CBC non-story (Rae cleared to run! Or maybe soon! Or something!) has generated no shortage of equally pointless non-commentary ("Is Bob Rae the best choice to revitalize the Liberal Party?" asks iPolitics. "There will be much debate," Keith Beardsley boldly concludes) the sheer fatigue of enduring this endlessly unsexy dance of seven veils is provoking some genuine glimmers of insight, too.

Andrew Coyne at the National Post, for instance, churned out a fascinating column in Saturday's issue that deconstructs how the Canadian media establishment was effectively marionetted by the Liberal elite into planting a false memory in the public consciousness -- namely that at some place, at some time, Bob Rae made a promise to follow party rules and not pursue the long-term leadership of the Grits. By Coyne's estimate, this hustle mostly entailed constantly lying -- er, "opening exiting new fields for semantic research" in several distinct realms of previously settled human understanding, such as "what does a promise mean" and "what is a rule."

Meanwhile over at Maclean's Blog Central, Aaron Wherry and Paul Wells engage in some clever banter about Rae, the most interesting of which centres on the degree to which their banter itself simply plays into whatever elaborate web of intrigue and deception the Rae-ites (Raelians?) are trying to weave.

There might be a conspiracy or there might not; Rae may run, or he may not, but as Wherry exasperatedly observes, "only one thing is inevitable: that somehow or another the Liberal party of Canada will find a way to make itself the story."

***

As goes Toronto, so goes the nation! Such has been the hopeful motto of many media types over the last few days, as eastern journalists eagerly hope that the Toronto City Council's Wednesday night decision to ban plastic bags from Hogtown supermarkets will provoke some manner of "national discussion" on the issue, and thus justify their 'round-the-clock coverage of this petty story of municipal garbage regulation.

Will Ottawa follow suit with a plastic bag ban of their own, asks the CBC? No, says Ottawa. How about Edmonton, asks Global. Sorry, says Edmonton. Yes, but surely Saska-NOPE!

The Vancouver Sun gave nothing less than the full front page treatment to the idle question of whether their city could be next, before quietly concluding that no, the laws don't actually work that way here. It was an excellent example of what we might call "but maybe journalism," that most specious form of the art where a reporter pursues a story with absolutely no tips, leads, or insights any sort, and instead relies on his own colourful theories of a fantasized tomorrow to fill the gaps.

In other words, it's a lot like reporting on Bob Rae.

 

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