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Media Bites: the Trudeau Media Bias Is Not What it Seems

04/11/2013 08:21 EDT | Updated 06/11/2013 05:12 EDT

There are some folks out there -- for simplicity's sake, let's call them "Sun News" -- who cling religiously to this idea that the entire Canadian journalistic establishment is hopelessly biased in favour of Justin Trudeau. Their latest piece of evidence? In a recent interview J-Tru used the word "decibel" instead of "decimal" while making a math analogy -- and the press didn't care!

Ezra Levant devoted a full 10-minute segment to this monstrous gaffe Tuesday night, grinning with smug self-satisfaction that he'd discovered one more symptom of a "media culture that covers up for liberal politicians that they love." I mean, you'd expect a shocker like this to get a lot of attention from the mainstream media, yet barely any of their reporters noticed. Unless you count all of them.

If decibel-gate was symptomatic of anything, in fact, it's how embarrassingly difficult it's proving for this country's conservative commentariat to compile a convincing case that the Canadian press is unduly forgiving of young Justin. It's a great shibboleth of the right at present, but as my old pal Elizabeth May might say, also one with a firmer grounding in "truthiness" -- ie; worldview-affirming plausibility -- than factual evidence. I don't much care for the man myself, but speaking as someone who's taken a pretty close look at what leading media voices have been saying and writing about Justin over the last seven months, I gotta say this has been the chilliest love-in since the Clintons' last date night.

As we await formal notice of Trudeau II's coronation, take a quick survey our nation's top papers. You'll find (at best) mostly cautious statements of conditional interest in a mildly competent politician whose greatest talent is exceeding low expectations. This may or not be better than what Harper and Mulcair are getting at the moment, but it's certainly a long way from the "thrill-up-my-leg" affection the American press slavered over a certain Illinois senator back in the day.

"Trudeau will either bring the Liberals back through the increasingly Liberal middle, or one of the party's most famous names will preside over the party's demise," summarizes Tim Harper.

"For all of his months on the trail, Trudeau has yet to dispel the not-ready-for-prime-time aura that has been a constant feature of his political persona," concludes Chantal Hebert.

"What is his vision? What are his values? What are his big ideas? We need to know if he has conviction -- not just musing, but genuine conviction," adds Martin Goldfarb.

And those are just the lefties at the Toronto Star.

To be sure, the press does have a pro-Trudeau bias, but it's a bias of interest more than affinity. As the passing of Maggie Thatcher has proven, most countries only produce a truly great (in the historical sense) leader once every three or four generations, amid decades of duds. As the hereditary successor of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Canada's last (hell, probably first) prime minister of truly epic ambition, achievement, and profile, few politicians in Canadian history have ever borne a burden of history, legacy, and expectation as  heavy as Justin's. His pedigree made him destined to be over-discussed, over-analyzed, over-loved, and over-hated -- and here we are.

Further exacerbating all this interestingness is the historical quirk that Justin's political party is in such shambles no comparably compelling character could be cajoled to command it. Sucking up all the air in the room is hardly a great feat when you're in there alone; contemplate an alternative universe where the 2013 Liberal race featured the likes of Bob Rae, Mark Carney, and Dalton McGuinty rather than five nobodies, and it's easy to view Trudeaumania 2.0 as a byproduct of media boredom as much as anything else.

The Canadian press isn't stupid, and even its most obnoxiously liberal segments possess enough awareness to grasp the undercurrent of silliness that defines the whole Justin Trudeau fairy tale. JT has never been a dream candidate in the eyes of anyone beyond the most shallow and superficial, and his deficiencies in the experience and message-control department have always been blazingly obvious, even to those who know they must eventually support him. Grit partisans like Warren Kinsella are openly starting to fret that Trudeau's over-coverage could easily lead to under-performance, though that critique is hardly new. Kinsella himself admitted that "the jury's still out" on J-Tru's sizzle-to-steak ratio back in September.

The most common adjectives tacked to Trudeau's name have been "untested" and "uncertain." If anyone's ever called him a messiah or saviour, it's been with sarcasm or scorn. Even Justin's recent interview with Global -- the one that got Ezra in such a fluster -- was skeptically headlined "Justin Trudeau's mysterious connection with Canadians," as if his coast to victory still lacked a common-sense explanation.

Tories need to know their enemy, and in their battle against the new Liberal boss it would be a mistake to view the press as anything other than a strategic partner.

Conservative strategist Gerry Nicholls wrote a fine piece in the Hill Timesthe other day arguing that the most effective partisan attacks against Justin will be ones that mock his gaffes, rather than denounce his ideas.

"Indeed, I guarantee both the Conservative and NDP war rooms have filing cabinets bulging with newspaper clippings containing every comment or statement Trudeau has made for the past ten years," says Gerry.

Those clippings, presumably, came from somewhere.

What Is Pierre Trudeau Doing?