Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Power of Repetition

The strange non-event event of the 60th anniversary is demonstrating the power of repetition.

Repeat something enough times, and it will soon become accepted as fact. With the multiplier effect of the internet, this process takes a fraction of the time it took just a generation ago.

Once a factoid gets into the news food chain, it gets digested and spewed out in a range of news outlets increasingly removed from the original source.

This digestive process produces remarkably curious results. The latest instalment in the celebration that wasn't is this UPI story, which popped up on a Wall Street Journal site:

Newfoundland's 60th anniversary quiet
Last update: 9:21 a.m. EDT March 31, 2009
ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland, Mar 31, 2009 (UPI via COMTEX) -- The province of Newfoundland and Labrador observed the 60th anniversary of joining Canada's confederation Tuesday with little ceremony.
Last fall province Premier Danny Williams said there would be celebrations but Monday he said such things as the troubled economy and the March 12 offshore helicopter crash that killed 17 oil platform workers put a damper on festive events.
"It's not a time for celebration and it's not appropriate," Williams said.
Plans to have celebrations of the province's recent designation as a "have" province that doesn't need federal subsidies were also scaled back, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Prior to March 31, 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador was a British dominion with its own currency and postage stamps. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, dating to 1729, is the oldest police force in North America. It polices parts of the province alongside the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and municipal forces.
Some residents of the capital, St. John's, told UPI many of the island's natives consider the anniversary of being when Canada joined Newfoundland.
Here's the link: http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/newfoundlands-60th-anniversary-quiet/story.aspx?guid=%7B93EB2344-DBA1-4303-8B73-43FD64D81718%7D&dist=msr_2

What a bizarre little story. Long gone is the original statement in the Globe about canceling the celebrations because Canada "just struck us over the head." Long gone is any hint that the refusal to acknowledge the anniversary may be political in any way whatsoever.

Now the anniversary non-celebration and the "have party" are again uncoupled. The former is now marked with "little ceremony," while the latter is going to be "scaled back."

Now the reasons for DW's decision are reduced to the economy and the helicopter crash. Now it has nothing to do with federalism. Now Harper isn't within 200 miles of the story. And now DW has merely put a damper on the anniversary celebrations, not cancelled them.

Instead, the story offers an error-filled potted history that manages to cite 1729 of all things, the year that Captain Henry Osborne was made Governor of Newfoundland and given the power to appoint justices of the peace and constables. What 1729 has to do with 1949, let alone 2009, is beyond my powers to compute. Someone should ask Greg Malone, who is CP's resident expert on Confederation: http://bondpapers.blogspot.com/2009/03/confederation-irksome-cp-coverage.html

I wonder who fed UPI the erroneous and irrelevant history lesson. This could be Door Number 6, I guess, but it's more a portal to another dimension than an explanation for what's going on in 2009: http://orwellianspin.blogspot.com/2009/03/monty-hall-part-ii.html

Here's a question to ponder: Whose interests are served by this sort of obfuscation?

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